"Postmodernism" seems to be one of those words that most people recognize, but when asked exactly what it means, many can't quite say. Even the first definition offered upon Googling the term is somewhat unclear; "a late-20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture, and criticism that represents a departure from modernism and has at its heart a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies as well as a problematical relationship with any notion of 'art'." The focus here, in order to understand the concept, is the distrust of grandeur and relationship with art. Postmodernism celebrates the surface level, challenging barriers between "high" and "low" art. Where modernism says "Fight the power!", postmodernism says "What power? Why fight it?". Here are seven ways you could be participating in postmodern culture without even knowing it:
1. Silly Socks
The market for quirky socks has grown rapidly in the past few years; way back when I was in middle school people would maybe wear two different colored socks, but now folks of all ages can be seen mixing things up. This article addresses the rebellious element of non-conformity through socks, and postmodernism thrives on non-conformity for its own sake.
2. Nonsensical Graphic Tees
A step beyond ironic graphic tees, certain articles of clothing have absolutely no meaning besides exactly what they look like. The figure is clearly a cat but not an iconic one, the phrase makes no real sense, and altogether the only thing the shirt really signifies is postmodernism.
3. The Series of Unfortunate Events
If you were a fan of this book series as a child, you were raised reading postmodern literature. Why did Lemony Snicket fill an entire page by repeating the word "ever"? Why did he fill two with completely filled in dark boxes rather than text? Simply because he wanted to and because it's interesting.
4. R.E.M.'s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"
Songs like this one with lyrics such as "That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane, Lenny Bruce is not afraid," could likely be considered postmodern based on their loose connection to any real plot, listing words and phrases rather than stringing them together into a cohesive idea. It's certainly fun to listen to, and part of that fun lies in the randomness of the lyrics.
Memes are the epitome of postmodernism. What do they mean? Where do they come from? Does it matter? Even real events like the killing of Harambe can be turned into memes and eventually lose meaning altogether.
Let's talk about dabbing. Yes, dance moves are generally arbitrary gestures but people now dab on any and every occasion, it has no real connotation or meaning besides the amusement of being a silly gesture. Like the Kardashians, the dab is famous because it's famous.
7. Wes Anderson Movies
Wes Anderson movies all have a distinctive style; the color palettes, cinematography, plots, and acting all set them apart from the styles of other directors or typical Hollywood. However, many of the differences break tradition specifically to set his films apart and poke fun at the standard rather than contributing to some grand statement.
Our culture is seeped in postmodernism, and I personally am a proponent. Yes, modernism and its depth of meaning is important and interesting, and this is not to say modernism does not take risks or isn't "fun", but sometimes it can be worthwhile to enjoy the pointlessness of life.