My latest obsession is metamodernism, which is basically the artistic, aesthetic, and philosophical culture emerging from (and reacting to) postmodernism. It’s a way to describe how we feel. And, it’s post postmodernism, which was a time when we felt antagonized, ironic, and insincere. Metamodernism is like postmodernism, but there is a waning sense of irony emerging in our connected digital 21st century culture. Our witty apathy now comes with a degree of sincerity, as can be witness in shows, such as Netflix’s Love and HBO’s Girls.
What Is Metamodernism?
Here’s a video I like by philosophers Robin van den Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen. In roughly 8 minutes they discuss metamodernism in terms we can all understand, using examples from pop culture and the art world.
For a simpler explanation, check out this video by Wisecrack, which explains metamodernism using Shia LaBeouf. LaBeouf has spent the last year or so creating metamodernist performance art. The video simplifies and explains metamodernism, as well as it’s amusing and fun. It’s up to you what you think of LaBeouf’s art (personally, I like it a lot), but his work aside, this video is just a really fundamental explanation for anyone requiring an oversimplified definition of metamodernism, which I also needed.
Postmodern Attitudes Versus Metamodern Attitudes
Metamodernism isn’t millennial culture, but it’s easy to attribute it to millennials as they can switch from sarcasm to sensitivity, irony to an Orwellian aptness. Young people perfectly exemplify metamodernism in their ability to feel both hopeless and hopeful, but metamodernism is something most (if not all) people feel in 2017.
It’s an emerging philosophy that currently dominates our pop culture. Ironic programming has been replaced by metamodern programming, such as HBO’s Girls. Consider that Sex and the City is ambivalent, and features a postfeminist narrative. It’s quintessential postmodernist programming. Girls also features a postfeminist narrative and hypersexualized femininity, but without the ambivalence. It’s a work of metamodernism, as is Netflix’s Love, which is in its second season. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say it’s brilliant because it captures the essence of a woman who is prone to doing these sorts of traditionally judged things, and just proves how subjective those bad things are. It’s easy to feel anger toward Mickey, who behaves as an emotional terrorist, but it’s impossible to dislike her. It’s easier to just accept that she’s been through some shit and although her actions are sometimes vain and selfish, she’s living her own experience, and the viewer is sensitive to that. She’s the female antihero, which you don’t see very often. Netflix seems to have cornered the market there, but it can be expected that these sorts of imperfect female leads will find their way to mainstream audiences because metamodernism is the new normal, and that’s a good thing.
If, like me, you are growing weary of the postmodernist culture of spoon-feeding audiences content that makes them feel smarter, superior because they get it, you’re ready for this movement of metamodernism. Awesome if you’re in on a joke or reference, if you get it. But, if you don’t get it, it’s not going to bully you. It’s not nice and it doesn’t provide a safe space, but it’s not meant to tickle the ego either. It’s better. It’s irony that’s graduated; it’s deeper and more meaningful, and it’s possible to be both bitter and inclusive. It won’t make you feel better than anyone else, but if you still require the need to laugh because you understand a reference, a bit of sharing between a show and its gets it audience, both Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers are alive and well on FOX. I watch those shows too, as well as Archer and South Park.
So, basically the postmodern attitude is irony, paranoia, fragmented thoughts, existential thoughts, and in art it is multimedia (which was so new, but has lost is newness and gained a sort of sensitivity with metamodernism). Installation art is an example of postmodernism. Postmodernism is basically a need to be critical, to break things down and provide commentary (often negative) about them. It’s acknowledging that things are unresolved and incomplete, and it’s an angry reaction toward that.
Dr. Rolin Moe, on a SPU Commons DigitaLobby site, wrote this and it about sums it up:
“The problem with a philosophy such as postmodernism is the shifting sand of its foundation: postmodernists do stand for something but in doing so they have to point out the inefficiency and foibles of something else. Also, postmodernism is careful to not make grandiose claims, so I often found myself making a comparison or a metaphor and immediately having to say, “I’m not saying…” in an effort not to connect the example beyond the utility of that example.”
Metamodernism incorporates all the attitudes of postmodernism, but redirects them. It is a sort of reaction to postmodernism, and it has allowed culture (media, art, music, etc.) to more honestly explore and depict the human experience. Personally, I’m relating on a deeper level to women in television and film because they’re realer, more sincere and honest. It’s refreshing to see women be indelicate, to see them be almost villainous in their behavior and yet lead an ensemble cast and remain the leading person, the one the audience roots for most. Only the bleeding-heart sincerity combined with the postmodernist baggage can pull off such a feat.
That’s basically all I have on this topic right now. I’m curious to know what you think. Agree? Disagree? Have questions, or answers (I need answers)? Post a comment and let me know, or send me message on Twitter @alisiacompton.