Summary of The X-files and the Aesthetics and Politics of Postmodern Pop - Essay Example

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From an overarching perspective Kellner’s (1999) article ‘The X-Files and the Aesthetics and Politics of Postmodern Pop’ examines the television drama The X-Files from a post-modern literary perspective. Within this context the essay examines both the aesthetics of the…
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Summary From an overarching perspective Kellner’s (1999) article ‘The X-Files and the Aesthetics and Politics of Postmodern Pop’ examines the television drama The X-Files from a post-modern literary perspective. Within this context the essay examines both the aesthetics of the television and the aesthetic elements of greater post-modern ideology. In the article’s opening section Kellner argues that the X-Files television shows subverts traditional television aesthetics of series television. Within this argument the general aesthetic background of television is presented, with contrasts made between modernist notions of the art artifact and the largely kitsch or disregarded artistry that emerged in the television medium. Within the early incarnations of television it’s argued that there were largely traditional representations of reality that occurred within well-defined genre conventions. During the late 1980s the establishment of increased networks allowed for increased experimentation. It was in this wave of stylistic change that shows such as the X-Files emerged and subverted traditional genre and television assumptions.
As the research article progresses Kellner considers specific elements of the X-Files that subvert these genre conventions and implement the post-modern aesthetic. One of the indications of these subversions is the implementation of traditional gender characterizations of the two main characters. Kellner notes, “This conventional delineation between reason and faith, science and the paranormal, functions critically in The X-Files since the usual gender associations are reversed” (Kellner, pg. 4). Another major subversive element the article notes is the implementation of complexity and ambiguity. It’s argued that the show’s implementation of these elements goes against traditional genre standards and as such represent one of the major enjoyment elements of the series. The article then goes on to consider how the series wavers between modernist and post-modernist notions of aesthetic production.
In the third section of the article, Kellner examines pastiche as social critique within the series. One of the main examinations in these regards are the psychological and mythological elements related to the implementation of various monsters. Kellner argues that while the traditional depictions of monsters are through natural forces, the X-Files increasingly emphasizes their existence as element of social forces and societal ills. The article’s final section considers ‘the postmodern sublime, parody, and ambiguity’. One of the essential points in this section is that the series’ complexity and ambiguity is akin to the post-modern aesthetic of questioning reality and modernist notions of presentation. Within the post-modern complexities the series explores is the dichotomy between supernatural elements and scientific naturalism. Throughout the series the article argues that these elements are wavered between, constituting a distinctly post-modern take on rationality and existence. Another prominent consideration is the extent that the X-Files upholds and subverts dominant social institutions. In these regards, Kellner ultimately argues that the truth is undecidable. Examples of both elements are given in the essay and Kellner argues that post-modern theory is the attempt to represent these complex dynamics.
Kellner, Douglas. (1999) ‘The X-Files and the Aesthetics and Politics of Postmodern
Pop’ The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 57, No. 2, Aesthetics and
Popular Culture. (Spring, 1999), pp. 161-175. Read More
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