Community is a postmodern metanarrative
The show “Community” is built upon a typical US TV sitcom situation in which 7 unlikely students from a community college are drawn together into a study group that sets the scene for a repeating set of scenarios. From the outset the inclusion of a 7th member to the typical 6 person, 3 male, 3 female situation lends itself to the shows main focus Jeff, being left as the narrator or commentator of the situations which is where this show makes it first postmodern announcement. The pivotal character sets the tone of the show and allows for a sarcastic turn, starting to define a postmodern take on the usual sitcom situations that arise from the storyline.
The application of the term “meta” and the definition of the show as a postmodern metanarrative begins with the declaration that the show’s audience is educated enough to understand the concept of meta. The joke of the term “that’s so meta” takes on a sarcastic meaning in the show when applied to multiple mundane situations that the characters refer to as meta and in turn expresses an awareness of the term meta to the audience to get the joke. The term metanarrative is perhaps used in this situation to describe the standard base storylines of each episode, but then the ridiculous direction each of these easily predictable storylines take. The underlying storyline of each character as it progresses throughout the series takes on a developmental and different approach to the usual TV sitcom.
“They told very different over-arching stories of the progress of their research. Within each tradition, accounts of research depicted human characters emplotted in a story of (in the early stages) pioneering endeavor and (later) systematic puzzle-solving, variously embellished with scientific dramas, surprises and ‘twists in the plot’.” (“Storylines of research in diffusion of innovation: a meta-narrative approach to systematic review”, 2005)
The underlying storylines in the show Community are what provide this direction as a metanarrative. The narrative of the show is typical in its school location (‘Saved by the Bell’, ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ & ‘The Wonder Years’), but the bigger picture that the characters and storyline creates suggest a more relatable and connectable truth to the audience through their commentary on the situation, primarily through Jeff’s character. It suggests a drive towards the every city scenario of similar colleges and how these extreme sitcom scenarios are played out in less TV fashioned ways, but with similar experiences across the lives of college students.
The postmodernism of this show is only expressed in the following of typical US sitcom shows such as ‘Friends’ & ‘Roseanne’, Community is a giant postmodern joke on so many of the typical US sitcoms from the 90’s and 2000’s. Its sarcastic storylines and characters only work in the space of the post-sitcom scenario presented by these previous shows. Taking on situations that lend themselves to the typical scenario, but then applying a different direction and also running commentary on that scenario as it plays out in a less than usual fashion.
So the combination of the postmodern scenario and the metanarrative storylines in each episode and then in turn with the season progressions, the show itself becomes a joke and sets up its own demise as a series. Caught between being able to reset itself each season as a typical sitcom does and progressing to fill the metanarrative of the storylines, the show must come to an end and this in itself is discussed and commented on, also creating another postmodern take on the TV sitcom series.
Storylines of research in diffusion of innovation: a meta-narrative approach to systematic review. (2005, January 26). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953604006471
Sheehan, Helena and Sweeney, Sheamus (2009) The wire and the world: narrative and metanarrative. Jump Cut, 51 (Spring 2009). ISSN 0146-5546
Do we consume media or decode it?
In Stuart Hall’s ‘ENCODING / DECODING’ he talks about how “reality exists outside of language, but we constantly mediated by and through language. What we know and say has to be produced through discourse.” The consumption of media is a misuse of the term consumption, media doesn’t become used up when we consume it, we take it in and although we pass it out, it isn’t consumed and it doesn’t go away. What we get out of it is related however to our perspective on how we view it. Entertainment media is typically used to distract and fill the void of time and thinking for most people, but even when we are just watching, we are still decoding the media we consume. The content affects us and changes our subconscious beliefs of what is possible and makes us think or at the very least believe that what we are seeing or hearing is possible.
The aspect of if we believe the media we are seeing or if we reject its content as possible is itself a form of decoding, we are not just consuming the content, but constantly processing its validity and meaning. Its meaning may not be obvious, but even when we think we are simply being entertained by color, light, and sound, it is being processed by our brains to serve a purpose to us. That purpose may be unconscious, but we are constantly taking in the world around us and when we view media, entertainment, informative or otherwise, we are still decoding its meaning or processing the images and sound for decoding at a later stage.
It is perhaps not just the delivery or distribution of the media that changes our thoughts, but our interaction with the media as we reproduce it to our friends, peers and even our own selves in dreams or unconscious thoughts that allows this decoding. Not thinking at all about the media we consume is a difficult line to take, switching off completely with sound and images coming into our senses is not possible as we have been wired to be aware of our senses for survival. Some forms of true meditation can occur when our subconscious is let to flow, even in the presence of auditory and visual stimulation, but that conscious flow of thoughts is still relying on the decoding of the world around us to put itself in the place of physical safety.
When we take in media, we are always decoding it. Though it may not be thoughtful and meaningful analysis, it is still being processed and affecting our sense of reality. We usually put ourselves and the media in its context before and while consuming and this can define how much we are aware of the media and how much we can choose to ignore its true meaning. Popular entertainment, when considered and believed to be simply for entertainment purposes, is perhaps not given the same gravity as news media when we consume it, but it is affecting our vocabulary and discourse with the world when we view it. Simply not decoding and only consuming is not an option for a functioning conscious human brain.