fredclaymeyer

Postmodernism and Old Spice

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Postmodernism, as I understand it, is a nonbelief in overarching claims to meaning. For example, if someone claims to have discovered the “one true religion,” a postmodernist would neither agree, or argue in favor of another “one true religion.” Rather, the postmodernist doesn’t believe that there is such a thing: her response (if she felt comfortable responding honestly) would have to do with the meaninglessness of the claim itself. So in postmodernism, the world becomes a kind of void of only arbitrary, personal meanings.

I think it’s really interesting how postmodernism, which seems abstract and academic, is nevertheless an intuitive part of how we look at the world. It’s particularly prevalent in modern (Western) humor, much of which celebrates meaninglessness in a way that older humor does not. Advertising has begun to pick up on this: Old Spice’s line of absurdist ads—basically an imitation of the postmodern ethos expressed in most modern sketch comedy since Monty Python—has dozens of millions of views.

It’s funny to observe how materialism continues to take every philosophical development in stride: whether or not you think the world is imbued with meaning, there’s still deodorant to sell, and people who’ll mimic your mindset in order to sell it to you. In that sense, I wonder if materialism beats postmodernism at its own game. Everybody’s talking about a fundamental departure from meaning, but Old Spice’s advertisers have found a way to profit from it.

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