Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique style, the wearing of a stylistic mask, speech in a dead language: but it is a neutral practice of mimicry, without parody’s ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without that still latent feeling that there exists something normal compared to which what it being imitated is rather comic. Pastiche is blank parody, parody that has lost its sense of humour.
-Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”
I happened upon this quote while reading something else. Actually, that isn’t quite true. I wasn’t reading anything. I was, for reasons I now can’t quite recall, simply flipping through an anthology of literary and cultural theory and just happened upon the quote. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that, upon reading the quote, Tumblr was the first thing that popped to mind.
Tumblr is simply a platform. But there are things about Tumblr that intensify particular formal, cultural aspects of the internet. The ‘reblog’ is, I think, at the centre of Tumblr’s culture; it means that the network of Tumblelogs precedes the individual Tumblr itself. It means the context always comes before the expression. It means that nothing can ever be read alone; it is always crowded with a million other posts and a million other ideas.
Tumblr is the crystallisation of the internet. It is everything we have come up with so far, put through a juicer, distilled three times – once through a carbon filter – and then mixed with purest, most flavourless vodka you can find. It’s intoxicating, it’s empty, it’s enticing – it’s everything.
Tumblr is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
The film – which was by far my favourite of the summer, btw – simply stitched together a series of cliches. It sketched a number of recognisable outlines and then resolutely refused to fill them in.
There were gestures towards a love story and a familial connection, but they were never fleshed out. There were racist caricatures used as comic relief, but for no appreciable reason other than to be there. Viewers couldn’t actually see the fight scenes between the robots; there was simply a lot of clattering and banging. At key moments, the shots would slow so that you could see one robot hit another and then recognise insignia or weapons that would identify which side they were on.
The plot was essentially incomprehensible and internally contradictory. But it didn’t matter. You knew what was coming. And I don’t mean in the Greek tragedy way. I simply mean that it was the spectacle and the flash that mattered, not the story. No-one cared how the story resolved. You just wanted the release of seeing the process in a way that was not only aesthetically overwhelming, but so obviously expensive. It was the apotheosis of postmodernism on film. But of course, it wasn’t on film. It was all digital. And it, like Tumblr, only made sense because of all the context before it. All Transformers 2 had to do was connect a series of pre-existing dots.
Of course, all of this just some shameless self-promotion, because it was this sort of thought-process that led to ‘my latest column’ in THIS magazine, which is on Tumblr. There, I don’t so much argue as imply that Tumblr is postmodernism, crystallised.
And because the only two things left are narcissism and the fragment, that’s where I’ll end.