Like Avi, I was struck by the suggestion (perhaps not intended) that articles on overflow are made less worthy or necessary by overflow being an industry standard. I’d say, though, that critical engagements with overflow may be more numerous, but they are far from our field’s own industrial standard. So, yes, we all know the word convergence, but it’s still so often presented as an "oh yeah, and there’s all this other stuff too. End of story," when it could and should form so much more of the story, and when overflow and paratextuality need to be studied much more closely and seriously.
After all, and to play with the metaphor, rather than assuming (and to be clear, Will, you’re not the one I’m insinuating to be doing such assuming) that overflow is merely a text in its entirety overflowed, what we’ll likely find is that very specific meanings, resonances, and aspects of a text overflow, and it’s therefore in studying those that we get a better idea of how a text is being positioned in society. Overflow may well be an industry standard, but it comes in all different types, and thus invites a whole future of overflow studies.
Thanks for this provocative start to the theme week, Will. It is certainly clear that the multiple interfaces and interactive components that the Watchmen offers suggests the “mainstreaming” of media overflow within our current creative industrial environment, but I am also struck by your suggestion that perhaps the concept has lost its critical currency now that these practices have become routinized (I am inferring this from your statement, “Overflow, worthy of academic articles at the start of the century, has become the industry standard”). The concept of overflow always evokes images of messy spillage for me, where textual meanings erupt in multiple directions, facilitated by multi-platform linkages and DIY authoring tools, some guided by industry orchestration, others beyond its control. As these practices become industry standards, and as the lines between professional and amateur creations become increasingly blurred, it seems necessary to differentiate all the more between managed/guided cross-platform trans-mediation and the types of textual overflow that emerge through user –generated cartographies.
I am assuming that the Watchmen i-phone application does not offer a link to the Saturday Morning cartoon parody, but rather, that this was added by the video’s creator (is that your shaky camera work, Professor Brooker?). Moreover, certainly not included are links to the recent Warner Bros. vs 20th Century Fox legal battle over licensed rights to the film property or interviews with Alan Moore about the adaptation process of his works to film (or his tense relationship with DC Comics, for that matter), which he is none too keen on. Both are easily found online, and both certainly add to the overflowing meaning-making processes available to users. Even if these nodes were included in the package, we need to ask how such sanctioned interfacing shapes textual meaning making processes?
It seems to me that while the i-phone image of Ozymandias gazing at his wall of screens might be interpreted as a democratization of access, it might just as easily be read conversely, as a statement about limited engagement (not with the text, but with mapping its multi-directionality). “Here are all the screens you need. No need to fuss with the labor of stretching textual connections. We’ve done it for you…”. After all, Ozymandias uses these screens to follow the repercussions of his larger work, reshaping the world according to his own ideological perspective (by faking an alien invasion that kills millions of people and brings about a truce between the US and the USSR – sorry for spoiling it for anybody – the movie goes in a different direction), but the i-phone app seems to do this kind of meaning-making mapping for users.
Watchmen’s adaptation for the iPhone certainly seems to be more complex than my experiences with the licensed game for the PlayStation 3. Although only a demo, the game essentially breaks the narrative down to a multi-player running fight, moving between different historical stages of the graphic novel to construct a series of themed platforms. The reduction of narrative complexity to action was also a widely commented on problem with the theatrical film itself, whereby Snyder’s stylized fight sequences marked perhaps the strongest departure from the source material. I’d still contend though that the jigsaw approach of Moore’s original takes some of its effect from the uniquely print juxtaposition of static images and the approximation of Dr. Manhattan’s unique perception of past, present and future, resisting some of the more aggressively postmodern pastiche that the filmed version has moved into.
i am not sure how postmodern "mad men" the show is? are all shows set in the past, meticulously researched, postmodern? i thought jameson famously defined postmodernity as an ersatz historicity, nostalgia for a past we have never lost etc. etc.
mad men historicizes the present by looking at the world at a moment of great cultural transformation — how is that postmodern? sure, the shows is informed by its cultural moment — falling me/9/11 etc — but i do not agree that the show makes us nostalgic in a regressive way. it is very critical of a world of regressive social relations even as it shows them. at the same time, it also forces us to rethink, in the pleasure we take in the show, in our own sense that we might have overcome that world.
i have really enjoyed reading these posts and responses - especially all the rich historical contexts that these posts have evoked as the material thickening the show.
for me, above all, the show is about capitalism and the postmodern form it is about to take of which advertising is the most exemplary site and i really LOVE the way it allies the progressive social energies to a transformation of a mode of production, raising really interesting questions that about the commodification of affect (carousel) and difference (betty’s unease, peggy’s progress) unfolding now. as such it HISTORICIZES the postmodern.
Janet and Kim—points well taken. My first reaction to David’s final question is that it isn’t that Mad Men is unique in its susceptibility to being parodied. Is there anything in this day and age that can’t be turned back on itself and made into fodder for parody, especially on TV or the web? The more important dynamic it seems to me might be that Mad Men is being parodied on Saturday Night Live after only one thirteen-episode season. It is an indication of just how quickly the series has become part of the zeitgeist.
Yes, isn’t this a good one? It’s a pity we can’t view ‘Don Draper’s Guide to Picking up Women’ from Britain - I’m sure that’s good too…
Here is The Simpsons’ take on Mad Men
I also cried during the "The Carousel" pitch.
I agree with Janet and Kim that the show says a good deal about postmodernity, the ad agency being a perfect setting for such a project. The show itself is glossy and slick and hyperstylized — from the credit sequence to the mise-en-scene to the stylized speech affectations of a number of the characters — especially Pete and Campbell . (My favorite part of the parody here is Will Forte as Pete). "The Carousel" scene strikes me as a perfect synedoche for the show itself for the very reasons that Janet and Kim suggest.
Does not Mad Men say more about postmodernity than parody alone? Mad Men plunders the past and fetishizes the 1960s. Postmodernity is predicated on nostalgia - a longing for imagined times. Maybe this is why the slippage between parody and irony seems more vivid in Mad Men?
… And the poignancy of the Carousel sequence is representative of that postmodern project, and embedded right into the Mad Men text, in that it is selling dreams and visions of a time that never was but imagined to be.
Hi David, thanks for the post. At first blush it seems the essence of Matt Weiner’s original idea is still intact, where the protagonist walks into the office with his back to us, puts his briefcase down, and a jump involving him happens. As is evident by an earlier post of mine, I wondered how he got out of the window, which is a way for Weiner and the animators to soften the act, by leaving vague the intentions of the black silhouetted man. There was a fringe reaction to the jumpers on 9/11 that condemned them for what was interpreted as their committing suicide, despite the fact that these poor souls were confronted with the choice of being burned alive or attempting to escape to an impossible fate seventy-to-one hundred and ten floors below them. Similarly, Weiner may have never consciously intended to evoke 9/11, but as that old saw of literary theory— the intentional fallacy— suggests, artists (like all of us) are only consciously aware of so much of what we communicate (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always be on guard against reading too much into things). In a similar vein, after reading Don DeLillo’s terrific novel, Falling Man, which features a performance artist who makes unexpected post-9/11 jumps around the New York metropolitan area with the use of a bungee cord, I read an interview with DeLillo that said he was unaware of Richard Drew’s photograph until someone pointed it out to him after reading his manuscript. Likewise, when I finally caught up with Henry Singer’s 9/11: The Falling Man, I couldn’t help but see the graphic and tonal similarities to Mad Men’s opening credit sequence. Most likely, Weiner and Singer were unaware of each other’s work at the time each produced 9/11: The Falling Man and Mad Men, respectively, but 9/11 is in the air. And as you and I have talked about earlier at the Sopranos conference last May, the first season of Mad Men was produced by essentially the same New York-based creative team and crew that worked on The Sopranos, who were on hiatus between season six, part one and season six, part two of that series. Just as there is a 9/11 sensibility that infuses The Sopranos after season three, I think there is an unmistakable 9/11 awareness that impacts much of Mad Men as well.