In the end, however, humanity gets a second chance, and a new hope exists that if a Terminator can be reprogrammed not to kill, perhaps even humans can too. Time travel films have indeed become a money making scheme. Reasons for their success are complex, but part of it is that these films touch the public’s psyche by reflecting our culture’s emerging postmodern experience of time and history-and yet still have happy endings. If these popular postmodern movies have a common moral, it is that the moral decisions of our past create or change our future.
In conclusion, defining ‘postmodernism’, a notoriously slippery word, has led to many arguments. As a concept, postmodernism began in architecture and rippled out to other disciplines, and it can be broadly characterized as a reaction to modernism. Postmodernism is a mixture of multiple perspectives, irony, ambiguity, eclecticism and compressed concepts of space and time. In other words, Postmodernity has been seen as a discursive regime in which numerous textual fragments are combined into a flow that lacks stable history.
The last decade has seen an increasing number of titles emerging on the subject of postmodernism. It seems most of the work based on postmodern cinema and television is concerned with similar texts, for example, Blade Runner, The Terminator and The Simpsons are recurring examples. Television parallels film and cinema both in form and content as it centres on familiar space and location in the home. It is ideally suited to reveal the strains of bourgeois culture with all of the contradictions it involves. Melodrama is an ideal form for postmodern culture and for television.
A form which arises from a fragmented network of space and time yet still seems to offer a sense of wholeness, reality and living history. It provides a world into which we can fully immerse ourselves and evoke emotions which we can immediately identify with. According to Baudrillard, events are already inscribed by the media in advance as TV and film is diffracted into reality and reality is diffracted into our TV. Signifying we find more signs and images but without order or direction. Of course this description of postmodern culture may not in fact be true, though it does seem to be ‘real’.
The fear that meaningful identity and rational expression have somehow escaped us-that we have lost all grounding in our culture and lives-has led us to a situation that politicians and commercial investors have been happy to exploit. If anything can be learned form postmodernity – apart from being engaged in its game played with a reader or a spectator, that is – its message will be not to trust what can be seen, to question everything – a message that, apart from informing, still plays a dirty trick on its recipient. This is exactly the message of The Matrix.
The whole idea of the film is an assault not only on spectators’ senses, but on their common sense as well. Leaving the cinema, one may think about being so fortunate and living in the reality of the 1990s, and not in the monstrous future depicted on the big screen. Yet, after a moment, one realizes that the characters in the film also think that they live in the relatively peaceful 1990s. According to a French philosopher, Jean-Frani?? ois Lyotard, the condition of postmodernism is ‘scepticism towards all metanarratives’ (Appignanesi, 1995: 103).
The postmodern ambience of the film makes spectators question yet another metanarrative – this of the time they live in – and of what they perceive as reality. In the film itself this reality is nothing more than Jean Baudrillard’s postmodern simulacrum: an image that originated from a reflection of the reality (here, the world at the end of the 20th century) only to become, through masking the absence of the reality, an independently existing simulacrum that has no relation to any reality (Appignanesi, 1995: 130-132).
Appignanesi denotes that the people of today ‘are living what has already been lived and reproduced with no reality anymore but that of the cannibalized image’ (1995: 49). In The Matrix the future people live something even worse: a simulation of that cannibalized image. The reference to Baudrillard’s ideas is not a coincidence, as the protagonist of the story, Neo, is shown hiding illegal software in Baudrillard’s book Simulacra ; Simulation, just as gunfighters in classic western films used to hide their weapons in the Bible. Moreover, the French philosopher is quoted throughout the film.