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TANIA MODLESKI THE TERROR OF PLEASURE: THE CONTEMPORARY HORROR FILM AND POSTMODERN THEORY

In the Grundrisse, Karl Marx's description of the capitalist as a werewolf turns into an enthusiastic endorsement of that creature's activities. Marx tells us that the capitalist's "werewolf hunger," which drives him continually to replace "living labor" with "dead labor" (that is, human beings with machines), will lead to a mode of production in which "labour time is no longer the sole measure and source of wealth."' Thus, in the words of one commentator, "capitalism furnishes the material basis for the eventual realization of an age-old dream of humankind: the liberation from burdensome toil."2 Marx's critics have tended to place him in the role of mad scientist, with his vision of the miracles to be wrought by feeding the werewolf's insatiable appetite. Writers from Jacques Ellul to lsaac Balbus have argued (to mix narratives here) that allowing the capitalist his unhindered experimentation in the "workshops of filthy creationv-his accumulation of more and more specimens of dead labor--cannot possibly provide a blessing to humankind. These critics claim that rather than truly liberating humanity by freeing it from burdensome toil, the proliferation of dead labor-f technology-has resulted in the invasion of people's mental, moral, and emotional lives, and thus has rendered them incapable of desiring social change. To quote Jacques Ellul, who has traced the intrusion of technique into all aspects of human existence: "as big city life became for the most part intolerable, techniques of amusement were developed. It became indispensable to make urban suffering acceptable by furnishing amusements, a ne-

I would like to thank the Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for funding this project by generously awarding me a summer research grant in 1984. 'Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Founciatiorrs ofthe Critique ofPolitical kcorlomy (Middlesex. England: Penguin, 1Y73), p. 706. 21saac Bulbus, Mar.risrn ctrrd Doiniriation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 3 1.

clrr Reliew (Summer 1963):378. then. ( t / . I am con\finced. John Wilkinson (New York: Vintage. Anson G. for example.trans."~ on to argue that. which is one whose outcome is unknown.5). . being seamless and without gaps or contradictions." and its power is such that. trans. in mass culture." Parti. apparently. the modernist critic Lionel Trilling speculated that high art had dedicated itself to an attack on pleasure in part because pleasure was the province of mass art: "we are repelled by the idea He went of an art that is consumer-oriented and comfortable.' Anyone who has read Christian Metz's persuasive argument that disavowal is constitutive of the spectator's pleasure at the cinema will find it difficult to give ready assent to Barthes' contention that mass culture deprives the consumer of this "per." trans. Earlier Barthes remarks that "no significance (no jouissance) can occur. in a mass culture .. create what the Frankfurt School called the "spurious harmony" of a conformist mass society? According to many of the members of the Frankfurt School. which are common enough in the literature of postmodernism. . 99-1 48. "conformity has replaced conscio~sness. Indeed."" In advanced capitalism. 4Theodor W. there is an enonnous consumption of "dramatics" and little jouissance). the gangster "will eventually lie dead in the streets. '~al Foster. not for any direct light they shed on the highlmass culture debate. ~ anyone who is acquainted with the standardized art prodverse" e ~ p e r i e n c eAnd ucts-the genre and formula stories-which proliferate in a mass society will have to admit that their import depends precisely upon our suspending our certain knowledge of their outcome-for example. Barthes' writings on pleasure. 'Christian Metz. . oEa monstrous motion picture industry. the knowledge that. a recent collection of essays on postmodern culture. and Alfred Guzzetti (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1964)." it has now become "manipulative contrivance. In The Anti-Aesthetic. . . The Technological Societ~. he is apt to draw a fairly strict line-placing pleasure on the side of the consumer." The Anti-Aesthetic: Essa~ls on Postmodern Culture. in the sinister view of T. I believe it can be shown that many postmodernists do in fact engage in the same kind of oppositional thinking about mass culture that characterized the work of the Frankfurt School. as critics sometimes do. 'Lioncl Trilling. and morals-and he noted."1° Hence. Hal Foster (Port Townsend. Rabinbach. " ~ However. On this point especially. but because they vividly exemplify the tendency of critic!. at any given moment. ~ Barthes here implying that both cinema and ideology. mass culture. in which r 1 THE TERROR OF PLEASURE Barthes begins by discussing the superiority of a textual reading based on disavowal and ends by casually condemning mass culture: Many readings are perverse. to question just how far this removes us from many of the premises we think we have r e j e ~ t e d Isn't . but all the sume. but all the same. University Publishing 6 (Winter 1979):3. . 1982). which certain critics. And so. trans. and theorists to make mass culture into the "other" of whatever. "Culture Industry Reconsidered. Of all readings that of tragedy is the most perverse: I take pleasure in hearing myself tell a story whose end I know: I know and I don't know. it is said. the cinema) is ideology and contends rather that "ideology is the Cinema of society. For the Frankfurt School. pp. I act toward myself as though I did not know: I know perfectly well Oedipus will be unmasked. 'Roland Barthes. Hal Foster. Compared to a dramatic story. more sophisticated approaches to the issue have superseded the Frankfurt School's conception of mass culture as a monstrous and monolithic ideological machine. claiming that the critical importance of the notion of the aesthetic as subversive is now "largely i l l ~ s o r y . 38). 'qbid. manners. whenever Barthes touches on the subject of mass culture. pp. high art was a subversive force capable of opposing spurious harmony. p. ." trans. there is here an effacement of pleasure and a progression of jouissance (today. xv. aesthetic modernity is primarily adversarial in impulse. for the modernist. "The Fate of Pleasure: Wordsworth to Dostoevsky. 182. "Poslmodemis~n: A Preface. suggests the need to go beyond the idea of the aesthetic as a negative category. W." written in 1963. Although it is inaccurate to maintain. they happen to be championing-and. in this respect it remains caught up in older modernist ideas about art. let alone luxuri~us. The work of Roland Barthes is often cited as an example of such an advance. "the destruction of what is considered to be specious good is surely one of the chief literary enterprises of our age. New German Critique 6 (Fall 1975):17. Here is a remarkable passage from The Pleasure of the Text. we are caught in the toils of the great monster. certain contemporary theorists have disagreed. Ben Brcwster. that Danton will be guillotined. I think. have equated with ideology." we are entitled. so the reader can keep saying: I know these are only words. Adorno." Barthes' remarks are illuminating.. moreover. a cleavage. though the genre remains the same: physical freedom-that is. 197. despite such pronouncements. "Upon Leaving the Movie Theater. ed. and postmodernism continues to be theorized as its adversary. Celia Britlon. .692 FILM GENRES cessity which was to assure the rise. . Trilling has famously declared. But when Barthes offers the converse of the proposition that mass culture (for example. the narrative shifts. p." or "bourgeois taste. as the critics say. increased leisure time-is bought at the price of spiritual zombieism. The Imaginaq Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema. Annwyl Williams. Adorno. PP. for example. pleasure is associated with the "specious good'with bourgeois habits. Take. I 'Jacques Ellul. 113-14. that Barthes always draws a sharp distinction between pleasure and jouissance (since in The Pleusure of the Text Barthes straightaway denies any such strenuous opposition). are offered various forms of easy. for the model of this culture is petit bourgeois" (p. including some of the members of the Frankfurt School and their followers. In an essay entitled "The Fate of Pleasure. . Just as the child knows its mother has no penis and simultaneously believes she has one." remains an important target of contemporary thinkers. 4 7 3 8 . false pleasure as a way of keeping them unaware of their own desperate vacuity. implying a split. to denigrate that other primarily because it allegedly provides p l e a w e to the consumer. it might be argued that post-modernism is valued by many of its proponents 7Roland Barthes. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang. The Pleasure of the Text."~ Today many people tend to believe that other. mass culture effected a major transformation in the nature of ideology from Marx's time: once "socially necessary illusion. the editor. The "specious good. The masses. in fact. and jouissance in contrast to pleasure. . While Barthes' The Pleasure of the Text has become one of the canonical works of postmodernism. Bertrand Augsl and Susan White. WA: Bay Press. 1983).

." he does (or "comnot seem to have extricated himself entirely from this mode. Decadence. p. a family of men. revised edition (New York: Signet. the unclean promiscuity of everything which touches.I9 It is a ruplured body. Itnclge." . [whereas the postmodern is] that which denies itself the solace of good forms. 29. who " ~ o l a n dBarthes.. P P 132-33. 335. are no longer as applicable in mass culture today as they once were. '"ean-Fran~ois Lyutard. "an ideologically manipulated illusion of taste. since it implies that the monster is the family.V. like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. InnovariorJRet~ovutimNew Y~rspectives on the Humunities. It would seem that we are here very far from the realm of what is traditionally called "pleasure" and much nearer to socalled jouissunce." the supreme ideological construct-the "bourgeois ego. T." Contemporary film theorists insist that pleasure is "ego-reinforcing" and that narrative is the primary means by which mass culture supplies and regulates this pleasure. by the man named Leatherface. Many of these films are engaged in an unprecedented assault on all that bourgeois culture is supposed to cherish-like the ideological apparatuses of the family and the school." it is at least debatable that mass culture today is on the side of the specious good. living in the greatest conf~sion. Hollywood narratives are versions of the ." For Lyotard. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang. the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable. 1983). One of the effects of this signal on the film's hero is to cause a gaping." While this view may well provide the critic with "matter for solace and pleasure. the plot involves zombies taking over a shopping center. In this film. p. since the film shows the horror both of people quite literally living off other people. 95. The Plcu~ureofthe Text. 240. the contemporary text of horror could aptly be considered an anagram for the schizophrenic's body. John Johnston. Robin Wood has analyzed the film as embodying a critique of capitalism. ed.17 In some of the films the attack on contemporary life strikingly recapitulates the very terms adopted by many culture critics." that it lures its audience to a false complaceny with the promise of equally false and insipid pleasures. Text. Sally. . trans. 1979)." which presently includes meaning (Barthes speaks of the "regime of meaning") and even form." "fissures. that it offers. Consider Leonard Maltin's capsule summary of an exemplary film in the genre. no more projective paranoia. which is so vividly irnaged in Cronenberg's film. however.694 FILM GENRES THE TERROR OF PLEASURE 695 insofar as it is considered inore adversarial than modernism. LA Condition postnroderne (Paris: Minuit. p.'~ "You must open yourself completely to us:" says one of Videodrome's villains. p. 340. RCgis Durand. discussions of which privilege terms like "gaps. 17. to protect him anymore. on the side of "cultural policy. "Jean. 1981-823. Music. lXJeanBaudrillard. "The Ectasy of Communication. p." as Roland Barthes maintains." "wounds." which film critics have used to analyze both film characters and textual mechanisms." For example. " . The film deals with the slaughter of a group of young people travelling in a van and dwells at great length on the pursuit of the last survivor of the group. 1977).. specifies the "erotic body. Ihab H m a n and Sally Hassan (Madison: The liniversity of Wisconsin Press. And in David Cronenberg's Videodrome. open to everything in spite of himself. p. Moreover. The Anti-Aesthetic. 1979). so that the villains can program him by inserting a video cassette into his body. "'Leonard Maltin. but this state of terror proper to the schizophrenic: too great a proximity of everything. properly speaking. driven out of the slaughterhouse business by advanced technology. turns to cannibalism. but to attack all harmony--consensus. For Stephen Heath. and is seen to wage war on a greatly expanded category of the "specious good. The film concerns a plot. directed by David Cronenberg and starring Samantha Eggar: "Eggar eats her own afterbirth while midget clones beat grandparents and lovely young school teachers to death with mallets. p." and so forth. soul-less masses as zombie-like beings possessed by the alienating imperative to consume. The Brood. and of the institution of the family. The schizo is bereft of every scene.'"leasure fort" or "solace") remains the enemy for the postmodemist thinker because it is judged to be the means by which the consumer is reconciled to the prevailing cultural policy. a scenario depicting the worst fears of the culture critics who have long envisioned the will-less. hacks his victims to death with a chainsaw.C xi 4 "Robin Wood. invests. 2G22. in an essay entitled "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?" Jean-Franqois Lyotard explicitly contrasts postmodernism to modernism in terms of their relation to "pleasure. 1977)." "splits. "Barthes. F a c ~ ofModernity: ~s Avant-Garde. have actually been celebrated for their adversarial relation to contemporary culture and society. For just as Baudrillard makes us aware that terms like "paranoia" and "hysteria. collectivity-as spurious."" It is important to recognize the extent to which Lyotard shares the same animus as the Frankfurt School. so the much more global term "narrative pleasure" is similarly becoming outmoded. . and penetrates without resistance."16 A few of the films. as he plunges the cassette into the gaping wound. pp. '"bid. .~suyson rhe Horror Film (Toronto: Festival of Festivals. to subject human beings to massive doses of a video signal which renders its victims incapable of distinguishing hallucination from reality. although his concern is not merely to denounce spurious harmony." "cleavages. or the "dominant ideology. Arnericarr Nightnrare: E. modemism's preoccupation with form meant that it was still capable of affording the reader or viewer "matter for solace and pleasure. in the words of Matei Calinescu.15 Indeed. vagina-like wound to open in the middle of his stomach. The hero's situation becomes that of the new schizophrenic described by Jean Baudrillard in his discussion of the effects of mass communication: No more hysteria. In George Romero's Dawn of the Dead." the aim of which is to offer the public "well-made" and "comforting" walks of art. with no halo of private protection. What is always at stake in discussions of "narrative pleasure" is what many think of as the ultimate "spurious harmony. '"atei Calinescu. "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?" trans. Kitsch (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. the contemporary horror film-the so-called exploitation film or slasher filmprovides an interesting counterexample to such theses.'" Although Lyotard has elsewhere informed us that "thinking by means of oppositions does not correspond to the liveliest modes of postmodem knowledge. emanating from Pittsburgh. video itself becomes the monster. Movies.ranp pis Lyotard. lacking the kind of integrity commonly attributed to popular narrative cinema. not even his own body. Barthes. that is. if the text is "an anagram for our body. 167." trans.

most of it comprises disparate scenes showing M a r i l y n . Indeed. At the end of The Evil Dead."~~ loween and Friday the Thirteenth. In Cronenberg's Rubid. ostensibly to consume culture."~' ' rate seduction. burned to death in an amazing lengthy sequence. . This kind of joyful self-destructivenesson the part of the masses has been discussed by Jean Baudrillard in another context-in his analysis of the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris to which tourists flock by the millions. so the novelistic iaa family romance is also in the pomw of being dismantled. "Watching it recently with a large." or "family romance. The most famous examples of this tendency are the surprise codas of Brian de Palma's films-for instance. the monsters. after defying myriad attempts to destroy them. half-stoned youth audience who cheered and applauded every one of Leatherface's outrages against their representatives on The same might be said of films like Halthe screen was a temfying e~perience. it could be said that some of the films elicit a kind of anti-narcissistic identification. and he turns and faces it with an expression of horror. although metonymy has been considered to be the principle by which n m tlive is constructed. which the audience delights in indulging just as it delights in having its expectations of closure frustrated. on the attack. "Ellipsis on Dread and the Specular Seduction": m e ] temlseduction node . Films like Maniac aid Friday the Tlzirteenth and i t s squels go even further in the reduction of plot m d chaiwter. But just as the individual and the family are dis-membered in the most gruesomely l b r d way in many of these films. and the viewer is satisfied with "threebuck sedu~tion.monineteenth-century "novelistic. .a group of young people are brought tog& to saff a s u m m w ~ c m p and are randomly murdered whenever they go off . says. and there is virtually no building of a climax--only variations on the theme of slashing. or her victims' victims. film pIays up to nanissistic identification. And in The Evil Dead. appear finally to be annihilated as they are i l m .' and their function is to "remember the history of the individual subj*" through processes of identification. not only do the films tend to be increasingly open-ended in order to allow for the possibility of countless sequels. The symptom of her disease is a vagina-like wound in her armpit out of which a phallic-shaped weapon springs to slash and mutilate its victims. and Friday the Thirteenth. Finally. video itself becomes the monster" (MODLESKI. annihilates one by one their screen surrogates. in order to remain within the range of petty bourgeois taste. to the audiences' great glee. it should scarcely need pointing out that when villains and victims are such shadowy. placing the spectator in the position of an unseen nameless presence which. "In some of the films the attack on contemporary life strikingly recapitulates the very terms adopted by many culture critics. . metonymy in this film (the contagion signified by the title) becomes the means by which narrative is disordered. are practically interchangeable. While rhe Mm does have some semblance of a plot. . The people in the film James W o o d s hypnotized by a television image in Videodrome (1983). . .'. the monsters and slashers rise. revealing a view of a world in which the center no longer holds. creating a pattern that is more or less reversible. the babysitter looks at the spot where the killer was apparently slain and. since we learn nothing about them as individuals. which adopt the point of view of the slasher. In Friday the Tkirtaenih. becomes. but also to . In the final sequence of Hdloween. Hallowt?en." Secondly-and this is the aspect most commonly discussed and deplored by pop ular journalists-these f i l m stend to dispense with or drastically m i n i b the plot lvld character development that is thought to 6 essential to the construction of the novelistic. and attempt to kill over and over again each time they ~IE presumed dead. the hand m h i n g out from the g a v e in Carrie. ~ Kristeva condemns popular cinema in similar terms in her essay on term in film. undeveloped characters and are portrayed equally unsympathetically. finding it vacant. and through the mechanism of c l ~ s u r eJulia . Interestingly.or her victims. through cinematic commerce. But in the last shot of the f when the hero steps outside into the light of day.to make love. for example. the camera rushes toward him. In David Cronenberg's Videodrome. Robin Wood writes. narcissistic identification on the part of the audience becomes increasingly difficult. but they also often delight in thwarting the audiences' expectations of closure. through narrative continuity. "It really was the bogey man. First. page 695). the porn star Marilyn Chambers plays a woman who m i v e s a s k i n transplant and begins to infect everyone around h k with a kind of rabies. a kind of cutOne quickly pulls the veil over the terror. Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. and only the cathartic relief remain& in m e d i m potboilers.

but also because she represents a great many aspects of the specious good-just as the babysitter. thanks to preparatory culture. we might wish to consider what these films have to teach us about the limits of an adversarial position which makes a virtue of "sustained terror. 22.for Wonders (London: Verso. as hostile to meaning. However."24Both in form and in content. when pleasure has become an almost wholIy pejorative term. in which the configuration of events contained in the formal matrix would not f o m ~ a progressive order. p. 2 4 ~ h i e nKuntzel. as we have seen. no protection. as long as we demand that it be uncompromisingly oppositional. Patricia Mellencamp. Nancy Huston. without the development of moral ideas. "no halo of private protection. no mastery." Thus. 251mmanuelKant.. See his chapter on "The Dialectic of Fear" for a very different reading of the vampire image in M a n . or as a pleasant and attractive babysitter terrorized throughout the film Halloween by a grown-up version of the little boy killer revealed in the opening sequence. This is surely not accidental. pleasure. quite literally represents familial authority. as when he speaks of "the unclean promiscuity of everything which touches. . has become a midnight favorite at shopping malls all over the United States. in many of the films the female is attacked not only because. And yet the mastery that these popular texts no longer permit through effecting closure or eliciting narcissistic identification is often reasserted through projecting the experience of submission and defenselessness onto the female body. in which the spectator/subject would never be reassured . mass culture-at least the video portion of it-is terrifying because of the way it feminizes its audience. . As Baudrillard puts it. 1984). "Pleasure in the pejorative sense is 23~ean Baudrillard. invests and penetrates without resistance. But this is to overlook the fact that in some profound sense we have also been historically and psychically identified with it. In Videodrome. as long as art continues to be theorized in terms of negation. 115. it is the female spectator who is truly deprived of "solace and pleasure."" Now. Mary Ann Doane. In this way the texts enable the male spectator to distance himself somewhat from the terror. Since Jean-Franqois Lyotard insists that postmodernism is an "aesthetic of the sublime. p. which might seem designed principally to terrify the untutored man. 253 n. Or so it might seem. the film about zombies taking over a shopping center." Baudrillard himself describes mass-mediated experience in terms of rape. protect[s] him anymore. Camera Obscura 5 (1980):24-25. sometimes personified as a female deity. 23-25. we might like to experience more of it before deciding to denounce it. In Trilling's essay. James Creed (Oxford: Clarendon. in the contemporary horror film it is personified as a lovely young school teacher beaten to death by midget clones (The Brood." Re-vision: Essnys in Feminist Film Criticism. merely strikes the untutored man as terrifying. "It ~~ is indeed possible for the tutored critic versed in preparatory film culture to make a convincing case for the artistic merit of a film like The Tesa. the "feminization of American culture" is synonymous with the rise of mass culture. that which. At the very least. as usual. we might expect to see an increasing tendency to incarnate it as a woman. trans.xpress-is as apocalyptic and nihilistic. just as Linda Williams has argued that in the horror film woman is usually placed on the side of the monster even when she is its pre-eminent victim. And. Critique qf Judgment. within the dominant system of production and consumption. . and are discussed on the pages of newsletters named Trashola. 1952). instead of endorsing Wood's view. it would seem. indeed.' it brings to a focus a spirit of negativity. this would be a film of sustained terror. 28LindaWilliams. Chainsaw Massacre. pp. Vol. The point needs to be stressed. in Ann Douglas's account. . The type of mass art I have been discussing-the kind of films which play at drive-ins and shabby downtown theaters. we call sublime. . and Linda Williams." Wood writes." No resistance. "When the Woman Looks. . it is interesting to note that Kant saw an intimate connection between the literature of the sublime and the literature of terror. As a 'collective nightmare. p. 22. In both cases the masses are revelling in the demise of the very culture they appear most enthusiastically to support. not even his own body ." he notes almost parenthetically that. and moreover saw the difference as in part a matter of audience education: "In fact. 1977). so too in the scenario I outlined at the beginning woman is frequently associated with the monster mass culture. . ~ There ' is a similar paradox in the fact that Dawn of the Dead. pp. . . as has often been claimed. "perverse" response favored by Roland Barthes. Here. and Sleazoid E. women are perhaps in the best position to call into question an aesthetic wholly opposed to it. an undifferentiated lust for destruction that seems to lie not far below the surface of the modem collective cons c i o ~ s n e s s . we have another variant of the split. Further. as a pretty blond teenager threatened by a maniac wielding a chainsaw (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). ed. 26~ood p." trans. 29Ann Douglas. Signs Taken. 85-88. the genre confounds the theories of those critics who adopt an adversarial attitude toward mass culture. she embodies sexual pleasure." as Immanuel Kant theorized the concept. 1983). for example. y "The Film Work 2. 1977). 1 1 1 (Frederick.2y And in David Cronenberg's view. MD: University Publications of America. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre .28 This is hardly surprising since. The Feminization of American Cltlrure (New York: Avon. . rillin^ in^. according to the Oxford English Dictionup. And." Having been denied access to pleasure. ."25 And there is certainly evidence to suggest that the converse of Kant's statement has some truth as well. Importantly. while simultaneously being scapegoated for seeming to represent it. achieves the force of authentic art. since feminism has occasionally made common cause with the adversarial critics on the grounds that we too have been oppressed by the specious good. strikes a critic like Robin Wood as sublime-r at least as "authentic art. "The Fate of Pleasure. form. The contemporary horror film thus comes very close to being "the other film" that Thierry Kuntzel says the classic narrative film must always work to conceal: "a film in which the initial figure would not find a place in the tlow of a narrative." Certainly women have important reasons for doing so. the openness and vulnerability of the media recipient are made to seem loathsome and fearful through the use of feminine imagery (the vaginal wound in the stomach) and feminine positioning: the hero is raped with a video cassette.698 FILM GENRES THE TERROR OF PLEASURE hasten the collapse of the structurally flawed b ~ i l d i n g . and the specious good as many types of high art. mass culture has typically been theorized as the realm of cheap and easy pleasure-"pleasure in the pejorative sense. since a film like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. L'Efet beaubourg: implosion et dissuasion (Paris: Galilee. quoted in Franco Moretti. The American Film Institute Monograph Series.

Hal Foster considers modernism to be postmodernism's other. ix. but his question is pertinent here too. Rainer Werner Fassbinder continually paid homage to Hollywood melodramas.700 FILM GENRES Beyond this. I would like to end on a small note of comfort and solace. . However. and so on. Perhaps the contemporary artist continues to be subversive by being nonadversarial in the modernist sense. In a recent article entitled "Post-modernism and Consumer Society. p. for example) have consistently explored the pleasures of popular movies. negative." The Anti-Aesthetic. p. and has returned to our pop cultural past partly in order to explore the site where pleasure was last observed. friendly attitude toward popular art is Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose." no longer "critical. and recreated as a monster. '"Foster. . In the visual arts. transgression is not as important a value as it is for many theorists. . the most famous and current example of the changed. Manual Puig's novels (his Kiss of the Spider Woman." Fredric Jameson concludes by deploring the fact that art is no longer "explosive and subversive. The "Still Life" exhibition organized by Marvin Heiferman and Diane Keaton consists of publicity stills from the files of Hollywood movie studios. Valie Export to science fiction. Mulvey and Wollen to the fantastic. much recent art appears to incorporate images and stereotypes garnered from our pop cultural past. 3 ' ~ r e d r i Jameson. Part of the answer may lie in the fact that for many artists. My emphasis. instead of sharing Jameson's pessimistic view of this tendency. . In film. Wim Wenders and Betty Gordon return to jibn noir. . contestatory. "how can we exceed the modem? How can we break with a program that makes a value of crisis . and he pointedly asks. c "Postmodernism and Consumer Society. says Jameson. it remains for the postmodernist to ponder the irony of the fact that when critics condemn a "monstrous motion picture industry" they are to a certain extent repeating the gestures of Lexts they repudiate. 125. . but usually only to denounce them. which draws on the Sherlock Holmes mystery tale. and the like. . In literature. . before it was stoned by the gentry and the mob alike. or transgress the ideology of the transgres~ive?"~~ Foster does not acknowledge the extent to which mass culture has also served as postmodernism's other. A few theorists have begun to acknowledge these developments. Cindy Sherman's self-portraiture involves the artist's masquerading as figures from old Hollywood films. or progress beyond the era of Progress . And the question then becomes: How can an adversarial attitude be maintained toward an art that is itself increasingly adversarial? In The Anti-Aesthetic. despite the efforts of some critics to make these works conform to an oppositional practice. A host of contemporary artistic endeavors may be cited as proof of this. oppositional."" Instead.