• Trenton L Bice

Post-Modernism, Community, Treachery of Images & why Dave Chappelle went to Africa

(Originally scripted August 12, 2020)

This writing is for or a module titled “Critical Inquiry” designed to provoke philosophical thought, and as such includes sub-rants that go slightly left of topic but all still relative to the meta-narrative, and that will make for much more interesting reading for you than if I over-edited and self-censored the external and internal critical thinking and analysis that this class promotes. Will you agree with me and some of the thoughts from findings in my research in this, and ensuing blogs over the next six weeks? YOUR answer is at the bottom.



The more I learn about Postmodernism the more conflicted my thoughts become. Through strenuous online research I could provide endless links and references that would lead you down some of the rabbit holes I ventured, yet I’ve sifted through many full of poor production with poorly researched opinions that aren’t worth your time. I;ve been through them so you don’t have to. There are also many which I deem excellent and as such will promote these and supporting stories and examples in the hopes you too can find the value which they provided me and may help you understand the concept as well as my thinking. Therefore, whilst being conscious of this being a blog post, I will keep my findings as simple as possible whilst providing credible assertation. Just when I get a feel or understanding and gauge a reasonable understanding of the concept and how its perceived throughout society, another thoughtful argument or paper appears conflicting that thought. And as such the thirst for education and desire to respect all opinions and attitudes continue to be explored.

After all, that is why I am at University right, to learn and discuss topics to which I may not be too familiar, be challenged out of my comfort zone and debate either sides of topics regardless of which side of the opinion I agree or which my life values stand. Learning from those like-minded, and more-so from those whose thoughts I am pre-disposed to oppose. As much as I love to make a radical claim, I do also prefer to do my research, which due to the extensive SAE library has been getting me lost in a wonder of topics for which I previously had little knowledge or interest (this is a good thing).

In exploring the weekly topics for this module I seem to keep coming across the term “Social Justice Warrior”, is one who promotes and expresses social progressive vies (Olheise, 2016). The perception of today’s Social Justice Warrior is that they make essentialist claims (Lee, 2020). Activists like JOhn A Ryan are what helped abolish slavery in the early 1900’s. (Meyers, 2018). They helped give women the right to vote, and countless other basic rights that most may take for granted today (Young, 2016). During his class discussion on “God & Hierarchies of Authority”, Clinical Psychologist and Professor Jordan Peterson is queried by a student that “in a place like Canada where we are quite gender equal, are SJW’s trying to create chaos, even though there arguably is none on a mass level? (Bite-sized Philosphy, 2017). They then explore the concept of genders testing one another, and the “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” quote/theory, which is becoming a an egotistical view to an individuals rights in modern society.

We are what we are and as such accept it, but we can also change and improve ourselves over basic lifestyle changes and healthy goals, not drastic radicalisations for the sake of short term popularity or the almighty dollar (see Jenner Brucelyn.) The “Scientific American” explores how today’s “intellectual battlefields are on college campuses”, and “where students' deep convictions about race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation and their social justice antipathy toward capitalism, imperialism, racism, white privilege, misogyny and “cissexist heteropatriarchy” have bumped up against the reality of contradictory facts and opposing views, leading to campus chaos and even violence (Shermer, 2017). As such, as students, if we are taught to rage against the machine, then staff and faculty shouldn’t be shocked when students “turn on their professors and administrators. This is what happens when you separate facts from values, empiricism from morality, science from humanities.” (Shermer, 2017). Scientists aren’t about proving truth, they’re about disproving truth. In “Madness in Ciilvisation”, Michel Foucault explores that It’s about being interesting, not being right.

Dan Harmon’s “Community” was one of my favourite TV shows of the late 2000’s in the era where Murrican TV wasn’t always fast tracked for the Australian market and cool, edgy, creative content had to be dug for like gold through the depths of the internet. This process also makes the enjoyment of such a program more of a reward, an extra sense of cool that you feel when exposed to exceptionally witty and well-produced art not easily accessible to those attached to the mainstream of social bubble. Like a 70’s teenager finding that little-known record in the sub-genre section at the back of the store, the gen-x teen that finds a self-funded cable access show broadcast on a wordpress site, the millennial that stumbles across that soundcloud account that feels like music from the future, or the Gen -Z finding that tik-tok profile that ‘just gets me’. Then of course due to its quality the exposure of the product rises, the underground or niche show becomes mainstream. Much like that hit new indie band that just appeared on Saturday Night Live, your Grandma’s favourite morning show and is now Top 3 in the ‘Pop’ charts, this becomes a victim of the status quo and art project X suddenly becomes less cool. In addition, as these programs/artists become more popular, as does the dollareedoos attached to their value, ensuing networks/record labels/publishers become more influential over the content being released, and much like the giraffe, the animal is developed by committee, becoming impacted by ‘focus groups’ that can hinder the original goal of the project and lose the voice of the artist, of whom drew the excited following in the first place. But can a project survive despite the loss of its creator? Community further established itself as a self-parodying show that through its own network’s internal politics and narratives enhanced its parody of its off-screen drama through a compromise in the show’s quality through season four. Was this perhaps a sign of the pressures and influence of circumstance described above, a direct reflection of the flaws of the system the networks have created through their lack of awareness to the grand narrative? The Guardian explains Harmon’s importance to the show in the analysis of his return: “Harmon describes himself as a ‘rude asshole’ and admitted to erratic onset behaviour before his departure, yet is described as having a mind like no one else’s” (similarities sub-consciously reflected through the style of this blog post) (Hughes, 2012).

The fear and subjection of this ‘selling-out’ or loss of creative control has led to many an artist’scdownfall, even the common theme in speculations of thoughts leading to Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide (I’ll let you explore that wonderous journey of musical research yourself without any linkage guidance)..

Community’s creator Dan Harmon was fired after the third season. He was unsurprisingly brought back forthe fifth season due to a (surprise!) dip in commercial ratings (Hughes, 2014).


Diversity of representation can hinder the maximum potential quality of a project based on this mass-appeal and fear of minority alienation, just like it can help boost its success in other factors. Dave Chappelle has openly discussed the influence of network executives suggesting they re-cast potential characters to make them ‘less-urban’ or “what if this was a female”, decisions that have a major impact on their narrative and demean the value and appeal of the character on the storyline and as such entertainment of the project. Similarly, he describes one of his more famous sketches from one of his final episodes before leaving the show. The show was quite post-modern in its structure and willingness to stretch the limits of traditional television broadcast standards through comedy and produced incredibly successful sketches that, as Chappelle explains on Oprah in 2006, “were funny, but socially irresponsible. I felt like I was deliberately being encouraged (by executives and fans) and I was overwhelmed, and then you don’t pay attention to things like your ethics when you get so overwhelmed” (OWN, 2019).

One sketch they produced showed everyday situations, and to avoid their use of the N-word on television, a pixie would appear whenever racist things would happen but to show the protagonist as feeling racially vilified. So the audience could relate to the characters feeling of mistreatment through the pixie, without them blatantly saying it in the dialogue. “The premise being that every race had this pixie, this racial complex, but the pixie was in blackface. “Blackface is a very difficult image, but the reason I had chose blackface at the time as this was to be the visual representation of the n-word. It had a good spirit or intention behind it. But what I didn’t consider was how many people watch the show, and how people use television is subjective. So when I’m on the set and finally taping the sketch, someone on the set white laughed in such a way – I know the difference in people laughing with me and people laughing at me- and it was the first time I’d gotten a laugh that I was uncomfortable with.” He goes on to analyse the way different audiences can interpret his art, and as such most of his audience will understand his comedy and the essence behind it. Chappelle notes that as the show expands there will also be a, let us say, ‘dumbed-down’ portion that will “take it completely different, they’re concerning, and I didn’t want black people to be disappointed in me for putting that out there”. Many elements of Chappelles story are examples of that post-modern approach to commenting on racial stereotypes,

Chappelle also describes how Hollywood executives tried to pressure him into cross-dressing in a film when on-set with Martin Lawrence, how he had to stand up against them to uphold his artistic integrity, as he felt this was a move they had done to many of his predecessors that led to (what he and the black community perceived as) them selling out and having careers compromised by acting against their morals or ethics through pressure by those above, and did not want his career to follow that same path. To bring this full circle in the case of Harmon and Community, Chappelle also articulates on the way the people around you position themselves to get in your mind, particularly through the increase of popularity and therefore income, and their dependence on him as an individual creator to benefit their own financial status. (You know what, the interview with Oprah is that good from both his and her perspective that you should just watch, particularly if in aspiring a career that will likely to lead to fame as an impact of success (eg music, acting, comedy, politics, dance).

What’s all this got to do with Post-Modernism? Everything and nothing. I feel the point of this class and the leading subject topics is to get us to think, and research, then think some more and articulate our findings through these blogs and healthy debate in class and discussion forums. What I’ve found through this process is the more I dig and the deeper I think, the more overwhelmed I get through the process and find it hard to know where to start (or in this case, end).

Through their characters Community does an excellent job of providing a social commentary on stereotypes, giving us an understanding of their thoughts and views on society through character development and their upbringings, inner-monolgue and how they interact with one another. The dialogue between each reflects the stereotypes of each through how they do actually treat one another, and value each’s input on different societal matters and class projects.

The more we know sometimes mean the worse off we are. The smartest amongst us can often be the saddest. I recently had a close mentor who operated his own law firm pass away due to the pressures of society and going into a future world for which looks all too unfamiliar. A world being dictated by post-modernists who are losing the value of what’s real and how the short-term attention span and ‘importance-of-me-generation’ lose sight of the bigger picture and are what are the honest and true values of the world. For which it is not for me to preach or instil for what I believe (and have been raised on, and discovered through my life experience), SIDE RANT: although I should have the freedom of speech to do so much like you should have the freedom to rebut, however public modern-lynchings are done through media and online channels to one that speaks against the norm, has a ‘live TV slip of the tongue’, or simply comments on a subject they have been asked about for which they may not be educated, then are crucified when providing an undesired response. Thus is the impact of post-modernism, a short-term narrative for click and public distraction over the metanarrative which is being overlooked. How many times do we see the commenter or one simply joking about a taboo topic or public injustice often get chastised and pressured into an apology over the ones actually doing the mistreatment or public injustice?

Each individual will discover these true values for themselves often through mistakes and inquisitiveness or have an extremely sad and mundane life not trying. Then again, perhaps some of the happiest in society are the old farmers, who are ‘stuck in his ways’ living a solitary life on the land and away from the ‘chaos’.


So whilst perhaps not addressing as many of the questions we ‘might like to consider, but not limited’ (as per the brief), I feel the essence of the metanarratives, diversity in mainstream media, analysis of literary devices such as parody and their limitations have opened many streams of thought and research which have been influenced through post-modern artistic concepts and internal and external analysis of this art in a post-modern society. We have explored the treachery of images through “The Chappelle Show: sketch. Exploring the artist’s intent and the impact it can have through the audiences differing interpretation of the symbolism of the images. Much like how this is not a pipe, the blackface character was not offensive blackface, but just to resemble the real issue at hand, the use the N-word has on an individual and societies treatment of African-Americans.

AS A NATURALLY INQUISITIVE being I’m fascinated by these topics and love these thought exercises, often outthinking the intent of the project or the basic means of the process put forth by my instructor. Taking the long way to an at times simple answer but loving the things I find whilst on the journey, However, in some cases, it feels like the more I learn the less I want to know, as we get exposed to uneducated opinions from the loud minority who society seems easier to appeal to rather than reasonably dispute. But hey, perhaps just the thought of ignoring or replacing the squeaky wheel as opposed to not just oiling it, but building a whole new cart around it and a more comfortable path to travel, is as post-modernist in itself as it is ancient.

After all, I’m just a symbol, and it’s how you perceive me that is your truth. Am I thoughtful, (becoming an even more) highly educated individual with a desire to better the world? By sharing the positives and teachings of life, through those he has researched amongst articulate literature and from those from many races, upbringings and locations he has been lucky enough to visit and have those he genuinely call friends (and have been lucky enough to experience his energy in turn).? Or just a sign of another misogynistic white male on the path to power in a society driven by selfishness and a lack of concern for the common man (or woman, or used-to-be-man-now-woman [who competes in ‘female athletics despite a clear hormonal and physical advantage, that breaks records set by inspirational female athletes of previous generations who are then sent down the list in the record books}, or now-man-who-thinks-he’s-a-woman even though six years after school the friends for which they felt pressured to be changed to a man for are long gone. With irreversible internal physical changes in the body that statistically are leading to even deeper thoughts of depression and suicide than the common societal high school pressures ever would have, regretting removing the potential to bear child and too far beyond the ability to go back.

I say this not as an exaggerated attack but out of fear for future young girls making lifelong mistakes through societal pressure and the lack of thorough psychological analysis for teens before making a literal life-altering decision. I guess they’ll just be able to upgrade to robot status and increase their hard drive capacity whilst erasing their memory through a software update to the chip replacing their pineal gland by the time they hit their thirties anyway. )

Of course, if you take that rant on face value then I am the latter. But then if that’s the case go on ignoring facts and just chase extremist headlines without exploring the full stories or reading below the subheading. I don’t care. No children coupled with future science will evolve to prove I didn’t exist anyway, that’s what this accelerated period of transformation is all about, right?

Theirs some Post-modernism for ya, through the art of language and centuries of trusting the word. Can I be a post-modernist through the critique of post-modernism?

I am the symbol of love. I’m seen as the symbol of hate. I’m a symbol of passion and desire to make your Universe a better place. I’m a symbol of pain and destruction to Her Universe, and His. I’m a sex symbol. I’m a symbol of the antithesis of sex. I’m a symbol of generosity and self-sacrifice for the greater-great. I’m a symbol of rudeness, obnoxity and narcissism.

What you see in me is what you see in yourself.

Bibliography Barnes, T. (n.d.). Scientists Just Discovered Why All Pop Music Sounds Exactly the Same. Mic. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from Joe Rogan Experience #1509—Abigail Shrier. (2020, July 16). Jordan Peterson -The Unconscious Mind of The SJW. (2017, June 8). Meyers, A. S. (2018, July 6). Social Justice Warrior: The Legacy of John A. Ryan. Commonweal, 145(12), 17-. Gale Academic OneFile Select. Ohlheiser, A. (n.d.). Why ‘social justice warrior,’ a Gamergate insult, is now a dictionary entry. Washington Post. Retrieved September 12, 2020, from The Rise of the Social Justice Warrior. (2020, July 24). Big Easy Magazine. The Totalitarian Doctrine of ‘Social Justice Warriors.’ (2016, February 2). Observer. Why Comedian Dave Chappelle Walked Away From $50 million | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN - YouTube. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2020, from Why is Modern Music so Awful? (2017, August 5).


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