Postmodernism means A LOT OF DIFFERENT SHIT, so hold on to your buttholes, kids. Let’s start with what it is not: modernism. Modernism is also another word that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, like artists, historians, philosophers, etc, but I’m gonna go ahead and keep talking because fuck it!
Modernism is basically everything from 1600 to 1975. In this fucking time period people had a number of interesting beliefs, like that there is an objective truth, that people can be trusted for being rational actors, there are universal features across different cultures, people have things called “rights” and it’s fucked up when you violate them, and there isn’t a problem that science can’t explain, and that European civilization is the same thing as progress. All of these ideas are outcomes of the biggest circlejerk in all of history, The Enlightenment, when all the rich-ass nice guys from all the corners of the land decided to say fuck religion’s control on society, and fuck the king too, I can think for myself and I want to live in a society where decisions are made by thinking them out.
Post modernism is not that. Postmodernism calls all of that a sham. Objectivity, truth, rights, progress, all illusions. Postmodern critics like Foucault point out that the truth is always the truth of whoever’s in charge, and postmodern artists like Andy Warhol usher in a new age of thinking about meaning as a whole. An easy way of thinking about postmodern is the difference between parody and pastiche, or mashups, if you can’t be fucking bothered to learn a new fucking word. Parody is using a piece of media in a place where it’s not supposed to be and this clash between what it’s supposed to be and where it is is what’s funny. So if I were to sing the Star Spangled Banner and replace all the words with how much America sucks, that’s parody. But if I were to take the Star Spangled Banner and just use it any time at all in any other location, like in a mashup, that’s pastiche. In pastiche, an object’s essence is depleted. It no longer has any rules for how it can be used.
So in general, you know all those BIG ideas you have that organize every other idea you have? Stop using them, shred them into pieces, now they’re only as good for their scrap parts. That’s postmodernism. (Also another reason why deconstuctionism is called deconstructionism!)