Ciitrus Arts

CIU110 – Intertextuality

CIU110 – Intertextuality

Intertextuality is almost like an expectation that’s predefined by what we’ve already consumed as spectators in a way. One form of it can be conforming to a similar media, like an action film containing similar casting to give a form of expectation to the viewer. It’s an unconscious thing for a viewer and their expectations can be based on it. With a director like David Lynch, it can be however a direct quoting of text in a way, recreating shots from paintings and other media.  Intertextuality can be used to create a familiarity about new media, by adhering to similar standards and using a familiar ground for the medium, it can help lull a viewer into enjoying the media more. Take superhero movies for example, especially marvel. Each film has a Stan Lee cameo a viewer can watch out for, each film has stingers throughout the credits that a viewer can wait for. This template being followed for every film allows for a sense of security and familiarity. It allows the viewer to connect with the film in a much easier sense.

I’d like to talk however about Dan Harmon’s work on the NBC Show Community (2009). Harmon draws massive inspiration from two clear points, one being the Hero’s Journey, and the other being pop culture. He likes to use his medium to poke fun at modern society, but however limits his writing to following the hero’s journey.

So, what is this hero’s Journey?

To branch off on a tangent here for something I feel is necessary , the Hero’s journey is basically a template for a story that most modern tales fall under, it’s built on 12 stages, and from an objective point of view, most modern films, games, stories fall into this template in some way or another.

“The Hero’s Journey Diagram ~ Christopher Volger”

One good look at the diagram and I bet a film you’ve seen recently follows this guide to the T, it’s a perfect example of intertextuality for a reason. It’s a good story, a story that will make the viewer feel tense, a story that will make the viewer feel relief, It’s a story that works, it’s “tried and true” as they say.

Community (2009)

Anyway, back to Dan Harmon and how he uses this, and other intertextual examples in his work. Harmon, with almost all his work, uses the Hero’s Journey as a basis, not as a crutch or something to abuse with every work but because he believes giving himself limitations can allow for creativity to really shine. Community is a great example, Six seasons, and every episode follows this same template, yet you could watch the whole thing in one sitting, and not even notice.

So what’s the secret sauce? How can we as humans consume the same basic story a thousand times over, still being excited, still being wowed, still leaving a 5 star review despite already knowing how it would end.

It’s all about being familiar and yet subvert your expectations. If the story has to be the same every time, trying to make it seem like it could go any way, making it seem like the hero could lose, making the journey itself so interesting. Harmon nails this in almost every episode however some of his best works are simply referencing other media such as NCIS, Star Wars, The Walking Dead etc. Harmon uses popular culture to his advantage to make a familiar story all the more familiar, his breaking home ground multiple times per episode makes the viewer feel comfortable, it allows them to enjoy the experience without having to really think about it. Once they make the connection it’s almost instant gratification which in a modern society plays extremely well.

So how does this relate to intertextuality? I mean, it is direct intertextuality by definition. Community uses not only subtle ideas from other media, but also direct parodies of ideas and concepts. This parody method is pretty popular in modern culture, a spoof or reference like this attracts mass viewer appeal provided it’s not niche enough and community uses this leverage to it’s advantage. In Dan Harmon’s writing he has conventions he follows, but mainly he thinks about viewer appeal and what’s appropriate to rip off without alienating his viewers.

Direct Plagiarism can also be a form of intertextuality, just a little more direct and a little less lawful. But in media, it’s a whole new ball game.

~ “quotes on the hero’s journey and it’s 12 stages”

~ “quotes on the hero’s journey and it’s 12 stages”  

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