chapter  2
12 Pages

Morality, legality and gender violence in Angel

It has been suggested that we live in postmodern times (see, for example, G. Shapiro 1990; Giroux et al. 1996; Harris 1999) and, more contentiously, ‘postfeminist’ times (McRobbie 2004; see also Projansky 2001: 20-21; Hawkesworth 2004. I discuss this theme further in Chapter 5, with reference to The West Wing). It may be a function of this ‘post’ prefix that we acknowledge that popular cultural artefacts (particularly in the form of entertainment media) have as much to tell us about political and social theory as do academic publications. There is, of course, no agreement on the functional effects of the ‘post’ characterising contemporary Western society, nor indeed on the movement from modern to ‘postmodern’; some scholars find the concept of ‘late modernity’ analytically more productive (see, for example, Brown 1995; Fornäs 1995; Adkins 2002), arguing that ‘“postmodernity” stresses the break too much and leads to inconsistencies [and] “modernity” alone is too general to conceptualise important contemporary processes’ (Fornäs 1995: 38). That said, however, there is even among these latter some agreement that the contemporary epoch in the Anglophone West is marked by a shift from certainty to ambiguity. While modern times were characterised by certainty, and the ability to make moral

judgements according to universal standards, ‘postmodern’ times bear the hallmark of uncertainty and moral relativity and ‘might be a relevant term for artistic currents that react against earlier avant-garde movements’ (Fornäs 1995: 35). Treating the shows I analyse as artistic media requires therefore that I consider the ways in which these artefacts represent dimensions of late or ‘post’ modernity through the performance of various (counter)narratives.