Prada, teaser for Candy, by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
“Ethical, juridical, or political responsibility, if there is any, consists in deciding on the strategic orientation to give to this problematic…for which truth, no more than reality, is not an object given in advance that it would be a matter of simply reflecting adequately.” Jacques Derrida, Without Alibi, 2002 (61)
Postmodernity has continued a clash of absolute truth with relativism. Relativism, or varying perspectives on variable truth, dominates media. We occupy a world in which one version of truth is in today and out tomorrow. And now with the internet, we are seeing an advanced form of relativism. We are now viewing the world provisionally, embracing a stream of teasers of what may be true, without responsibility to understand a matter or its implications because we expect it to change.
The provisional view is to consider something, without conclusion. It is diplomatic, and free of allegiance and always open “to be continued.” It is the most fashionable perspective today because it has the permissiveness of relativism but without the weight of accountability. And it is fashion as a system of change that helps sustain the provisional view. Rising from mass production, fashion became the turn over of abundance that subsequently influenced every aspect of life toward the latest style. Simultaneously, thinkers began to regard truth as subject to upgrade and change in perspective. Current fashion media uses provisional teasers to continually interest consumers, providing the latest beauty, and truth, of our time.
A teaser is a glimpse into a story. It is the ultimate provisional view that entices a viewer to screen a full film or buy a product. The teaser is pure suspense, the initial look at a love affair or drama to unfold. It is a brief and seductive bliss, when anything is possible. This media format appears to interest us most today. With media production at excess, we no longer have time for much more than a teaser, a headline, or a bullet point. Reading a full article, getting the whole story, is less and less possible or interesting. We prefer the provisional, since tomorrow there will be more.
The fashion industry is made of teasers, not just in film shorts but editorials that do not preview something to come but simply glimpse a fantasy. Fashion stories propose a narrative, but they never conclude. The prevalence of editorials reveal that we enjoy seeing things in a present, open-ended form. This practice seems very innocent and carefree but engages in true and false. Provisional views are not necessarily opposed to absolute truth, because they are only suggestive. Thus, there can be provisional views that prove indicative of the absolute, and provisional glimpses of something that fades to nothing. In postmodern society which has disregarded the absolute, we are equally entertained by provisional truths and falsehoods. We have ongoing curiosity that leads to indifference over right or wrong, and thus a feeling that our culture is meaningless.
Beyond fashion, a provisional view holds simply that what we see is all we get for now. Provisional views then feel safe and harmless, because they appear to answer only to the moment, but they lack consideration of their relation to truth and falsehood. We can ask of deliberate intention, but with the provisional we often cannot know what will come later. In Without Alibi, Derrida explains truth and lie, in that a lie is an intentionally untruthful declaration, but it is not a glimpse of truth for which we just cannot yet see the fulfillment. The provisional truth can be partial, or partially unseen or unsaid. Derrida explained, “Truth and veracity are certainly necessary, but they must not be put into operation in just any fashion, at just any price…’toute vérité n’est pas bonne à dire,’ as the French proverb puts it.” (some truths are better left unsaid) (49-50). And just what is unsaid in the teaser? What is to come. So perhaps our current stage of advanced relativism known as the provisional is a teaser for the return for the unspoken absolute. While our ongoing interest in mere glimpses can rest on nothing, it can also open to the eternal.
About the Author
Rachel K. Ward