The texts share Lyotard's scepticism of Grand Narratives and this is often expressed using irony, parody or satire. Any references to 'high' or 'experimental' art seem to express the opinion that it is pretentious and elitist. So when Guybrush puts a popped inner tube around a cactus he calls it "modern art", a catapult he finds on Monkey Island is "an incisive representation of the futility of man" and the pirates he finds sleeping on a ledge justify their laziness by saying that they are showing "man's response to global environmental issues of a changing world", that is, doing nothing. This last example is obviously not referring to the 17th century but the 20th. Similarly, LeChuck "slashed and burned" thousands of acres of jungle to build his Big Whoop theme park.
The multiplicity of religions and belief systems presented in the game seems to democratise belief by suggesting that there is no hierarchy of beliefs. The pantheistic cannibals, the monotheistic Church of LeChuck and the Voodoo Lady's occult beliefs are presented sceptically but equally. The demonic Church of LeChuck, who rewrite history to accommodate their belief that LeChuck is divine, is an example both of a postmodern scepticism of Grand Narratives and of the textuality of history. This scepticism is mixed with trepidation, however, at angering the forces they are satirising, as when Guybrush makes a "Holy Ghost" pun the priest quickly says, "Let's not go getting into trouble, eh?" The doctrine of cannibalism is similarly undermined by the cannibals at first staying away from red meat "for health reasons" given to them by the "village nutritionist" and later by their total conversion to vegetarianism. This satire is underlined by their gods; the volcano God, Sherman, who is "lactose intolerant" and erupts when fed fatty foods, Ricky, who is "the helpful god of finger bowls", and Lergy the "God of pudding".

There is a general scepticism towards government, as although LeChuck, when disguised as a sheriff, appoints a blind lookout in order to kidnap Elaine, Elaine herself lost the Scumm bar's Health Board reports "for a small consideration". Corruption is seen as endemic even with 'good' characters, an attitude that could be seen as complicit with corruption because it sees it as natural and therefore does little to stop it. Likewise, it is mentioned that Governor Phatt is a "bloated and corrupt dictator" but Guybrush does not attempt to undermine his authority in any way apart from comments about his weight. Philosophy is also satired and condemned as a "waste of time" through the figure of Herman Toothrot, whose doctrine of "Neo-existentialist Cartesian Zen Taoism" is a pastiche of multiple philosophies. He poses Guybrush a philosophical puzzle that is designed to annoy and frustrate the player into accepting the uselessness of philosophy, "If a tree falls in a wood and there's no-one around to hear it, what colour is its bark?" Herman admits that he practises his philosophy because "It's all the rage at cocktail parties this year", implying that selfish material reasons lie behind most philosophies. The scene is given added humour by Herman's position as a hermit meaning that it would be impossible for him to attend any cocktail parties.

The other Grand Narrative that the texts undermine is that of the overall plot of the texts themselves. The texts have a degree of continuity and progression, the romance and eventual marriage between Guybrush and Elaine and the back-story involving Elaine's grandfather are advanced as the series progresses. However, there are numerous instances of both plot holes and implausible explanations that the texts themselves often draw attention to in order to create humour. The Scumm bar's cook cannot explain why the location of LeChuck's secret hideout is common knowledge, Guybrush admits to the Voodoo Lady that she is needed "to explain away gaping plot holes" and wonders "what happened" to the beard that he had in the previous game. Also, when Guybrush is trapped in quicksand there is a life-saving vine placed conveniently near him, the name of the vine is "Arborealis Deusexmachinas", referring to the Ancient Greek literary convention whereby problems are resolved by divine or coincidental means. Although Stan being locked in a coffin is continuous through the second and third games, when Guybrush asks him how he managed to have laminated cards made Stan replies that he shouldn't worry about "technicalities", admitting a plot hole but denying its importance in a way that is self-satirising.

Lyotard says "..that it is important that there be no addressee. When you cast bottles to the waves, you don't know to whom they are going", but this seems to ignore certain material aspects of how and why texts are produced. Texts, especially computer games, are produced by companies in order to make a profit and are therefore aimed at a certain 'market' or implied reader. Texts are not bottles and consumers are not waves. For example, Guybrush says to a dart-playing pirate, pointing at the screen, "Bet you can't hit that guy over there", the gendered language showing that LucasArts™ believe that most of their games are played by males. Also, Guybrush says that Haggis' claim that pirates used hand lotion to prevent chafing could get the player "an A+" on a history report, "And that A+ just might get you into the college of your choice", an ironic acknowledgement of the texts' inaccuracy but also an assumption that the player is someone who is likely to be at high school and attempting to go into further education. The control of the player is also limited in the instances when the texts attempt to fool them, as with the fake death scenes on Monkey and Melee Islands , which play with the belief that the player shares with Mort the gravedigger that you can't "die in LucasArts™ adventure games" . Another example of the texts trying to fool the player is when Guybrush has a conversation with one of the cannibals and one of the dialogue lines that the player can pick brings up a message saying "Stop. You are making a grave mistake" but if it is chosen then the game continues as if nothing had happened. Also, the formulaic structure of the games, the insult fighting, repeated phrases such as "How appropriate. You fight like a Cow" and the revival of old characters that the audience expect, are all designed to appeal to the nostalgia of fans. LucasArts™ contributes to its dominance firstly through the quality of its products but also through its use of the discourse of advertising. This discourse is handled in such a way as to be either a cultural reference, such as when Jojo says to Guybrush "That is why you fail" a reference to Lucasfilm's? The Empire Strikes Back, or as a satire of advertising such as when a pirate in the Scumm bar gives Guybrush "an obvious sales pitch" about the LucasArts™ game Loom. Thus the promotion of Lucasfilm™ or LucasArts™ products are not the main element of these examples, but they are certainly welcome by-products as far as George Lucas is concerned.

The texts are set in a hyperreal world that combines elements from a specific time and place in history, the Caribbean in the 17th century, with elements from the time of its production, the late 20th century, as well as random splicings from other cultures. Specific locations and dates are mentioned, for example Captain Smirk recalls the time he fought alongside the Swordmaster of Melee Island "at Port Royal" , and Edward Van Helgen tells Guybrush an autobiographical story that begins in 1675. Following Cultural Materialism by examining the politics of how the past is presented, we need to compare primary historical sources with the texts we are concerned with. The Caribbean in the 17th century was a series of colonies divided among the great European powers; Port Royal itself was part of English America, Jamaica having been seized in 1655. The city was an urban slum where "at least 20% of the town's structures were brothels, gambling houses, taverns and grog shops" as well as being a haven for pirates. The world of Monkey Island reflects this squalor but with an ironic spin that takes its sting away. As Ron Gilbert the script writer for the first two games says, "The pirates on Monkey Island aren't like real pirates, who were slimy and vicious, the terrorists of the 17th century. These loving pirates." So there is a family-oriented 'Americanisation' of a historical place. Port Royal was a place of vast inequality, where most of the "nearly 2000 buildings..[were] built upon little more than loose sand" yet rich merchants lived "to the height of splendour..attended on and served by their negro slaves." The texts do not mention inequality at all, and they certainly do not mention slavery. Indeed, if Monkey Island was to be believed, the Caribbean was populated by a majority of whites with a few token black stereotypes. However, as the text itself makes clear, it is not to be believed. Cacti grow on Melee Island despite it being a "tropical pirate island" and there are an abundance of chimps despite as Guybrush says to Stan, "There aren't any chimps in the Caribbean." The justification Stan gives for this pastiche of nature is that "it makes a good story", which seems to justify LucasArts'™ general lack of accuracy to history or geography.

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moo March 02. 2005

hehe a talking monkey...
but seriously good article but sadly no references (could u post them pls!)

nerdyacademic August 18. 2002

Well i wanted feedback, looks like i got it. Thanks to those who had the patience to read it, i realise this isn't the sort of thing that is generally posted here. Seems like some liked it and some didn't, which is kind of what i expected. Maybe i have a "rudimentary grasp" of Postmodernism (Andi Wan) but i certainly wouldn't criticise someone for that without stating how i know better. I can't agree that the Monkey Island series is simply an "American consumer product" (iisaac) as firstly i have played the games but am not an American consumer. The games have worldwide reach, reflected by the fact that they are sold internationally. American cultural products, like American politics, have international influence and should pay more attention to this fact. Especially when they are set beyond the unreal bubble that is the United States. Im afraid that one day, when America is no longer the world's dominant power, this will make more sense than it does now. Oh, i got a first, thank you very much.

Jojo Sr July 31. 2002

I read the title...that was about it really.

Digital-Holocaust July 12. 2002

Brilliant thoughts there, Owen. I really enjoyed reading it. When I played the 4 MI games I felt basically the same way, Consumption of products and cultural materialism will always thrive because people are dumb enough to fall for it. If they don't want to be part of the in-crowd (or are actually not dumb enough to fall for marketing policies.) Then they will be forced to buy by making products more expensive, especially when the buyer's favourite interests are concerned. Problem is, everything's for sale. It is an unstoppable beast. ;\

Seepgood June 30. 2002

Wow. Great article. It's interesting to have stuff like this applied to modern entertainment. It was fun to read and brought out a lot of good points while still treating the game with respect as you've obviously played and enjoyed them thuroughly. I'm curious what you got on this paper?

Too bad you couldn't continue this discussion with Herman Toothrot.

Ben_Whatsisname June 30. 2002

Very nice and insightful read. :) Also kinda reminds me of the scene in "Chasing Amy" where Willam tells Holden that his comic book characters are like "Bill and Ted meet Cheech and Chong" and Holden counters with a more philisophical comparison. It is nice to be able to get subliminal learning into a fun series like these. Makes you think without feeling like you're thinking. That's why my LEC adventures collection are going to be on my daughter's computer right along with the "traditional" learning titles.

scabb- June 28. 2002

Fancy words make letters from the start of the alphabet magically appear on the piece of tree that you accidentally spilled your fancy words on.

ZeroXcape June 20. 2002

This is really long... I'll have to remember to read it later. Nice title though, wonder if the teacher got it.

mxbx June 19. 2002

And what mention of postmodernism would be complete w/out Roland Barthes?

marek@adventuregamer June 19. 2002

No. Postmodernism is that it's made out of people.


MrManager June 19. 2002

I always thought it had something to do with a modern post system. What? What?

marek@adventuregamer June 19. 2002

Yeah, if only half of them knew what postmodernism really is... -_-

lowman June 19. 2002

Arrr... and I thought it just be a Piratey Adventure

sheesh June 19. 2002

This is probably the time Monkey Island and Shakespeare start to coalesce: versatile confabulation that can be interpreted in any way imaginable is used by academics to make a point..

Geez, I even remember someone who made his theses on "The similitude of Elvis and Shakespeare". No matter how _stupid_ this sounds, he got his degree!

Evil.Murray June 18. 2002

Hmmm...and what exactly is this guy studying to be?

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