May 26, 2010
Hipsters have taken irony from us. They’ve co-opted it and mutated it into a sad little shell of what it once was. Just as they’ve done with The Golden Girls. Irony to the hipster is nothing more than creating a clash of symbols. Which is really just sarcasm, not irony. One only need examine these snippets of conversation I overheard at a recent Dirty Projectors concert:
“Check it out, I’m wearing a trucker hat. No, I don’t truck. Too many carbon emissions. I ride a bike. It’s ironic.”
“How about this knarly beard? Am I lumberjack? No. Clear-cutting is appalling to me. I work in IT, but I do own a Bonnie Prince Billy CD. Ironic, huh?”
“My T-shirt? Why yes that’s a BP logo. Why? Because I despise them. Irony at its best.”
It’s the T-shirts that get me the most. It’s rare to find a T-shirt that’s ironic by itself. This one succeeds. These do not. Yet if you search “ironic t-shirts” on Google, you’ll think that every t-shirt with a pun or a flippant quote is ironic. Alas, situations provide irony. Catchphrases do not.
Now, I’ll give hipsters some credit. They’re not necessarily buying the corporate produced T-shirts that are clearly aimed at them. They’re scouring garage sales and thrift shops and boxes in their parents’ attics looking for something unique. But there’s nothing ironic in a skinny, pasty hipster girl wearing a T-shirt that says 1993 First Team Bucks County Nose Tackle. It might get a few thumbs up at a Jonathan Lethem reading, but that’s the opposite of irony, because that was the intended effect. She wanted to impress like-minded people. The T-shirt would only be ironic if it produced the opposite of the desired effect, in some synchronistic way.
For instance, imagine the girl wore that T-shirt to a town hall meeting where the debate of the night involved tearing down an art gallery to put in a football stadium. She may be trying to voice her indignation in the form of an absurd, illogical T-shirt. But what if the town board saw the shirt and said, “Well, we were going to turn down the stadium proposal, but obviously the town is full of football fans, most notably the skinny, pixie-haired girl, who once challenged the status-quo by succeeding in an arena traditionally ruled by obese black men. Football stadium approved!” Now that’s ironic.
The picture above shows a mugshot of a man wearing a “World’s Greatest Dad ” T-shirt. Skirts the edge of irony, but it ain’t quite it. Turns out the man was arrested for soliciting a 14-year-old online, certainly not the actions of the planet’s finest father. Ironic? I’m still not convinced. It’s disturbingly contrary, like a terrorist donning a peace sign, but it isn’t ironic. For his sake, part of me wants to imagine he is a dedicated hipster, and he wore this shirt, and committed this crime, so that I would blog about him and say he is the greatest ironic prankster of his generation. But I won’t do that. Because I believe in the integrity of irony. And I believe this guy is really just a pervert.