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Irony: Not as Clever as You Think It Is

January 26, 2009

To quote Vice:

Everyone needs to stop saying things are ironic. It implies that your whole existence is this big “Ta da!” where you’re really concerned with what everyone thinks about this complex joke you’ve conjured up. Not only could this guy give two shits if you “get it” or not, there’s not even anything to get, so get over it.

Hells yes, this pretty much defines Jethe’s life.  He’s all about these hipster ironies, taking bizarre things that aren’t cool and wearing or buying or displaying them in the hopes that all the other hipsters will respect his ironic sense of humour, taking something so plainly uncool and laughing about it’s lack of cool, making it cool to be uncool – but only a little bit.

Most of the time, I play along, but every now and again I lose patience and remind him that the rest of the world isn’t entirely made up of hipsters (To which he irritably replies “I’m not a hipster, dammit!”) and most of us not only aren’t in on the joke and the sense of humour, but are judging him based on a single level of contemplation: does it make him look like an idiot?  Not “does it make him look cool for so ironically displaying something that should make him look uncool if we didn’t know he was being ironic and aren’t we glad we’re cool enough to get the joke.”

Really.  Most of the world is pretty superficial, to the point that if someone looks like a tard, it thinks they’re a tard.  Not thinking that they’re really witty for looking like a tard.  Hipsterdom is kind of annoying like that, really, in that every other large movement thus far has been based around the cultivation of an image, the clothes are a statement; punks dressed ratty to show disdain for consumeristic sulture and conventional approaches to respectability.  They mirrored the earlier hippy attempts to visually display their discordance with conventional, respectable society: when one of their number wanted out, wanted a real job, they had to cut their hair.  It became obvious when one had given up the movement’s ideals.  So too with the punks.  Rap culture was all about the money and the women, and the clothes became a way of showing off the wealth and status, ostentation was the key.

And then the hipsters showed up, with no particular value to display other than a consumeristic obsession with individuality and sticking it to mainstream: things that are conventional are out not because of any inherent failure of their own, but because they are conventional.  What is fashionable becomes unfashionable because it was fashionable and then again becomes trendy because it was unfashionable, and thus, no one was doing it.

It’s a culture oddly based on recycling old, stale trends in an attempt to create something new: entirely based on the thrill of discovery and the desire to be a trend setter, ahead of the curve on whatever is the latest thing.  The desire to have Been There Before It Got Big, if you will.  Reddit found me this interesting presentation on the additiveness of discovering new things – though only the first half or so is genuinely worth reading.  It fairly closely relates to the paper I wrote back in the day about what is is in modern culture that contributes to the effectiveness of viral marketing approaches.

I’m sorry to linkfarm on you there, but they’re giant concepts, and I don’t really want to cover them entirely, again, really.  But if trend indicates that continuous rebellion against trend and convention is the rule of the day, and these petty rebellions feel like continuous social revolution, how will we end up slowing down enough to actually see progress in the culture of the times?

Anyone reading think we’re likely to ever see unified social movements such as the hippies and the punks again?  Or are we all to individualistic to risk seeming like we’re following others’ example?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Charlee permalink
    January 31, 2009 7:44 am

    love love this post

    and at the risk of being called a hipster (which I’m NOT) I have to say that liking things for ironic reasons is fun/funny–i don’t really care if people “get it”–the truth is, some of my friends provide “disclaimers” to people before meeting me because most people really don’t “get it”

    haha, but the point is, i’m still amused…and generally speaking, amusing myself is my top priority, so consequences be damned 🙂

    All the cool hipsters claim not to be. Until everyone else starts, then they’ll ironically admit to being hipsters so they can pretend that by admitting to it, they’re breaking hipster convention and thus, not actually hipsters.

    Though, in more … academic discussion, liking things for their ironic value is the quintessential hipster behaviour. That is almost what defines the movement. If you like Power Rangers because you genuinely think that Power Rangers still rock the shit, you’re … well, kind of a nerd, but sticking to your guns. If you’re liking Power Rangers because they’re uncool and you remember back when they were cool and want a little bit of a self-depracating laugh at how silly it all was and know that the other folks will have the same little chuckle at how uncool the Power Rangers are but how awesome they were in the day, well, that’s hipsterdom.

    And if your friends need to preface introducing you to folks with warnings, well… Either you’re one of those legendary über-hipsters, flitting about The Scene just barely ahead of the Mass, leading the thronging hordes of trend-hunting constumeristic “individualists” from one maybe-ironic fad to the next. That or you’re just wierd.

  2. January 31, 2009 10:11 pm


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