Saturday, September 27, 2008

Irony is No Longer Ironic

“It’s like rain on your wedding day…”

“How can you be nostalgic for something that happened a little while ago.”
- George Carlin

This is more of a cultural studies concept, but it has, tangentially, to do with media.

Earlier, while passing by a local Hot Topic, I came across the following shirt.


Now, my feelings on Juno are well documented. However, my feelings for the movie are nothing compared to this faux faded shirt with a catch phrase from a movie from last year.

This is clearly my fault for actually looking inside a Hot Topic, which is pretty much where my childhood went to fester and die. But this particular store is the nexus of where the ironic t-shirt seems its most strong in our culture.

The ironic t-shirt is something that is not new, and are in fact quite common, especially amongst arrogant “alternative” kids who want to make a statement without actually having to speak or formulate it themselves.

The irony, theoretically anyway, is that others would not expect the shirt-wearer, a hip, edgy, person who likes to self-identify as part of a fringe culture, as a fan of Rainbow Brite, or to call attention to the nostalgia inherent in the shirt. However, something so contemporary as a movie released so recently deconstructs both of these ironic arguments, because, firstly, Juno is supposed to be a “hip” “indie” movie that is devoid of any kind of ironic cache of childishness, and is too recent to be nostalgic. This shirt is faded for no reason other than for the sake of itself, which actually, in and of itself isn’t exactly as much ironic as it is stupid.

This kind of forced irony is something that’s become a little to prevalent, but the real irony lies here: that these supposedly hip looking people would not be buying shirts with these characters on them unless they actually liked them. So the irony is not that they seem to be cool wearing a lame t-shirt, but that they’re lame people pretending to be cool by wearing a lame t-shirt. This, actually, is some kind of meta-irony, where the irony itself is ironic.

Perhaps, in order to further increase the edge, and irony, the t-shirt companies will begin printing faded ironic shirts for things that haven’t even happened yet. I will comb the mall and see t-shirts with Jake Gyllenhaal for The Prince of Persia (Projected for a 2010 release) or the new faded shirt for the latest children’s cartoon show, like The Brave and the Bold:

Once this becomes passé, we will have t-shirts that will make us nostalgic for things that never were, like Superman Lives or a tour t-shirt for Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. And then, after that, ironic t-shirts will be ones that don’t show anything at all on them. And, finally, every t-shirt will be ironic, whether it is intentionally worn as such or not. And then, when all t-shirts are equally ironic, then and only then will people forget about all this nonsense and get on with their lives.

I will not even address the idea of owning an actual hamburger phone yourself:

That is just plain stupid, and nobody has any excuse to do that. Ever.

A french fry phone of the other hand:


Well, that speaks for itself, doesn't it?


elgringo said...

As a proud 80s baby, there's nothing I hate more than faux faded shirts. Who the hell do they think they're fooling?

Lot of good points in this post! I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't get its link tomorrow for the My Best Post blog-a-thon.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

I'll admit to buying an X-Files shirt, a Darth Vader shirt, and a Captain America belt buckle from Hot Topic.

I'll also admit to finding Juno charming if not deserving of the rabid praise it recieved.

I refuse to believe that a Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem t-shirt wouldn't be the most badass shirt ever.

But, for the most part, you are right. Down with the ironic t-shirt. Down with hamburger phones! Down with faux fades!

Scion said...

I actually saw a Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem tour shirt.