Originally Posted: 2005-04-28 10:36am
irony? sarcasm? t-shirts? what's going on here?
Too long have I put up with the idiotic "Get Lucky in Kentucky" t-shirts! (more on that in a bit.) I was listening to the Dogs Die in Hot Cars album last night (again, more on that one later) and the song "Celebrity Sanctum" came on. My boyfriend turned to me and said, "What is the point of this song? Do they mean it ironically?"
I have snapped.
The phrase ironic, or ironically, has been misused to the extreme here. I believe what you hipsters mean is "sarcasm." Irony is best, and most easily described, as the punchline to O Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," which some of us might remember from high school: A poor couple wants to buy each other gifts for Chirstmas. He pawns his watch to get beautiful clips for her hair. She sells her hair to get him a watch chain.
I think there's a Sesame Street skit involving Bert and Ernie doing similar things with a paperclip collection and a rubber duckie, respectively, but that's beside the point.
Sarcasm, on the other hand, is doing one thing and meaning another. A hipster wearing a trucker hat -- class analysis aside -- is exhibiting more sarcasm than irony: look, I'm so cool I can wear this uncool thing. (So, uncool is cool. Wrap your head around that one for a bit.)
Back to the t-shirts. Yes, it is fun to go to the thrift stores, which are more and more picked over, and find neat stuff. It is fun to dig up your old DARE shirt. But this Urban Outfitters thing must stop! Marketing the thrift-store look by mass production of $20 t-shirts does not make irony, although there might be an irony in people buying into it. I sneer at those wearing Virginia is for Lovers, Ithica is Gorgeous, You Say Po-TAY-to, I say Fuck You. You have been duped! You are not cool! The online comic strip Cat and Girl takes this issue on brilliantly. It should be required reading.
On the other hand, I had a friend with a Stop Plate Tectonics shirt, which I still believe is fantastic.
On another, possibly related, subject, why do all the new cute bands sound like they're imported from the '80s? Franz Ferdinand? Bloc Party? The Faint? Dogs Die in Hot Cars? Nothing new here, might as well be listening to the Clash, the Cure, even Duran Duran fer chrissakes. I mean, Bright Eyes might be whiny and overwrought, but at least he's combining some form of country with antifolk. And oh, for the Magnetic Fields! (And what's with the Decemberists stop pretending to be British?)
Let us take action! be sarcastic! it's cool! and stop pretending you're being ironic when you're buying into consumer culture, please. It hurts my soul; it hurts America.