September 1, 2009

Ask Awkward Haiku - Obirony

As loyal readers know, we here at Awkward Haiku specialize in post-ironic trends. Irony and post-irony have important ramifications in the pop culture zone, it can be difficult to track how irony turns into post irony, before reaching another stage of irony. The Awkward Haiku labs are researching the flow across pop culture, and occasionally publish our findings.

But right now, we've taken a break from the big research topics (for instance, what inspires the robotic uprising fear? How did fairy tales briefly take over pop culture in the 80s?) to answer some questions from our loyal readers.

This week's question was sent in by Mahmoud A. in Tehran.
Dear Awkward Haiku,
Is obama-themed imagery ironic yet? How about spoke cards on non-fixed gear bikes? I'm thinking of purchasing this bicycle, and wish to know if I'll be simply tacky, or ironically tacky. 
I love your bear jokes!
Dear Mahmoud,

Thanks for writing in! We've never posted any bear jokes, but we'll see what we can do.

First off--yes Obama imagery is still ironic. The first mass embrace of the Obama irony (Obirony as it's referred to in our tracking) came onto the scene shortly after the election. While there had been glimmers of it before (e.g. "Barack you like a hurricane" "Barack and roll" "between Barack and a hard place" and our personal favorite "Barack you Obamadeus"), after the election the tackiness of those earnest hucksters seeking to make a buck off the election/liberals wetting themselves over the hope of something new inspired a wave of mock-anticipation and joy*1. As the wave of products hit the infomercials (need I remind anyone about the obama plates, the age of hope thong, the chia obama, or any of the other parts of the sea of obama cashing in?), it became acceptable to feign a belief in total transformation. Jokes about hoping Obama would end disease and frowns within 5 weeks hit their peak 3 weeks before the inauguration. Jokes about furnishing one's apartment entirely with yes we can commemorative material peeked about a week after the inauguration.

This would have been the ideal time to ride a bike like this. You'd crest on the wave of silliness, yet gut irrational hope that this really was a transformative moment. You'd perform the perfect feat of mocking Obamites/mass opinion, yet at the same time entirely supporting it.

However, the last few months, as we all know from cable news, has not been good Obama in mass culture. Not to debate the veracity of that (our labs focus only on irony in fads), but that, as well as time passing have led to the state of affairs where it'll still get a chuckle, but over-enthusiastic Obama fever seems out of place. Obirony is still ironic, however it's turned a little mean. Now as we all know from our introductory post-irony-studies courses (ah the good olds of PIS101. I failed the class actually because I spent my time flirting with the TA, but luckily the professor turned in grades on opposite day. I really dodged a bullet there), once irony reaches that stage, it's time is numbered.

Using a simple Millard-Roswell conversion equation*2, we can predict that Obirony will become earnest and post-ironic within 2 months. This makes sense on all sorts of levels. Obama is a redemption story, like any other story in pop culture. He comes in with a wave of expectation, which means he's no longer an underdog. Because of this, he stumbles, there's a fall, which turns him into an underdog again, but this time with something to prove. Once the underdog is ready for the journey, American pop culture will follow.

As such, my dear Mahmoud, if you ride this bike in the next 2 months, it will no longer be a little dated and cruel, but instead tacky.

Never fear though! These are cyclical. Post-irony is a science of sorts. Awkward Haiku labs will go on record to predict that Obirony will be back in a fresh form in 8 months. It will be different, but we feel confident telling you you'll be able to ride your bike then, entirely ironically tacky. If you can't wait, have you considered a Dick Cheney wheelchair?

All of us at Awkward Haiku

*1)see for instance, this painting which circulated en masse around mid November 2008-

*2)simple equation for determining at what time the fad stops being ironic, and whether or not it disappears or enters post-irony. The variables include level of mass awareness, corporate sponsors, audience, culture, relevance, and silliness. Certain fads don't have enough staying power to become post-ironic. Some never transform from irony.

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