Ironic Cool?

Things have been a little dull over the holiday period. So dull, in fact, that I’ve been picking through my receptionist’s collection of novels. First there was that book everyone’s been chattering about recently — Ian McEwan’s Atonement. The second book in her pile was Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Ever helpful, my receptionist had bookmarked it with a copy of Oprah’s reading guide: "How does concern over class status affect Gary…?" asks the guide. Like this apparently:

Oh, misanthropy and sourness. Gary wanted to enjoy being a man of wealth and leisure, but the country was making it none too easy. All around him, millions of newly minted American millionaires were engaged in the identical pursuit of feeling extraordinary — of buying the perfect Victorian, of skiing the virgin slope, of knowing the chef personally, of locating the beach that has no footprints. There were further tens of millions of young Americans who didn’t have money but were nonetheless chasing the Perfect Cool. And meanwhile the sad truth was that not everyone could be extraordinary, not everyone could be extremely cool; because whom would this leave to be ordinary? Who would perform the thankless work of being comparatively uncool?

Which brings us to our reader’s cry for help. Troppo denizen Rex Ringschott wonders " whether it would be considered cool to wear a Kevin-07 T-Shirt in Brunswick St, and if not, where one might go where it would be considered cool."

Mr Ringschott, the pursuit of cool is the deliberate pursuit of social exclusion. As Mr Franzen’s character correctly notes, it is not possible to be cool unless others are uncool. The urge to be cool is a vindictive urge for superiority. Social exclusion is contrary to the stated aims of the Rudd government and, after you realise this, the t-shirt may cause uncomfortable sensations of cognitive dissonance.

At this stage you may be wondering whether the obvious tension between the t-shirt’s message and your intent to look cool is ironic and that irony might be cool. If so, you should be aware that the t-shirt’s message is displayed publicly on your chest while the irony is sealed inside your head. Unless you can find an socially acceptable way to display a fashionably ironic stream of consciousness while walking down the street you will still not be considered cool.

I hope this helps.

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16 Responses to Ironic Cool?

  1. The Receptionist says:

    Dr Troppo, Please return my books to where you found them.

    And I have to say, I think it’s outrageous that you’re presenting yourself as some kind of literary expert. You completely missed the point of Atonement and got carried away by the gimmick at the book’s end.

    Normal people experience emotion when they read novels — they laugh, cry, feel embarrassed or exalted along with the characters and want to know what happens next. You just snort derisively and flick past the love scenes. You understand nothing.

  2. Rex says:

    Dear Dr. Troppo,

    Many thanks for your enlightened analysis. It was definitely the ‘vindictive urge for superiority’ thing that I was seeking, and I tell you, the T-Shirt was delivering in spades when I wore it on election night. I guess I was wondering whether it still had the magic.

    Perhaps I might try booting my old ma out of home for a few days, donning a pair of large yellow sunglasses, and inviting 500 old fogeys around to trash the place. What do you reckon?

  3. Inner irony can always reveal itself, like photons of light finally making it to the surface of the sun. A slightly raised eyebrow, as if wearing an invisible monocle is not so difficult to maintain is it? But it’s too soon for Kev 07 I think. If/when he becomes roundly despised and discredited, THAT’s the time to wear it. If you can’t maintain the raised eyebrow, it may look like you had nothing else clean.
    This would be more appropriate.

  4. Rex you could try ripping it then keeping it together with safety pins.

    If carried off successfully this would be a knowing ironic comment on Kev, the T shirt in general and old skool punk all at once. However this will depend on attitude displayed or stance adopted. It could look just crappy.

    You could try for superior irony by not having ANY tatts at all but wearing a long sleeved top and looking like you might be covering up a brace of faded celtic and maori black bands, whilst secure in the knowledge that you don’t have any at all.

    The ultimate in irony in the inner north would be to be 40+ and have actually been born there and lived there.

  5. Yeah, I like the saftey pins idea. A massive dried blood stain?

  6. Nico says:

    What’s the verdict right now on Free the Chaser 11 T-shirts? In six months?

  7. btw Rex just sms me when the party is on at your place – I’ll rope in a few others.

  8. Some “Don’t blame me, I voted Howard” T shirts will be hot property.

  9. Rex says:

    Sounds like we’ve got the basis for a huge gathering of middle-aged professional types wearing T-Shirts with a variety of slogans. Am I ready for the media attention? You betcha!

  10. Rex says:

    It’s still the silly season Philly. Normal programming only resumes next week.

  11. Wore my Maxine13 t-shirt to work yesterday, and then to the tennis, to great effect. Got at least one “Go Maxine” from the tennis crowd…

  12. Helen says:

    Rex, you’ll be much better off wearing a Vote Bucket T shirt. (From our Mr Bucket range which I am shamelessly plugging- sorry, troppodillians.)

  13. david tiley says:

    I absolutely do know the tres cool tee for Rex. I swear I saw this at the St Kilda Primary School polling booth on Liberation Day.

    It was a Kevin 07 tee in Russian.

    Looked teh absolute hotness!!!!!!!!!

    Of course hotness plus irony would be the same thing in Mandarin.

  14. John Greenfield says:

    In my next life I want to Oprah, EXCEPT without the fat ass!

  15. John Greenfield says:

    That is, I want to BE Oprah, not DO Oprah!

  16. Dr Troppo says:

    Mr Greenfield – Your wish is granted. Your old life is over.

    You may now speak to us as Oprah. Please begin.

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