Thursday, April 27, 2006

Apparel for the unappealing

While browsing around on Digby’s site, I can upon his post about the above t-shirt. After a little digging of my own, I found that the same creative minds behind that suave garment also market this little treasure:

Now, as a bad taste maven, I must admit that I’m drawn to these sorts of things. Shirts like this exist at the deepest level of American uncoolness, that deep and dank sub-basement of inexcusable awful that stores the nation’s supply of amateur bukkake porn, “extreme fighting” DVDs, and John Ashcroft hymns. The idea that someone would actually wear shirts like these is incredible to me, but people must. I envision doughy, pale men with receding hairlines donning them to go to their Minutemen meetings, or perhaps a bespectacled, socially-awkward young fellow throwing one on to help break the ice at his first Young Republican get-together. These are merely assumptions, though, and since I try to be classier than the manufacturers of this sort of drooling wanker wear, I know not to put too much stock in them.

I suppose that the people who sell this clothing justify it as “humor”. The only problem is that they aren’t very funny. If you can bear to, look at the second shirt again. Although it’s clearly straining to be rude and offensive, it’s actually more boring than anything else. Someone ought to tell these right-wing cut-ups that “oh, those French, they sure do like to surrender!” gags went stale well before I was born. I’m all for good-natured ethnic ribbing, but this is just lame. It’s like they want to be schoolyard bullies twisting poor Pierre’s arm behind his back, but they’re so weak and feeble they just end up throwing out their own backs. For all the comedy on display here, they might as well just print a shirt that says “The French smell bad and like to surrender”. But no, the great wits behind this shirt felt they needed to drag their banal insouciance out by putting on a whole interminable list of French person disparagement. Unfortunately for them, France will endure this t-shirt’s piddling assault on it’s dignity. The person who wears it out in public, however, stands a very good chance of seizing the “biggest loser in the food court” title.

And the “liberal” one is even worse, if such a thing is possible. The humor is just as shitty, of course, but here we have the added bonus of crypto-brownshirt violence worship. I hate to be a pearl-clutching liberal here, but I don’t really think there’s a lot of comedy in the idea of “bitch slapping” people who you have political disagreements with. That being said, this garment strikes me as more sad than offensive. I pity the poor turd who has to wear something like this to feel tough, to feel superior, or to feel like a rebel. They think they’re saying that to the world, but all the world hears is “I’m a raving asshole and I don’t know how to dress myself!”. If they think liberals are intimidated by this sort of thing, they’re mistaken.

It’s an interesting sort of thing, I think, this habit of mind that real far-out ideologues often fall into when they decide that their opinions entitle them to whatever positive personality characteristics they want. These people believe that their shoddy form of conservatism is brave, tough, rebellious and sexy, so they become all those things just by accepting the worldview. But, sad to say, simply taking a position–much less a fairly well-established (if extreme) position–does not entitle you to courage, grit, wisdom or anything else. Those traits are not so cheaply bought, I’m afraid. And if this is true, then what should we make of their caricatures of us liberals and the French? Are we really mewling, useless, thoughtless cultist cowards? Or are we just seeing some big time Psych-101 projection here? To me, the answer to that is clear.