Does Irony Really Protect You from Uglineess?

I have several friends who like collecting cheap, kitschy items like the sort of things Burger King or McDonald's will give away during various promotions. They know these objects are tacky, low-brow, and not very attractive looking. The defense they offer when anyone points out the unappealing character of their collection is that they aren't taking the objects seriously, as their creators intended them to be viewed, but are regarding them ironically, showing their superiority to the mass consumer culture.

The difficulty I've always had with that answer is that, sure, seeing those things ironically may indicate more acuity than believing them to be corporate gifts of free art for the masses, but, nevertheless, they've still surrounded themselves with a pile of butt-ugly crap. I don't see how irony can negate the ugliness.


  1. Woodrow7:09 PM

    McDonald’s, Wendy’s, et al, are not giving away that crap for nothing. You have to purchase something (usually a “Kid’s Meal”) to qualify for a “free” piece of crap. I suspect your friends are serving the crap that passes for food to their children.

    It’s easier to use a visual art “ironically” than it would be to so employ an auditory art. A shelf of beanie babies can be a mildly amusing artistic statement of irony. I defy any of these kitsch collectors to download a bunch of Britney Spears songs or dog food jingles, and listen to them on their ipods. Irony probably isn’t worth the pain. If the experience must be shared, blast them from your car stereo. Irony won’t sound too cool.

  2. Radical Sceptic11:47 AM

    Actually my view is quite the opposite. I quite like Britney Spears and other such kitch, cheesy pop. It is fun, temporary and clutter free. The idea of permanently filling my hose with beanies babies and other such like crap as an ever present ironic artisitic statement, however, is too much to bear.

  3. Woodrow8:15 PM

    It takes all kinds!

    I thought the concept of crap art = irony implied that the user knew the product was crap. Is that how you feel about Cheese Pop?

    BTW, nothing is permanent.

  4. Anonymous4:56 PM

    There was an article in the WSJ today about the rise of "shopping-mall masters". Apparently a new group of contemporary artists, known for their "neon sunsets, frolicking dolphins, and photorealistic unicorns" can sell their works for up to $300,000. (Remember Thomas Kinkade, the painter of light.) Some of these works have doubled in price from five years ago.
    For that kind of return - maybe I could stomach hanging a painting of some nymphs and satyrs, bathe in soft light, frolicking in a forest. or not...

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