21 May 2008

Irony and Russian Pop Culture: Open Thread for Comment (Lurkers Come Out!)

What do you say when a visiting American friend asks if the following clip is ironic? (Warning: Ridiculously stupid and sexist video to follow.)

My best answer: "Yes and no, but neither in the way you would imagine."

Extra-credit challenge: How do you explain the fact that the leader of a not-insignificant political party collaborated with the "rapper" in the above clip in this bizarre duet?


lena said...

Well, my knee-jerk reaction to all this is to equate irony with subversion and to conclude that, no, this is sadly far from ironic. If Serega were to appropriate the language of rap to unexpectedly reveal its underlying sexism, for example, then the inconguity between form and content would, indeed constitute irony. Here, however, he leverages the language of rap, among other things, to further the very message we expect. In a word: chicks. There is humor, but it's entirely tied to the absurdity and pleasure in the spectacle, not any kind of disjunction between apparent and actual meaning...

As for the second clip, it only goes to show how little politics differs from entertainment these days. The intensity with which the people pictured are amused by the talantless performance is absurd in itself.

Also, and this is random, but what is up with the parachuting gifts in the background of that second video? It looks like some kind of online pop-up window or cell phone ad, over and over and over again.

All of this kind of burns my retinas...

BusterPh.D.Candidate said...


Yeah, the retinas do burn with this stuff, but it's on all the time in the background when you go out for dinner or sit in a bar. I don't necessarily go looking for it myself.

I basically agree with your interpretation of the first clip, which is the "no" part of my answer. The "yes" part of my answer comes from a suspicion Serega's bizarre excess actually invites an interesting critique of a number of facets of Russian consumer culture and its appropriations of traditional images. I'm not sure how savvy Serega himself is to this, which is where the proviso to the American spectator comes in "not as you'd expect it to be." But maybe I'm over-thinking things and this really is just stupid and offensive. Full stop.