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Foghorn Leghorn Chokey Chicken

Like the kind of kitschy t-shirt you might pick up on a whim at a truck stop gift shop

Much cooler than Los Pollos Hermanos
Much cooler than Los Pollos Hermanos

Dear Hipster:

Is it good or bad if somebody does a good thing, but for a bad or evil reason? For example, if a rich man gives his fortune to charity, but he does it solely as a means to make sure his children get nothing when he dies (because he is a mean old bastard) does that undo the goodness?

— Dylan, South Park

Ok. Why not. I’ll take a shot at this.

If I had to explain this by way of analogy — which is the way I usually explain things because I’m secretly no good at coming up with any ideas on my own, so I tend to upcycle other ideas for my own purposes — I’d say it’s exactly like the imitation novelty logo t-shirts you can almost always buy from internet shops, and sometimes buy from popular fast fashion outlets.

I’m sure you know the shirts I mean. They have logos and slogans on them, like, “Mitch’s Country Diner — The Best Fried Chicken West of the Mississippi, East of the Mississippi, On the Mississippi, or Under the Mississippi!” and there’s a picture of a vaguely Foghorn Leghorn looking chicken wearing a hat and cannibalistically eating a chicken drumstick or something like that. It looks like the kind of kitschy t-shirt you might pick up on a whim at a truck stop gift shop on a road trip through the middle of the country somewhere, except it’s not for a real place, it’s the concoction of some underpaid graphic designer trying to make a joke out of writing the word ‘Mississippi’ too many times.

I have a really specific emotional reaction to those shirts. It’s exactly 51 percent repulsion and 49 percent fascination. The repulsion part is pretty easy to explain. The way I see it, there are only two ways to come by a novelty t-shirt: (1) you go to the place, do the thing, and buy the t-shirt; or (2) you discover the t-shirt at the bottom of a bin in a dirty thrift store for $1, at which point you’re entitled to ironically piggyback onto somebody else’s experiences. The idea of a consumer product offering a slick workaround to that process is a perfect example of fundamentally doing something for exactly the wrong reason. The shirt memorializes the experience, and you can’t create an experience ex nihilo by simply wearing a shirt. It doesn’t work that way.

On the other hand, I’m fascinated by this impetus, because it’s something I can’t wrap my head around. In a world where the genuine article is always easily within reach, why opt for the simulacrum, even if its somehow appealing?

One caveat before I go. This rule doesn’t apply to tribute shirts, that is to say, t-shirts made for fictional bars, restaurants, other small businesses, and important locales from songs, TVs, and movies. Tribute shirts are badass when they’re done right, but only if they’re obscure. For example, a shirt with the logo from the Breaking Bad chicken restaurant is lame and mainstream; but a shirt that does a fair take on the Chokey Chicken logo from Rocko’s Modern Life is darn cool.

All this is to say that, no, you don’t get credit for doing something if you do it for the wrong reason, at least if my analogy holds any weight.

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Much cooler than Los Pollos Hermanos
Much cooler than Los Pollos Hermanos

Dear Hipster:

Is it good or bad if somebody does a good thing, but for a bad or evil reason? For example, if a rich man gives his fortune to charity, but he does it solely as a means to make sure his children get nothing when he dies (because he is a mean old bastard) does that undo the goodness?

— Dylan, South Park

Ok. Why not. I’ll take a shot at this.

If I had to explain this by way of analogy — which is the way I usually explain things because I’m secretly no good at coming up with any ideas on my own, so I tend to upcycle other ideas for my own purposes — I’d say it’s exactly like the imitation novelty logo t-shirts you can almost always buy from internet shops, and sometimes buy from popular fast fashion outlets.

I’m sure you know the shirts I mean. They have logos and slogans on them, like, “Mitch’s Country Diner — The Best Fried Chicken West of the Mississippi, East of the Mississippi, On the Mississippi, or Under the Mississippi!” and there’s a picture of a vaguely Foghorn Leghorn looking chicken wearing a hat and cannibalistically eating a chicken drumstick or something like that. It looks like the kind of kitschy t-shirt you might pick up on a whim at a truck stop gift shop on a road trip through the middle of the country somewhere, except it’s not for a real place, it’s the concoction of some underpaid graphic designer trying to make a joke out of writing the word ‘Mississippi’ too many times.

I have a really specific emotional reaction to those shirts. It’s exactly 51 percent repulsion and 49 percent fascination. The repulsion part is pretty easy to explain. The way I see it, there are only two ways to come by a novelty t-shirt: (1) you go to the place, do the thing, and buy the t-shirt; or (2) you discover the t-shirt at the bottom of a bin in a dirty thrift store for $1, at which point you’re entitled to ironically piggyback onto somebody else’s experiences. The idea of a consumer product offering a slick workaround to that process is a perfect example of fundamentally doing something for exactly the wrong reason. The shirt memorializes the experience, and you can’t create an experience ex nihilo by simply wearing a shirt. It doesn’t work that way.

On the other hand, I’m fascinated by this impetus, because it’s something I can’t wrap my head around. In a world where the genuine article is always easily within reach, why opt for the simulacrum, even if its somehow appealing?

One caveat before I go. This rule doesn’t apply to tribute shirts, that is to say, t-shirts made for fictional bars, restaurants, other small businesses, and important locales from songs, TVs, and movies. Tribute shirts are badass when they’re done right, but only if they’re obscure. For example, a shirt with the logo from the Breaking Bad chicken restaurant is lame and mainstream; but a shirt that does a fair take on the Chokey Chicken logo from Rocko’s Modern Life is darn cool.

All this is to say that, no, you don’t get credit for doing something if you do it for the wrong reason, at least if my analogy holds any weight.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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