Theory, Now with Bad Grammar!

It’s been a bit of a theory blowout around here for the last few weeks. The postmodernists have cranked though Lyotard, Jameson, Hutcheon, and McHale (oh my!); meanwhile the digital culture students are hard at work on a wiki that archives their readings of Steven Johnson, Todd Gitlin, and much of the Pew research on the Internet and American Life. Needless to say, I’ve got enough terms and definitions bouncing around in my head to reduce me to a babbling idiot.

So, imagine my delight when I can across the lol theorists site! Sadly, I’m waaaay late to this party, but thanks to the magic of the interweb, all of the compositions are archived. It probably goes without saying that this kind of composition is brilliant, but let me enumerate all of the ways that it’s brilliant:

  • The majority of its charge comes from its reference to a pop culture site. If you don’t know the I can has cheezburger site, these theorist pieces are going to seem downright strange. And not in a good “all theory is alienating” way.
  • It also requires a pretty good knowledge of the theorist him/herself. To wit, it’s only funny if you know what the theorists ideas are. For a literary/cultural studies type, the ones that take on Kristeva, or Bourdieu are uproarious. But Ruskin? Milton Erikson? Forget it.
  • In truth, the best ones are combinations of both sets of knowledge: the conventions of the former and the import of the latter. It’s not really enough to slap key terms on top of a picture of a particular theorist. Part of the appeal of those darn lol cats is their atrocious grammar (because animals with bad grammar? Always a laugh riot). And perhaps more to the point, there’s a particular quality that the cats express—a faint air of threat (“I’m in your ____ doing _____”) that contrasts with their cute fuzziness. Likewise, the lol theorists pieces that really work for me are the ones that embody the threat of the theorists ideas, paired with their usually innocuous looks.

Before I fall into the Freud trap (here, let me explain to you how humor works!), I’ll offer up my picks for the best of the lol theorists.

ETA: ARGH!!!  Ever notice that sometimes WordPress just doesn’t want to play along?  What gives, WP?!  So, below, my pick for the best, since I can’t get the others up.  For the record, the Bourdieu piece is not to be missed.

barthes

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