Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Thoughts on Crying Jordan and the Cultural Bandwagon

Anyone on the internet last night after the end of the National Championship Game between Villanova and North Carolina knew what was coming after Kris Jenkins sunk one of the most famous shots in NCAA Tournament history. After the palpable shock and awe passed, the logical next step was clear... Crying Jordan. The meme that has a lifespan all to its own; a meme that seems as ever-present as death and taxes. Naturally, since the internet was awash with new interpretations of an old classic, there was quite a bit of blowback. Aren't all bizarre cultural phenomenon met with the same reaction? 

The internet has a way of responding to those who don't agree with its chosen consensus though, and that is exemplified in the dissidents to the meme becoming the meme itself. That's a much too fancy way of saying "don't set your picture as your Twitter avatar and then hate on Crying Jordan, because you know what's next". What the puff pieces about Crying MJ don't realize, and probably will never understand, is that the lifespan of this joke and cultural fad sustains itself on precisely that kind of hate and misunderstanding. 

Whether or not this is relevant to the discussion, I'll say it anyway: I don't find the meme funny anymore. I think it jumped the shark long ago. But, the internet doesn't really care for dissenting opinions. And I don't hate Crying MJ's preeminence after major events as the communal way of laughing at the loser, even if the joke itself is tired. Cultural phenomenon like this one thrive and survive in this pool of frustration. 

In 2000, "Who Let the Dogs Out" became the most ubiquitous song of the year, even becoming a theme song for the 2000 New York Mets. I love that team, but absolutely loathe the song. Most Americans loathed the song, but that didn't matter because during that year you still heard it everywhere you went, no matter whether you thought your own personal hate could put a dent in the barrage. Remember "Gangnam Style"? I know that's an episode in pop culture most people are trying to scrub from their memory with heavy duty bleach, but once again, whether you hated that song/internet meme or not, it didn't matter, because there were more people who wanted to ride the coattails of a runaway bandwagon. Crying Jordan, while its lifespan is longer than those two examples, isn't much different at all.

Whether Crying Jordan is now part of an internet vernacular, as Robert Silverman of Vocativ argues, feels besides the point. Crying MJ expresses a sentiment that's as old as the human experience itself: winners love laughing at losers. That will never change, as this is just a modern manifestation of that. Scholarly interpretations of memes also completely miss the point, too, not in their point, but in their method. It doesn't even really matter that making a Crying MJ meme doesn't actually take much thought or effort either. In a moment of intense emotional catharsis, either way, seeing something like that meme evokes a visceral reaction that makes even the stony-hearted smirk and chuckle, because what else can you do? We're human. Crying MJ is crude in such a basic way, but is no different than any other cultural appropriation of "laughing at the loser" that is such an indelible part of the human experience.

Crying out against Crying Jordan is worthless, because the meme itself is a cycle within a cycle. One day, it will be replaced by another meme performing the same cultural duty, and history will look on Crying Jordan with the same slanted gaze we look at other cultural phenomenon that seemed ubiquitous for a time then wilted away and now seem horribly dated. Complaining about disco in the 70's seemed worthless for a time, until one day disco wasn't worth hating on anymore. That day will come for Crying Jordan, and it may be soon. 

But remember, the cultural bandwagon and the tendency to hitch on to that trailer as it zooms past you is nothing new. Crying MJ is just another manifestation of that aspect of the human experience.

So the next time someone writes a "think piece" about how they are mad because the greatest basketball player of all time has been reduced to a meme used to laugh at losers, remember that human culture does this all the time, this is just another phase. 

It ain't worth getting Crying MJ'ed over. 

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