An Age Without Edge: The Case For Snark, Part II — Of Celebrities

Snark is rare now.
Snark is rare now.

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

This post originally appeared on migugin.com.

shelton-Profile03Now that I monitor the infotainment-industrial complex for things to write about, I feel an overpowering sense of meh. There just isn’t much snark out there when it comes to celebrities. Yes, I’m sure there is a lot of it on Twitter and Facebook, but when it comes to coverage of celebrities on sites like Gawker.com there just isn’t much oomph to it all.

It seems as though Nick Denton has decided to throw in the towel and just follow the crowd when it comes to gossip and celebrity coverage. There just isn’t much in the way of people saying snarky things about celebrities out there. It is kind of odd, really, when you think about it.

I don’t quite understand what it all means. Why is everyone so willing to dish on celebrities without any sense of irony? Without any edge or snark? It seems as though we’ve entered An Age With Out Edge. It has all happened somewhat suddenly. It has all happened without anyone noticing. We’ve reached the point where we all give celebrities a pass. We’ve all collectively decided to just take their bullshit on face value.

It’s all very weird. Any ribbing that celebrities get is soft and gentle at best. Most of what used to be done by Gawker Media is now done by hateful trolls in Internet comments. That’s just sad.

Why did this happen, is my question. I can’t quite figure it out. I guess everyone has been so co-opted by the allure of being able to hang out with famous people that they no longer have any passion when it comes to teasing them. Relative to the Gawker.com of yore, the teasing they do of Kristin Cavallari is rather, well, tame.

A Gawker Without Edge Is No Gawker At All

I remember Gawker, like having an edge and stuff. I remember it occasionally even crossed the line. I mean, it used to have the “An Now They’re Dead” slug for obituaries. Maybe they still do that, but I haven’t noticed it recently. I only mention Gawker all the time because I have an emotional attachment to the brand and it’s a site that I have frequented for a long, long time. Maybe there are Websites out there that are doing what I want and I just don’t know about them.

But Gawker.com is a mainstream site that used to have edge — in fact made its name on edge — and so you’d think it’d have a vested interest in continuing to be that way. As it stands, it seems as though Gawker.com is rather adrift. It just isn’t snarky like it used to be.

And what gets me is that there are so many celebrities out there that snark was made for. I mean, who is saying anything snarky about the Kardashian clan? Definitely not Gawker Media. Gawker Media seems to just gently, on occasion, make a silly little comment about the Kardashians, but nothing like it used to.

It boggles my mind that that is the case. It boggles my mind that Gawker Media would spend so much energy on Kristin Cavallari and yet not really be all that snarky when it comes to the Kardashians. I mean, when Saturday Night Live is snarkier than Gawker Media when it comes to a group as ripe for snark as the Kardashian clan, then something is really wrong with the world.

The Need For Snark

We need snark in our media diet to balance out the bullshit generated out of Hollywood. Why should I be forced to read the cooing Daily Mail if I want celebrity gossip? Celebrities need to have their bubble burst every once in a while, at least. We need to call them out for being vacuous, or doing stupid shit or whatever.

I am not saying be mean spirited, no. I just think there is a need for the mentality of the old Late Night With David Letterman or Spy Magazine. Or even the old Gawker.com before it made a bumrush to the mellow middle. We need a publication that cracks wise at the dumb antics of celebrities. A place with sharp writing that gets people buzzing with its teasing of celebrities. Again, what Gawker Media is going with Kristin Cavallari through its 500 Days Of Kristin just doesn’t cut it in my opinion. It just isn’t fun-interesting.

In fact, I find it kind of grating on my nerves.

The only fun thing about it is I get to make fun of it, in fact.

What Is To Be Done

What needs to happen is there needs to be a Website that brings back snark. I’d like to think that this site might be up to the task, but at this point, I’m just one dude in BFE. I simply don’t have the resources needed to take on this task. I can write about this subject all I want to, but it just seems like the marketplace has decided to roll over and play dead when it comes to doing anything fun-interesting with celebrities in a snarky manner.

Again, let me stress that maybe I’m missing something. I live in a media bubble, so it’s possible there is all this snark out there and I just don’t see it. But when we as a culture have to rely upon the the millions of monkeys of Twitter to write snarky comments about celebrities, then something is wrong. We need a snarky site with mainstream aspirations that ruthlessly teases celebrities in a snarky fashion.

Of course, everything old is new again. Things come and ago. So, maybe we’re on the cusp of a new era of snark and I just don’t know about it. But I worry. I worry that because of demographics and people not wanting to offend anyone, we’ve officially reach a post-snark era. That we are now in an Age Without Edge.

The Case For Snark


The nadir of our snarkless world.

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

This post first appeared on migugin.com

shelton-Profile03While I sometimes joke about having become a “bitter asshole,” I’m not. I’m really not. And, yet, I’m sufficiently jaded and middle-aged enough that I have some historical context to our current pop culture world. While just a few years ago Gawker was writing about “smarm” in the context of snark, we’ve reached a point now where not even Gawker Media has any snark.

I am a child of the 1980s, so I remember that golden era of snark when there was Spy Magazine, Late Night With David Letterman and Sassy Magazine. I remember when weird, snarky stuff was all over the place and it generated a lot of buzz amongst cool people, amongst people I looked up to when I was growing up. I loved Late Night in the 1980s so much that I went so far as to figure out how to tape it on the newfangled VCR that my parents had bought.

Now, I find myself in a media bubble. I rarely venture out of it unless it’s the latest Tina Fey project or there is something really newsworthy that The Daily Show may address in an interesting way. But, in real terms, other than that I rarely watch TV at all. I rarely participate in the consumption of mass media because, well, meh. Snark doesn’t really exist that much in modern mass media anymore and so I visit Gawker.com and grow ever more dismayed at a how dull it is. It’s now just a hollow husk of its former self, focusing on bland hard news stories with little or no spunk or pizzazz.

It is difficult for me to believe that it has been about a decade since Gawker.com was a site that was snarky and insidery and did fun stuff with Julia Allison that put a smile on my face at how kooky it was. I really enjoyed that snarky love-hate relationship that Nick Denton’s minions seemed to have with Julia Allison. It was a lot of fun. A lot of fun. If I ever managed to grow this site to the proportions of Gawker.com, I would try to find someone like Julia Allison to have a love-hate relationship with. I have, in the past, suggested someone like Sara X. Mills or April Summers. Either one of them would be a lot of fun to shower attention on and see them squirm or want to give me a hug, depending on the day.

But it seems as though Gawker.com is now running on fumes, running on empty. It’s just not fun-interesting like it used to be. It’s the flagship site of Gawker Media and it constantly gets upstaged by Jezebel and other sites in the Gawker Media family. I can only imagine that Nick Denton is doing that on purpose, that that is the point. He doesn’t want to have any sharp edges, he just wants to laugh all the way to the bank.

And that’s kind of sad. It makes me sad that Nick Denton has decided there’s no money to be made in snark. That he has decided to bank right into the staid and dull and, presumably obscenely profitable. And, yet, I must note that The Daily Show proves that it’s possible to be snarky, popular and a commercial success. Denton’s unwillingness to offend anyone is something that leaves me scratching my head, big time.

Tavi Gevinson, Rookie Magazine & A Desperate Need For Snark

As I keep saying, Tavi Gevinson is an adult and a public figure, so she can be teased. People can be snarky about her without feeling bad about it. I occasionally read her media outlet, Rookie Magazine, and I am astonished at its lack of edge. It has got to be the most soft-focused Website I’ve ever read. It does, occasionally write of provocative things, but the context isn’t very edgy. It’s pretty much what you might expect to hear if you were eaves dropping on any girls’ locker room in middle America. I don’t know what I expected when I started reading it. Maybe something more along the lines of something that Daria might write in her journal?


Now this is cool.

There just doesn’t seem to be any snark in Rookie Magazine. I’m not going to pretend I’m sort of expert on the publication, but I have poked around to get some sense of it. It is interesting and it does serve its audience, but it’s not sassy, it’s not saucy and it’s definitely not snarky.

The fact that someone who I honestly think is kind a cool, Tavi Gevinson, wouldn’t have the wits about her to produce a publication that wasn’t a lot more smart-ass is disheartening, to say the least. That is what Tavi Gevinson should be teaching young women about. She should be the involved in a publication that guides young women in how to be passionate intellectuals with a distinct world view. Her writers should have spunk and not worry so much about playing it safe.

That is what young women need these days, in my opinion. Am I mansplaining? I hope not. Just staying my opinion on the matter.

But the soft focus, soft sell nature of Rookie Magazine is endemic of a systemic problem with pop culture these days. No one seems to want to have any edge and that’s just sad.

Snark Is Dead, Long Live Snark

It seems as though we’ve gone from one extreme to another. We’ve gone from an Era of Snark about ten years ago that was epitomized by Gawker Media, to an era we lack enough edge even to produce smarm. There just isn’t _any_ edge these days. To do edge properly, you have to be able to write well. You have to be willing to have an opinion and be willing to defend it

If the #CancelColbert kerfuffle proved anything, it’s that we live in an age where no one gets snark. Where we have to be careful what we say, even if its in ” ” because someone, somewhere could take offense and start a hashtag devoted to their rage. I guess I believe that the even the minor success of #CancelCobert caused a chilling effect upon public discourse. I mean, come one, people, if someone like “Stephen Colbert” can’t be snarky about something, then who can be? And to have “Stephen Colbert” issue a public apology barely in character over the issue indicates that the Era of Snark has, indeed vanished into the memory hole.

A lot of the problem that people have with snark is they don’t understand it. They think it’s mean spirited and nasty and something only haters and trolls do. I simply don’t agree. Snark, to me, is a way to puncture the pretense of the rich and powerful. That’s why I am perplexed as to why Gawker.com hasn’t noted how ripe for snark someone like Tavi Gevinson is. She’s an extremely precocious young woman who takes herself way, way, way, way too seriously. If that isn’t something that couldn’t be the subject of snarky comments, I don’t know what is.

The Politics Of Snark

If we have to rely entirely upon Saturday Night Live for our political snark once Jon Stewart leaves The Daily Show, then this world is dead to me. Ted Cruz, someone who is one step above a birther if ever there was one, now wants to be president, even though he was actually born in another country.

That, in itself, should be the source of a great deal of snark in the mainstream. The site, of course, that I would ordinarily turn for such passionate and snarky observations on the Ted Cruz paradox, Gawker.com, apparently simply isn’t in that business anymore. It’s a bland hardnews site that has been completely drained of its point of view and passion.

So as the political silly season of 2016 grows ever closer to us, I don’t know who I am going to get my snarky political commentary from. I might be forced to read Wonkette again after a long, long, long absence. But who knows. Maybe I’m misjudging Gawker Media. Maybe they’ll get riled up by the absurdity of Republicans and start to get snarky again. I’m not holding my breath on that, though.

Will Snark Ever Return?

I have repeatedly made the hypothetical that all that happens for snark to return is some 15-year-old punk to pick up an electric guitar and write a nasty song about some chick who won’t let him sit next to him in school. I feel that it is at least possible that snark is now dormant because of demographic reasons. Young people born in 2000 have yet to reach the age where they might get into The Violent Femmes, or The Cure or Ayn Rand. They are just now reaching the age where the might be able to grasp the basic concept needed for snark — existential angst tinged with bitterness.

So, I believe that it is very possible that snark will make a big come back a lot sooner than any of us realize. It’s possible, not probable, that rock and snark will make a come back about the same time. I say that because rock music and snark have a lot in common. Both have an edgy world view and the lyrics of your typical rock song can have a little bit of an edge to them.

Anyway, I hope that snark comes back. I feel like I’m lost in a desert of blandness. I’m looking for something with a distinct point view that gets me riled up, puts a smile on my face and gets me thinking. That’s all I want. That shouldn’t be too difficult for someone, somewhere to produce. And if I have to produce it myself for my own entertainment, then so be it.

It wouldn’t be the first time I was ahead of the curve.

Of Sia, Snark, Harvey Pekar, Gawker Media & Rookie Magazine — Is Irony Dead?

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

This originially appeared on migugin.com.

shelton-Profile03I keep watching clips of the old Late Night With David Letterman and wondering why we can’t have cool stuff like that anymore. I keep watching these wonderful weird and snarky clips of Harvey Pekar being himself and doing these crazy things and wondering why, in 2015, we can’t have anything fun-interesting like that anymore.

I keep wondering where the edgy world view of that show, Spy Magazine and Sassy Magazine have gone. I wonder that a lot because I study Gawker Media like crazy and it’s totally lost its edge. It used to be the place that I would go to for edgy commentary about the world. The stuff like they did with Julia Allison was just like something David Letterman would have done.

That lack of edge is everywhere in our current media world. Take, for instance, Sia. I really, really like Sia in some ways and in other ways I find her type of music to be extremely bland and boring. There’s simply no edge to it. I say that as someone who loves regular old rock music. Rock seems to be pretty much dead right now and I continue to wonder why. I continue to be perplexed by the lack of rock music. Rock music has its own type of edge to it and the world is a worse off place for its total lack of existence right now. In fact, Sia produced probably the nadir of our current snarkless world with this song:

I have speculated a great deal about why rock music doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve speculated that maybe it has to do with the fact that we’re all waiting for some 15-year-old punk this summer to pick up an electric guitar and write a two minute song about some girl he likes who won’t let him sit at her table at school, or something.

SassymagCoverAnd, yet, I read stuff like Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie Magazine and I am struck that it, too, has a total lack of edge, a lack of snark. Yes, it has just about the gratuitous use of the word “cissy” and talk of period sex as I would expect, but that’s more just your traditional girl talk than it is snark. Sassy Magazine, as I understand it, which served the same audience nearly 30 years ago as Rookie Magazine does now, had, well, sass. It was saucy and a little bit snarky. It was thought provoking and empowered women by telling them it was ok to be a smartass, just like the guys.

That doesn’t even begin to address the issue of Spy Magazine which was, at its height, much more snarky and nasty than even Gawker.com in 2003-2004.

So, let me ask again — what happened to snark?

Now, ironically enough, when it comes to Twitter trolls and haters, one would think snark is very much alive. But I never really associated snark with trolls and haters. Snark, to me, is more about having a distinct point of view that you’re willing to defend than being nasty and hateful for no damn reason like a hater or troll. Snark, at least the type of snark I like to engage in, has ” ” around it. It’s all done with a wink and a nod to the audience. It’s all done with the understanding that there’s no harm meant. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings with my snark.

I guess one of the reasons why I really like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is because underneath all the silliness there can be found the hard edge of snark. Tina Fey is rather snarky in her world view and that was one of the reasons why I thought she would have been perfect to replace David Letterman on The Late Show.

There just doesn’t seem to be any edge in mass media anymore. It’s all very curious. Just in the last two years or so, there seems to have been a mad dash to the mellow center to such an extent that it is actually kind of rare and refreshing to find even a glimmer of snark, a itty-bity little about of edge. Someone willing to take a stand on an issue and run with it to its obvious ridiculous extreme.

Of course, I live in something of a media bubble and I’m a “42-year-old nobody” as one of my haters said, so it is very possible that snark is alive an well in some corner of the media universe that I simply don’t frequent. But from music, to TV to movies to Websites, snark and irony seem kaput. It could be that it’s just not profitable right now to be snarky. The audience doesn’t want snark, so no one is willing to do it.

This brings up the obvious question of, why do I give a shit? Why is snark so important to me? It’s important to me because snark done right usually requires good writing. And it requires me to use portions of my mind that I rarely use now that I’ve become so jaded that nothing, but nothing is “fun-interesting” anymore. It seems like eons have elapsed since there was something as fun-interesting as the old Gawker.com or Late Night With David Letterman.

The only TV show in recent memory I can think of with a passion for snark was 30 Rock. Other than that, I can’t think of any part of the infotainment-industrial complex off the top of my head that has caused me to want to leave my self-imposed little media bubble. I am a rabid fan of Man Men, yes, but that’s not really a very snarky TV show. As I keep saying, I’m a huge fan of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but I’ve watched all the episodes and now I’m back to not watching TV anymore.

The only snarky TV show I can think of right now is The Daily Show. But that’s on its last legs. I would go so far as to say that the last fun-interesting snarky thing that really got my juices flowing in a big way was The Chappelle Show. That had its own form of snark that was genius. Unfortunately, that was about 10 years ago, so that gives you some sense of how rarely I find a TV show I really like.

I like to think that snark — and rock music for that matter — will return. I’d like to think that one day, one day soon, something snarky will pop up that is both popular and has edge to it. Something that gets people buzzing and makes them occasionally clap their hands and giggle at some snarky bon mot that was produced.

This dearth of snark can’t go on forever. It just can’t. I hope. Something snarky, something fun-interesting has to eventually come into existence to fill the void now that it’s obvious that Gawker Media is no longer in the snark business. I’m waiting universe. I’m waiting.

A Welcome From The Editor & Publisher Of Mediafleek

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Annie Shapiro & I in Seoul in the 2006  -- 2007 era.
Annie Shapiro & I in Seoul in the 2006 — 2007 era.
I have failed several times to do what I am doing with this site. But I enjoy the process of creation, so here I am, trying again. For once, I have named the site something that people who don’t speak Korean can understand and say and I have set my expectations so low that if I can get just a few regular readers, I will be content.

I am also trying to write a novel as I try to start this, so if all else fails, I can always go back to that.

But it is fun to start from scratch. It’s fun just write for the hell of it to see what happens. All of this started because I awoke recently with a dream that wouldn’t go away — start a new blog using the domain name I had reserved some time ago. So, here you go. All of this comes from the fact that I have a lot of experience in publishing and yet no where to use it.

I started a magazine for expats in Seoul in 2006 with a woman named Annie Shapiro and it changed my life. So much so that I have been dwelling upon how it happened and how to replicate that situation for a long, long, long time. I enjoy writing, though, so I have repeatedly attempted to start blogs that gave me a venue to write the type of writing that I enjoy reading.

But they have — to date — always been failures.

So, for a long time, I have been frustrated. Very frustrated.

But this is fun. This is a fun little diversion. I don’t expect anyone to read this. The only people I expect to read this will be haters and stalkers. Regardless, it is fun to try again.

I am looking for writers — preferably people who live in the New York City and Los Angeles area — to help me out, but since I can’t pay, I don’t expect anyone to notice or care.

If this fails, I will probably just go back to working on the novel.

Streaming Media & The ‘Hot Chick’ Effect

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

shelton-Profile03As even a casual user of streaming media such as can tell you, women seem to have something of an advantage when it comes to gaining followers. Especially in the instance of Periscope, women seem to be able to gain an audience simply by, well, being women. It is an interesting situation, to say the least.

The question, of course, is why this is the case. Some of it comes from, of course, the purely prurient notion among some men that there is always a chance that a woman might, just might “open bobs.” This is completely bonkers, but some men persist in thinking this is the case.

Some of this issue comes from the idea that our phones are very personal and seeing a woman on one’s phone generates a sense of false intimacy. It must be noted, of course, that while women may get a lot more followers than men simply because they’re women, they also get a lot of negative attention because they’re women. It is unfortunate, but it is still the case.

For much more on this, here is a Blab.im blab I did on the matter some time ago.