5.11.2005

Maer Roshan Rashômon

There needs to be a long and unwieldy German philosophical term for the process of collectively deciding that something which is objectively and inarguably uninteresting can be made interesting if enough obsessive attention is paid to it. This term would need to incorporate the sentiment that at least part and possibly the majority of the interest derives from watching the subject fail spectacularly and consistently. How else to describe Gawker's meticulous coverage of Maer Roshan and Radar magazine?

Of course, everyone -- including Gawker bloggers regular and sundry -- openly admits that paying so much attention to Roshan and Radar is part of the joke, and admitting the joke is also part of the joke. This creates an endless feedback loop that defies the laws of normal humor thermodynamics, counter-intuitively creating more energy where there was little (or none) to begin with. Energy here being buzz and the blog equivalent of column inches (and presumably site traffic). Lacking the ideal German term, it's useful to think of it as a variation of the rake joke -- named for a gag in The Simpsons, where Sideshow Bob steps on a rake, which flips up to smack him in the face; when he stumbles back, he steps on another rake, which does the same. Then it's back to the first rake, and repeat endlessly. At first, it's not funny. Then it becomes boring. Then stupid. Then briefly funny. Then annoying. Then very stupid. Then unbearable. Then, Platonically, it becomes very, very funny. Appreciating this joke requires a delicate mix of sensitivity to cerebral humor, slapstick, sadomasochism, and/or a rabid unwillingness to ever admit you don't get it.

Unfortunately, Maer Roshan can't keep stepping on rakes forever and Gawker can't keep cackling about it, though both seem determined to try. The very banality of Gawker's perpetual coverage is yet another part of the joke. It's ironic that a preview/mockup of Radar's first relaunched issue leads with an article titled "How to Be Famous for Doing Nothing at All." We wouldn't by any means call the two previous issues of Radar "nothing at all," but a two-year gap between issues makes for some attractive comparisons. Still, in this arrangement, everybody wins. Even if Roshan bristles at Gawker's personal needling, he will always love the free publicity. In a perfect world, the magazine would never quite relaunch, setting up a permanent relationship of exquisite tantric denial.

All that said, we have to admit that we're actually fans of this joke, especially because it's less pathetic than the HuffPo debacle and less depressing than Tina Brown's years-long farewell tour. It takes us back to those sepia-tinted days when Gawker was almost all media gossip and less about Fred Durst's unit. We'd be willing to bet long money that while Gawker's mockathon will ultimately be just as disposable as the relaunched Radar, it will probably be more fun to read.