NBA Playoffs Preview: Orlando Magic

I Hate Myself - Ten Songs (1997)

When I read the I Hate Myself Wikipedia page to prepare for comparing them to the Orlando Magic (all three of us are from Florida, so it makes sense), I came across this little gem:
In author Tao Lin's 2007 novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, the main characters drive around Central Florida listening to I Hate Myself.
I'd never heard of Tao Lin before and I'll probably try to forget about him after I click "PUBLISH POST" and I also don't need to read Eeeee Eee Eeee now, since I kinda lived out at least that quoted bit in the late 90s.

Nonetheless, the fact that the Wikipedia page totally hedges on whether or not I Hate Myself was a joke band (it cites "speculation that I Hate Myself were poking fun at emo/screamo bands" while suggesting that the band "got their name from going through and experiencing depression") makes me wonder whether Eeeee Eee Eeee features the scene as an earnest attempt at diagramming sentiment or a parody of the scene's kind-of-silly sentimentality. Maybe the point's that in these Contemporary Days when literary writers just transform themselves into memes and write novels that apparently might as well be Tumblrs it's impossible to tell earnestness from parody since Authentic Sentiment's always already scripted as sentimentality?

You know what? Who cares!

I Hate Myself were totally a joke band. Maybe those dudes were depressed (they were living in Gainesville after all) but I defy you to listen to I Hate Myself's Ten Songs LP all the way through while driving around Central Florida and afterward not to believe that the entire thing's a joke.

Read the lyrics from "Caught In A Flood With the Captain of the Cheerleading Squad" and tell me that they aren't a joke:
how's your bell-curve?
mine's right-skewed average low. very low.
and the river - she has grown very high.
fell from the sky.
and i'm wasted on cancer and bible school - not like you.
yeah, you're wasted, full and drunk from too much rain
and pain and anger at tumors like me.
if it would make you comfortable, i'd jump out of this tree,
or maybe we could get married and be happy.
these few words could be the last we ever speak.
do you think, maybe, you could love me or like me maybe?
maybe you'd look at me, you'd talk to me,
we could marry, live in this tree.
but it's unlikely. you don't like me,
and i don't like me, and it's unlikely.
It's parody!

Having spent X years of my life researching satirists and the formal characteristics of satire, I understand that sometimes parody imitates the thing it mocks so closely that it's hard to tell the difference. But even then the joke's on readers (or listeners) for taking it seriously. Somewhere, some kid's thinking the lyrics on Ten Songs Really Truly describe how he's feeling at the moment. And the joke's on him for having his feelings scripted out already. I won't be reading Eeeee Eee Eeee, but it's also probably a joke: a very lucrative joke.

To be fair, all of screamo basically verged on self-parody even before it got recycled, so I can kind of understand how people outside of Florida believed that I Hate Myself wasn't a joke band. They were definitely much more subtle than my other favorite Florida joke hardcore band, Jud Jud:

I saw Jud Jud play their only show on a Halloween night at 403 Chaos in Tampa and they made noises like that for like 25 minutes, punctuated by numerous declarations about how they invented straight-edge and so on. Subtlety, thy name is not...

The point of all this is that the best way to understand the Orlando Magic is on the model of the "joke band": a joke team.

Sure, they look like a real team, are likely to finish with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and pass as a title contender after somehow miraculously (someone unsubtle might say Magically) making the Finals a few years back. They've finally got a real NBA arena, a player who passes as an MVP candidate, and some other players who look like stars (which prompted one of the Negative Dunkalectics braintrust to suggest comparing them to Planes Mistaken for Stars, since "they've got a lot of players mistaken for stars.")

Even so, they only make sense as a joke!

How else can you explain their utterly dumb Rashard Lewis free agent signing a few years back that inadvertently gave the team a totally unique identity: a group of three-point gunners surrounding a great rebounder who loves to block shots out of bounds -- and back to the other team. When it turned out that the Hedo-Rashard-Dwight trio Magically actually worked because it presented matchup problems for every team except the Lakers, GM Otis Smith then immediately ruined a good thing by letting Hedo Turkoglu depart in free agency and making a joke trade for Vince Carter. Later when Smith was given the opportunity to recreate the quirky matchup problems by dealing half-man, half-amazing for Jason Richardson and Hedo, he took an extra totally capricious step and dealt Rashard Lewis for a worse player with a worse contract, Gilbert Arenas.

Somehow they continue to pass as a real team, win games, get home court advantage against the Hawks, have their star appear in McDonalds commercials, and so on. Still, I'll only take them seriously if they knock the Bulls out in Round Two. If and when that happens, I'm happy to revisit the question of whether or not I Hate Myself were a joke band.

PS: Go Heat!

Follow my very personal Twitter account if you infrequently would like to see which nutty articles from Econlib and Longreads I "liked" on Instapaper. And follow @negativedunks if you wanna read tortured yet concise jokes about basketball. For more Emo Spring NBA Playoff Previews, click here and wallow in your weird combination of nostalgia and embarrassment!

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roxy said...

this post has everything i care about, plus basketball !

Kelly said...

when the season's over, there's a 60% chance this blog's going to be entirely about bands that i saw at 403 chaos

Guap in Melbourne said...

Haha How the hell?! Did somebody really write an article comparing I Hate Myself to the Magic?! Aww man

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