With headlines all over the Internet the day after Super Bowl XLIX announcing that the real MVP of the big game was Left Shark, metamodernism hit the mainstream on its biggest stage.
The message of Left Shark – the name given by the collective blogosphere/Twitterverse/commentariat to one of Katy Perry’s costumed back-up dancers whose moves went awry during her “Teenage Dream” performance – is that it is OK, even charming, to fuck up on the world’s biggest-television-event stage.
That Left Shark’s flawed performance is in stark contrast to the perfected, slick, planned moves of mainstream productions like the Super Bowl half-time show makes it all the more metamodern. The awkwardness brings a humanity to what is otherwise machine-like entertainment. We feel the iconic become a fellow human being. The implication: “That could be me up there.” Further, the contrast with Perry’s song lyric at the moment of the hapless moves is downright hilarious – she’s singing of the magic power of her sexual allure, while this large, formless, blobby thing flaps and flounders behind her; so we get a big belly-laugh at the hubris of the human effort to invoke an archetype of perfection–in this case, not at the expense of the dancer, but somehow in a way that celebrates the dancer’s humanity.
It’s this lovable side of awkward, which we identify as a metamodern sensibility, that Left Shark now personifies, thereby giving permission for the awkward in all of us to fly proudly.
From a sports blog no less mainstream than SBNation:
The New England Patriots may have won the Super Bowl, but Left Shark is the true champion … Despite all his failings, Left Shark continued to fight. And that’s beautiful.
Similarly, BleacherReport.com declared Left Shark “the one and only true hero of the 2015 Super Bowl … a beacon of ungainly hope in an otherwise serious and cruel world.”
What the audience sees and responds to is that Left Shark’s adorably awkward moves contrast with the crisp movements of the Right Shark. Perry’s choreographer RJ Durell’s explanation that, ironically, “Left Shark nails it!” stems from the dancers’ directive: “to have loads of fun, and bring to life these characters in a cartoon manner, giving them a Tweedledee/Tweedledum-type persona. … Clearly, that was portrayed with the overzealous shark on the right hitting precise dance moves, while the left shark,“ Durell says, “was playing up the more goofy, fun-spirited sports fan mascot type, who was just happy to be at the Super Bowl.”
Whether this amounts to a publicist’s face-saving spin or not, her explanation is far less important than the instantaneous reaction from thousands of fans. Within minutes, our Facebook news feeds showed responses of the “let your freak flag fly” variety:
“Dance like you’re Left Shark”
“Je suis Left Shark!”
“Nous sommes tous le requin sur la gauche” (We are all the shark on the left.)
And other tweets:
Katy Perry’s after-the-fact endorsement of Left Shark’s deviation from the planned routine with her tweeted image (below), further supports the metamodern view that there is glory in the lovably awkward. We predict it will have a massive ripple effect, pushing the metamodern cultural sentiment further into the public eye.