The Jedward Paradox: Or, Things That I Wish I Had Known Upon Coming to Ireland
When you’re preparing to visit another country for the first time, you come equipped with a very basic kind of knowledge, a knowledge that you feel will be sufficient enough to prepare you for the inevitable culture shock that will ensue. You know about the language, the currency, the customs, that ‘crisps’ means ‘chips’ and ‘gaff’ means ‘apartment’ and ‘good craic’ means ‘a good time’.
You are prepared to engage in loud discussions with drunk people about Lady GaGa’s “Telephone” video; you are prepared to adhere to the delightfully quaint national customs, such as toasting in Gaelic and waiting approximately three decades for the check to come after a meal; you are prepared to immerse yourself headfirst into a world that is totally different from your own, and you are prepared to accept any communication breakdowns or cultural misunderstandings or inebriated naked people that might come your way.
Today is Thursday. I have been in Dublin for approximately four months. On Saturday, I will clean out my disgusting apartment, say goodbye to my friends and board an Aer Lingus flight to Edinburgh knowing that I now have the information necessary to navigate my way around a foreign country, and have a fantastic time whilst doing so. I will leave Ireland knowing that I (kind of) came prepared.
But nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for this:
Perhaps I should explain.
These two winsome and foppish gentlemen comprise the dynamic duo that is Jedward. Jedward is an amalgamation of “John” and “Edward,” two 18-year old identical twins from Dublin who lost in the seventh round of “The X Factor” (an “American Idol”-type show that stars Simon Cowell and two female pop stars who may or may not both be Cheryl Cole). Their first single is a mashup of “Ice Ice Baby” and “Under Pressure,” two songs that are distinctive for being absolutely the fucking same (it’s analogous to covering the Rufus Wainwright cover of the Jeff Buckley cover of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah,” except shittier.) They have ridiculous hair, impeccable style and, as far as I can tell, absolutely no value as artists.
Here’s the thing, though: Jedward is FAMOUS. Like, super famous. Like, their faces are on T-shirts worn by Twihards and trashy babies, famous. Like, they sold out the O2 (the biggest arena in Dublin) before Lady Gaga did, famous. And the Irish…LOVE Lady GaGa. You can’t go to a clothing store or a bar or the bathroom at the CineWorld on Parnell Street without hearing one of her songs on the radio, and subsequently hearing someone comment on how much they fookin’ LOVE her. Lady GaGa is HUGE here. The Taoiseach of Ireland is probably in his office right now, putting in an order for cigarette sunglasses and rubbing one out to the “Paparazzi” video. But even Lady GaGa, the biggest act in Europe right now, has joined the collective Jedward circle jerk; she’s currently in talks to collaborate with them on a track.
I had never heard of Jedward before I first came to Ireland, and although I saw them everywhere my first few months here I never really gave them much thought. “Oh, look,” I said the first time I saw them in a poster in the window of Abakebrabra (an Irish kebab chain), “look at those two adorable young women sharing a meat kebab in an intimate setting. The Irish are incredibly progressive for portraying a same-sex relationship in an ad for a mainstream fast food chain, and it appears that their love is real and true. Best of luck to them.”
But as I learned more about Jedward and what they stood for, every time I passed that ad I got progressively more and more creeped out. “Oh, look,” I said to myself the last time I walked past Abrakebabra, “look at those oddly coiffed twin brothers sharing a meat kebab in an intimate setting. The Irish are incredibly progressive for portraying an incestuous same-sex relationship in an ad for a mainstream fast food chain, but it wouldn’t have killed the photographer to give them two separate kebabs so they wouldn’t have to be seductively munching on the same stick. I can’t deal. I just can’t. Peace, Jedward. Best of luck to you.”
Ever since I learned about what is commonly referred to here as the Jedward Paradox (seriously. that’s a thing. Because NOBODY ACTUALLY LIKES THESE GUYS. They SUCK. They’re like the PBR of the Irish music scene), I have found it necessary to ask every single Irish person I’ve come into contact with if they can take a minute to explain Jedward to me. Because I don’t get it. I really don’t. I can’t think of an American artist who is analogous to Jedward, who is adorably non-heteronormative and universally despised by everyone except sexually confused preteens and babies with pierced ears. And nobody’s been able to come up with a sufficient answer for me. The closest thing I get to a well-thought out analysis of the Jedward paradox is raucous laughter, of the “look-at-the-adorable-American-girl-trying-to-embrace-our-culture-and-failing-miserably” variety. I guess it’s the same thing as a Maori tribesman coming up to a Hasid on the street and asking him to explain the appeal of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
It’s frustrating, because I’ve been here for four months, and whenever I see those pasty Aryan faces smiling at me from a poster or a commercial or a magazine cover I feel like I’m still missing something. Like I need to stay here just a little bit longer, so I can gain a better understanding of my surroundings. Like I need more time to learn a really important, Danny Tanner-esque life lesson, although I’m not really sure what that lesson would be. It would probably have something to do with avoiding passing judgment on other cultures, or not using too much hairspray.
Maybe that’s why I feel this bizarre connection to Jedward. Because their hair is about the same height, breadth and color as DJ Tanner’s in the first two seasons of “Full House,” and since I was named after her, it took coming to Ireland and seeing those fucking four-foot faux-hawks everywhere for me to realize that that would be a good look for me. Perhaps Jedward is a conduit for the Viking gods of Dublinia, and they’re telling me that spiritual enlightenment is just a bottle of Aquanet away.
Or maybe Jedward just sucks. That’s certainly also a possibility.