societal implications and issues stemming from solitary confections and the resulting identity crisis

last month i was going through the cactus garden comments for approval, when i came across one (well, technically, two in a row, but they were the exact same comment, word-for-word and caps-lock-for-caps-lock) raging about a joke meme i had shared over in seeds back in 2011.

Image description: A picture of a cupcake with white frosting and purple and yellow sprinkles against a peach background. Text reads: "I don't care how macho you are. Sometimes a guy just needs a cupcake." -Shaka Zulu

Image description: A picture of a cupcake with white frosting and purple and yellow sprinkles against a peach background. Text reads: "I don't care how macho you are. Sometimes a guy just needs a cupcake." -Shaka Zulu

via forgotten quotes

i didn’t save the comment(s), but goodness knows i wished i had. they told me that the meme was an insult to the zulu nation, demanded i take the post down, and that the anonymous note-writer would never had made any such comments about her royal majesty eating cake.

well.

i’m not here to write today about trolling, about the ownership of history and historical figures, about the likelihood of shaka zulu appreciating cupcakes or not. i’m not going to even comment on the implied assumption that i am in any way british. am the elder has taken those conversational elements on over in bloomeria lumiere.

i’m here to talk about the social commentary of cupcakes.

the internet loves cupcakes.

recipes, photos, videos, they’re all there.

each holiday deserves it’s own special cupcake.

Image description: Rows of miniature cupcakes, each with a dollop of whipped cream and a piece of crystallized ginger on top.

Image description: Rows of miniature cupcakes, each with a dollop of whipped cream and a piece of crystallized ginger on top.

wasabi ginger cupcakes. i created these things, and i have no good reason why. it just happened.

cupcake shops capture delight and imagination, despite cronuts and specialty toast shops. (yes, that one’s for real.)

every six months or so, an article comes out about “the death of the cupcake trend.” this has been happening for some four or five years at least now. with such staying power, cupcake philosophers are forced to debate whether cupcakes are a trend, a craze, or a staple of dessert life.

(examiner 2014forbes 2013eater 2013the washington post 2012, npr 2011cnn 2010, ...seriously, just google "cupcake." i dare you.)

cupcakes hold a contentious place within celebration rituals.

they are, in effect, a separatist dessert: they take a communal event – the sharing of food – and create a division between celebrants.

a cake is a whole entity. it is a dish that is designed to be shared, a cultural artifact whose main purpose is to be destroyed through human ingestion. the act of that destruction is a ritual performance, one which unites participants. the cake is presented as a complete object, a unified whole.

in contrast, the cupcake is an artifice.

Image description: Simple line drawings of a person attempting to eat a cupcake accompany a list titled "Cupcakes are bullshit." The list reads, "Too tall for mouth, paper tastes horrible, no meat."

Image description: Simple line drawings of a person attempting to eat a cupcake accompany a list titled "Cupcakes are bullshit." The list reads, "Too tall for mouth, paper tastes horrible, no meat."

via toothpaste for dinner

in all appearances, it maintains the same properties of cake, and yet the very inclusivity embedded within the fundamental nature of cake is removed.

rather than being part of a whole, cupcakes are constrained by paper boundaries.

icing smushing between two cupcakes is seen as a defect. cupcake sizes are uniform, removing the beauty of choice – do i want a large slice or a small slice? – from individuals. and, accordingly, cupcakes are transient. consuming the cupcake is a careless act; they are a dessert that is eaten quickly in order to keep the confection from crumbling in our hands or falling out of it’s paper prison to the floor.

perhaps worst of all, cupcakes divide celebrants into subgroups. are you a chocolate cupcake or a red velvet? choosing a side invites judgment, which begs the question, is choice worth the divide?

and finally, there is the globalization of cupcakes. with the advent of cupcake popularity, how are we to know when cupcake consumption is truly appropriate? are cupcakes truly a westernized commodity, or are they something greater? the ownership of cupcakes is large, complex, and confusing.

humor is a powerful gift, but it’s one that is so often taken for granted. and it is a gift that does not always translate well.

there are many, many things to get upset about in the world; cupcakes seem like something that should be rather low on that list. getting upset about a cupcake meme from three years ago reveals the recursive nature of the internet and exposes the act of trolling as a form of identity creation.

in this impersonal, digital space we engage in, the comments we make are really the expression of the confusion we face in the wake of an alternate world where national, geographical, and historical lines are no longer viable societal structures.

online, we interact with others across time zones and oceans without any sense of expanse.

online, multitudes of realities and truths blend together into an indecipherable composite.

online, cupcakes are the social commentary of the internet.

cupcakes are bullshit.