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Witchita State shockers!
Witchita State shockers!
Witchita State cheerleaders are making the obscene hand gesture on the cover of their sports mag! And the sex fiends in this world thought we could not have progress! Shockingly fun and liberated in an sly and nasty way.
Is the "shocker" the peace sign of the 21st century?
I feel like fictional Sex and the City star Carrie Bradshaw after the opening to this column. (And for the record, that has absolutely nothing to do with the fabulous new pair of high heels I am currently wearing as I type this.)
The shocker symbol has come into ascendancy in the national consciousness with the Wichita State Shockers' drive to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. It's gotten so popular with the team's cheerleaders that they're even giving the shocker sign to TV cameras in the midst of their games. One can only imagine senior citizens across the country turning to one another and saying, "Lordy, I think that young lady just said her team was No. 3. These young people today ... so silly."
But on a more serious note, if you asked a random person to explain the symbol that most often appears in photographs from the 1960s, I'm betting that random person would say the peace sign. (This is the kind of due diligence we are famous for at ClayNation). For most of the 1990s, the middle-finger assumed the role of digital prominence, and now, I would argue, the shocker may get to see its day as the finger symbol of choice for young America. I, for one, think this is swell. My support for the shocker symbol's rise in pop culture relevance is the real reason I hope Wichita State goes to the Final Four.
At this point, some of you might be completely confused as to what the hell I'm talking about. This is not entirely by my choice. Remember the classic Seinfeld episode, " The Contest"? This is the ClayNation equivalent. How shall we put this in a delicate manner?
Let's just go with Wikipedia's definition. The opening line states, "The shocker is a hand gesture with a sexual connotation that has become popular in many high schools and colleges throughout the United States."
Did you know Wichita State sold a ton of baseball caps with "Shockers" emblazoned above the brim? Well, someone in Wichita State's marketing department was probably sitting around absolutely stunned about the school's sudden nationwide popularity. That person probably even told the admissions office to expect a tidal wave of new applications based on how many hats were being sold.
I hate to burst their bubble, but it was because the shocker was well on its way to being the most popular hand gesture in the U.S. And also because kids loved wearing something their parents didn't get. Right now, there are probably lots of parents rushing to dig through their kids' piles of baseball caps. Somewhere, I'm certain a father is shedding tears as he holds up the cap he bought his daughter because he finally thought she was interested in sports.
To continue my hard-hitting investigative piece on the use of the shocker signal, I sought out the Wichita State Web site. You can imagine my surprise when I found the cover of the 2003-04 basketball guide featuring several members of the Shockers cheerleading squad showing the shocker symbol. This was absolutely classic.
My theory is at some point in the past, a brilliant cheerleader (oxymoron notwithstanding) managed to pull one over on the administration, which had no clue what the shocker actually was. They probably said something like, "Hey look, we're mimicking an electric socket," or, "No, it's just a W." Right, sure it is. And now the good 'ole shocker has been firmly embedded in the core of the school and the hearts of the country. Good for that brilliant cheerleader.
Personally, I'm hoping that next year, a school, say the University of Miami, announces that from now on, its new spirit finger will be the No. 1, utilizing the middle finger rather than the old-fashioned index finger. I mean, who cares if people have their own vulgar connotations dealing with the extension of the middle finger? That's their problem, right?
But all this leaves us with one question: Why the shocker now? What about our current situation leads to shocker ascendance? I think there are a couple of answers, other than Wichita State's success in the tourney: First of all, the 21st century is a more open sexual society. Can one imagine a 1950s Kansas cheerleader giving a sexual hand signal on television? My guess is no, given that television stations in the '50s were not allowed to show Elvis' swiveling hips.
Second, there's something fairly entertaining about being able to give a hand signal on television and have less than 10 percent of the audience understand what you are saying. For instance, how many times have we seen black athletes give fraternity signs on fields of play? How many white people have spent the collective equivalent of the mental energy required to defeat polio trying to figure out what the hell is being said?
The shocker speaks to an audience of the young within the construct of traditional media. And hardly anyone was the wiser. That kind of humor, lost on a large majority of the people who see it, is a 21st century humor Rorschach test. If you don't get it, per this view, then you really weren't worthy of the joke to begin with.