Cultural Commentary: “Dogefather” Elon Musk on SNL – Banking on the Irony of the Rich
By Jeremy Ray Jewell
“Fate loves irony” opines the billionaire. Will we be in on the joke, or left out in the cold?
Elon Musk, the on-again off-again richest person in the world, has been boosting Dogecoin for some time now. The satirically meme-themed cryptocurrency has risen sharply since mid-April, reaching an all-time high of $0.71 just before his appearance as host of Saturday Night Live on May 8. The much-hyped appearance had many Dogecoin investors banking on the hype, but the immediate effects were negative — prices plunged as low as $0.40 on early Sunday morning, the flattest they had been in over a week. Musk’s opening monologue (during which he revealed he has Asperger’s) kicked off the downward trend after Musk’s mother asked whether her son would gift her Dogecoin for Mother’s Day (the answer was yes).
The price fluctuated dramatically within the hour as Dogecoin was featured only once more, on a Weekend Update sketch. Musk’s character, a version of himself in the role of “financial expert,” insisted on being called “the Dogefather,” a moniker Musk used on his April 28 tweet announcing his slated SNL performance. Parody anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che repeatedly asked Musk’s character to explain exactly what Dogecoin is, before concluding it is a “hustle.” Musk closed out the sketch with the battle cry “to the moon!” — as the price continued to plummet. A final, Wild West sketch alluded to the crypto in a roundabout fashion. Musk suggested that Western pioneers could establish a new currency. Considerable doubt persists among his fellow pioneers, as his partner, played by Kenan Thompson, brings up his refusal to wear a mask during a past robbery… an evident jab at Musk’s March 6, 2020 tweet: “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”
So what happened? Was this a repeat of the failed “DogeDay” fiasco, where investors attempted (half-ironically?) on 4/20 to rally behind the crypto? It’s impossible to say. High volatility is inherent in so-called “meme” investments, whatever stability there may be persists through the efforts of a few. Around 28% of the currency can be found in a single wallet — a fact which has drawn embarrassed criticism from Musk himself.
Yet that intimation of farce hasn’t dulled the allure of Dogecoin as a David versus Goliath yarn for the true believers. We are following in the footsteps of the infamous, Reddit-fueled GameStop short squeeze in January, the full causes and implications of which are still barely understood. There is a strong compulsion to see groups like WallStreetBets as a reiteration of Occupy Wall Street, taking down the large investment firms responsible for the Great Recession of 2008. On the other hand, apps like Robinhood, which are responsible for the recent popular buildup of trading, have netted a themselves a tidy sum for their roles. Overall, if there is any of Occupy Wall Street in this scene, it’s steeped in the same irony as the Shiba Inu currency itself.
Musk defended the currency in an impromptu interview in the leadup to SNL, arguing that the joke had real potential for success, because “fate loves irony.” Musk has repeated this sentiment many times. But a momentary position that seems to favor the little guy doesn’t come close to amounting to a comeuppance for the fat cats. Some critics have speculated that this is all about Musk enjoying playing God, suggesting that his tongue-in-cheek pursuit of irony stands to leave hordes of small-fry holding the bags.
Something like this indifference to the little guy was referenced in a hilarious SNL sketch featuring Pete Davidson as a dimwitted astronaut rescuing a Mars colony by sort of following orders from Musk’s SpaceX team. The astronaut is shortsighted and rejects personal responsibility… in short, he is culpable for whatever goes wrong. At the end of the skit, Musk asks Davidson, who is being broadcast live on screens from Times Square to Piccadilly Circus, to show his face to a grateful humanity. In response, Davidson farts and then unfastens his helmet — and dies. Musk leaves his SpaceX control room with these parting words: “Well, I did say people were going to die. I was never here.”
The truth is, if Musk’s appearance was meant to introduce Dogecoin to a wide audience it will take time to see if it worked. Newbie investors will need at least another week to install an app in order to make a purchase, which calls for full proof of identity as well as address verification. The recent sell off does not indicate much about the future. Given a catchy motto like “fate loves irony,” there’s no reason to assume the worst. But, if we are talking about irony here, then seeing the man who shoots sports cars into space having to pay his fair share of taxes would fit the bill. But that remains a distant fantasy — or tragedy from Musk’s perspective. As for all us little guys, there’s little more we can do besides hedge our bets or go all in. Just like poor old Chad.
Jeremy Ray Jewell hails from Jacksonville, FL. He has an MA in History of Ideas from Birkbeck College, University of London, and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts Boston. His website is www.jeremyrayjewell.com.