The phrase “Have we reached peak [noun]?” originates with debates over "peak oil": a theoretical maximum point of petroleum extraction capability that, should we reach it, could lead to global economic decline.
Which brings me to "peak Guardian"
. You may have noticed people deploying this arch slur when sharing Guardian
stories on social media, or even in the paper’s own lively comments section.
Last August, the paper itself asked, somewhat wearily, "Have we reached peak peak?
But what do we peak about when we peak about Guardian
? What qualities are most associated with The Guardian
’s editorial concerns and those of its readers -- and have we, as the phrase implies, had enough? Is it the Peak-Guardian
est thing to do to actually say “peak Guardian
” -- or, indeed, to investigate peak Guardian
An online search reveals certain recurring tropes in alleged peak Guardian
stories. While it’s a subjective epithet whose referent seems to vary depending on the political views of the person deploying it, many cited examples of peak Guardian
have a first-person perspective and a fretful, confessional tone. Knowingly or unconsciously, they devote significant intellectual or emotional resources to making bold, sweeping claims regarding something that seems disproportionately quotidian.
“I thought my puppy would unite the world. I was so, so wrong”, wrote Jason Wilson
last July, in one of the more daring expeditions into the heady thin air of Peak Guardian
. I laughed helplessly just now as I re-read the standfirst: “I never thought my new canine pal, a designer Goldendoodle, would drag me into a world of internet hate -- and teach me valuable lessons about life.”
Another of the classics, from August, 2012, is Tess Morgan’s grief-stricken memoir
“My son’s tattoo hurt me deeply”: “I have a lump in my throat that stops me from eating. I feel as if someone has died. I keep thinking of his skin, his precious skin, inked like a pig carcass.”
Personally, I feel Trevor Ward’s blog post on whether it’s OK to get off your bike and walk up a hill
is both literally and generically the purest instance of peak Guardian
Stories accused of embodying peak Guardian
also focus on the pursuit of whimsical and artisanal qualities in food and drink
, defer to trendy experts
, fret about the existential threat modern life poses to cosy traditions
, and brood resentfully about how one’s life must look to others
“Beware of cupcake fascism,” warned Tom Whyman
in April, 2014, arguing that this whimsical treat reflects an infantilised population’s desire to impose bourgeois regimes of political passivity.
While the trope is often reserved for very serious discussions of online trends and habits, personally I feel The New York Times
has a much better-deserved reputation for spurious trend reportage, as captured by the hilarious Twitter account The Times Is On It
instead seems to reflect exasperation with pedantry
, internecine fights with low, low stakes
, and annoyance at the paper’s hypocrisy in celebrating trends and then declaring them "over"
… all salted with more than a little anti-intellectualism.
As The Guardian
is known for its left-wing humanism, many stories accused of representing peak Guardian
consist of self-conscious hand-wringing over race
privilege. A recent example: “The women suffering for your Valentine’s Day flowers
: Behind the millions of imported flowers we buy every year is a mostly female workforce subjected to low pay and poor conditions”.
ridicules a writer’s noble desire to wage race, gender, class and ability war on the battlefield of pop culture and everyday life. “It’s time to take a stand against the urinal”, urged Peter Ormerod
this month. “The act of public urination has become a trope of hairy masculinity. Why can’t we just sit down?”
also gently mocks the paper for obsessive and opportunistic attempts to fold trendy political topics into just about any other article. Here’s a magnificent correction from last year’s Oscars coverage, captured on Twitter by alert reader Maddy Potts
. It’s especially rich because it also dovetails with the Grauniad
’s reputation for subeditorial inaccuracy: