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Antagonist: What the Name really means

When coolness is currency, veganism is broke. Finding a concept to implement an air of cool into an ethically motivated life seems to be the task of a lifetime. That’s why we’re here.

Antagonist – About the Name of the new vegan Media House and what it means

March 14, 2021

Words — Eric Mirbach

1. a person who is opposed to, or struggles against something or someone;
2. (Pharmacology) a drug that counteracts the effects of another drug; 
3. (Literature) though an opposing force, if working against an evil protagonist, the antagonist can be a good character — plotting to foil the protagonist’s plans;

Hi there, great you found us. First, let me explain where you are. This is the post where we explain the name of our new digital-first media house, something we made to create a much-needed voice for a new, post-Trump, post-Covid, post-runaway-consumerism ethical movement. We are Antagonist. Happy to have you.

“We are on a mission to change the outdated perception of veganism.”

We are on a mission to change the outdated perception of veganism by championing critical thinking, conscious consumerism and a concept we like to call radical kindness, all wrapped in a sophisticated, flawless design. By offering an elevated perspective on ethically sound food, fashion, travel, lifestyle, business, art & design, Antagonist broadcasts a new understanding of what luxury, aspiration and quality mean today.

The Story Before the Story

I’ll explain more, but first, I think it makes sense to introduce myself. My name is Eric and I’m the founder of this publication. Antagonist isn’t my first rodeo, though.

When I founded Antagonist’s predecessor in 2014, a magazine called Vegan Good Life, my plan was to create a high-quality print publication that looked great on coffee tables everywhere, but also worked on the newsstands of first Germany, then the world. With that aspiration came the search for a name that would be descriptive yet intriguing enough to catch the reader’s eyes. We needed it to really let people know what to expect (’cause that’s how newsstand business works) while creating enough of a dissonance with the idea veganism generally triggered in most people. The plan was to counter the outward appearance veganism had for most with a glossy appearance and the words ‘good life’, because back then, for mainstream society, veganism and ‘enjoying life’ didn’t really go together. 

“One thing I thought utterly important went overboard: Coolness.”

And it worked. The first issue scored tremendous placements on newsstands all over the country and sold very well. One thing I always thought was utterly important went overboard in the process, though: It wasn’t the cool, cryptic, catchy name I would have liked to pick. I never felt like “Vegan Good Life” was a good standalone brand name. It was good and catchy, but it wasn’t cool to me. It wouldn’t work on a t-shirt, at least not on one I would like to wear. That always bugged me, especially since over time, we moved away from the classic print market.

We left the newsstands distribution for a network of highly curated partner locations and meanwhile, with an ever-growing international audience, we knew we needed to expand our perspective through new content forms. We moved away from print as the biggest, most important channel, at least we did in the backroom, where we were plotting and scheming for world domination (ok, maybe just amplified visibility — for now).

When during our restructure phase it became clear that it would be strategically preferable to rename, I felt almost immediately good about it. Here was our chance to redo one of the things that had always bugged me a bit. Now, we could go for that name I always wanted, one that would work great on a t-shirt. A name that, if done right, would be attractive as a brand even for not-yet-vegans. After all, the goal had to be to reach more people than just the core of our scene, not only people already on board with the thoughts and concepts we’d propel forwards, but make sure we had everything we needed to break our ideas into mainstream consciousness.

Ok, but why call it Antagonist then?

Now let’s talk about the actual name a bit. Since I went vegan over seven years ago, my focus always was to make veganism cool (because it so wasn’t). I had originally learned my trade in the world of skateboarding and streetwear and had seen media platforms create and dictate trends by utilizing the peer pressure engineered by targeting and persuading early adopters, creating coolness-enhanced fomo in the process. I knew that it worked and how it worked, but I had seen it being used to accelerate rather mindless consumerism. The concept itself was fascinating, but the goal seemed mundane, uninspired. Why not try and use this mechanism for something more aspirational than selling out a limited sneaker in a couple hours?

I learned how coolness is created and distributed, how it’s about code, about being in-the-know and about creating exclusivity which does exactly that: Exclude. But I also learned that, without a shadow of a doubt, that sought-after, certain air of cool wavers around those who don’t give a damn (or at least come across like they don’t). Not caring, a nihilistic outlook on life and a ‘me first’ attitude play a big role in the way coolness is created and perceived, which is a shame, as it creates a major roadblock for a more ethical and just world. If coolness is something most people strive for, something that provides a feeling of belonging, yet translates into ‘not caring’, well, we have a problem.

We all understand the coolness of the anti-hero, of the characters in a story with a bit of a darker edge. The perks of ‘being bad’ are omnipresent, being a bad guy is culturally rewarded constantly. But I always thought there must be a way to hack this, utilize it for positive change.

“The poetry of evil so easily entangles us, making us misinterpret cruelty as individualism.”

Because the only thing it does at the moment is translating into consumerism. The aesthetics of suppression, established over centuries and supercharged by corporate advertising dollars, are very present in everyday life. Let’s look at an exemplary fur coat. In today’s world, it is no longer merely for protection against the elements. Instead, it’s an ancient symbol of superiority that comes with an inherent, indisputable cruelty. This extra layer of meaning, this not-very-thoroughly-disguised symbolism sits right below the surface. We can all feel it, we know it’s there. But not only do we not care, it is exactly what draws us in, it’s the way it assigns an attitude of recklessness to its wearer that entices us. The poetry of evil so easily entangles us and has us lightheartedly misinterpret cruelty as individualism and personal freedom.

That is why I spent years looking for ways to turn the common understanding of what’s cool on the head and that is what I think the name Antagonist is going to be able to do. It’s the voice from the shadows, a voice that feels anti-everything, but is just misunderstood. Antagonist is the Batman to your boring Superman-opinion, it’s counterculture plotting against the wrongdoings of mainstream culture. It’s the antidote to the blissful ignorance of the many. And it is asking the uncomfortable questions and welcomes in the struggle this attitude undoubtedly brings with it.

In short: Antagonist is here to make veganism the cool kids table. And yes, you can sit with us.

This is going to be a wild ride. So happy you’ve joined us.

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