Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What Happened to Irony?

At some point, or maybe it was always this way, irony became discovered by the good ol' boys club of advertising. See, they started reinforcing the norm by pretending as if they weren’t. For evidence of this, I present this video (which I originally found on one of the greatest blogs ever: Sociological Images).

It’s all very headspinning since you can never be sure whether the shit is really shit or if it’s really just taking a dump on you. Of course, irony is also coopted by the hipster, who doesn’t do anything unless they don’t really mean it. What we really learn from all of this is that irony, like any concept, can be dangerous.

I wonder if Richard Rorty could have anticipated this? Irony used in this form and the snark it accompanies is very much an invention of very recent history. Rorty thinks of irony as a literary concept that is found in books and poetry. His examples come from Philip Larkin, Nobokov, and Orwell. All of these are worthwhile explorations, but it’s clear from the examples in the video that irony needs to be explored from the perspective of pop-culture.

And here’s where I’m going to pause for a hot-minute and say that this, THIS, is exactly why it is so important for academics to embrace pop culture and what it says instead of just analyzing Nobokov all the time - what Anita Sarkeesian is saying is that irony has taken on a role that does more to reinforce dangerous norms than it does to overcome them and it’s only if you’re paying attention to Carls Jr. ads and giving them credit as a text that you are going to notice this.

Back to irony. Honestly, it’s incredibely furstrating because how are we supposed to fight the power aside from punching it in the face? I’ve always seen irony as a gentle way to bring up a feminist perspective or to point out to someone that they enjoy white/male/whateveryoulike privilege.

Not that irony is now off the table, but it means we have to treat it with caution and unerstand that it can be interpreted in ways that reinforce the very fundamentals you’re trying to overcome.

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