Irony and The New Sincerity
A great culture war is afoot, upon yon indecipherable horizons. Joan Didion, the NYT and others are others are declaring, as many did in the aftermath of 9/11, that irony is dead. As Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter said in 2001: "There's going to be a seismic change. I think it's the end of the age of irony."
And just today, in the NYT's "Irony Is Dead. Again. Yeah, Right.":
"A Nexis search found that the incidence of the words 'irony,' 'ironic' and 'ironically' in major American newspapers during the two-week period beginning Nov. 6 slipped 19 percent from the same period last year."
Critics point to the new-found optimism, "New Sincerity" if you will (and I will) as a side effect of all this Obama hoopla (Obopla, if you will--and again, I will).
But I really can't blame them for such a fright. This blog poster was very taken aback by the sight of 200+ hipsters in the Mission on election night, standing on cars and wearing flag paraphernalia, shouting "U-S-A!" "U-S-A!" in a completely unironic manner. Can we have a president whose mug has been sported on tote bags, t-shirts and by the graffiti artists?
Yes we can. And I do believe we must. But I think that irony is not dead. Editor of The Onion, Joe Randazzo, told the NYT:
“After eight years of the Bush administration, where irony was almost a measure of desperation — maybe now that people have seen something happen they never thought possible, their sarcasm processors have kind of gone into shock." But Randazzo also notes, "We never know what will be the next dumb thing to satirize--that's the beauty of the thing."
A former Banana Slug/student media peer of mine from Santa Cruz, Jesse Thorn, wrote a manifesto in 2006 about "The New Sincerity" movement for his radio show, "The Sound of Young America." In it, he describes the progression of the acceptance of sincerity, which is described as "being more awesome" with the lifestyle choice of "maximum fun."
However, the key caveat being that TNS is not a countermovement to irony. That is to say:
"...Think of it as irony and sincerity combined like Voltron, to form a new movement of astonishing power. Or think of it as the absence of irony and sincerity, where less is (obviously) more. If those strain the brain, just think of Evel Knievel.
Let's be frank. There's no way to appreciate Evel Knievel literally. Evel is the kind of man who defies even fiction, because the reality is too over the top. Here is a man in a red-white-and-blue leather jumpsuit, driving some kind of rocket car. A man who achieved fame and fortune jumping over things. Here is a real man who feels at home as Spidey on the cover of a comic book. Simply put, Evel Knievel boggles the mind.
But by the same token, he isn't to be taken ironically, either. The fact of the matter is that Evel is, in a word, awesome. His jumpsuit looks great. His stunts were amazing. As he once said of his own life: "I've had every airplane, every ship, every yacht, every racehorse, every diamond, and probably, with the exception of two or three, every woman I wanted in my lifetime. I've lived a better life than any king or prince or president." And as patently ridiculous as those words are, they're pretty much true."
Irony and The New Sincerity. Long live both.