Featured: Top of Home Page

The use of anti-irony

I always thought the anti-irony backlash was a matter of fashion cycles on the one hand and commonplace American anti-intellectualism on the other, but maybe it is just another expression of good-old fashioned sexism and bigotry. At Pandagon.net, Amanda Marcotte makes an interesting point about the anti-irony backlash that has been building since the Bush presidency began: "I would also say the rise in irony has a lot to do with the growing mainstream acceptance of diversity and feminism—now methods of humor that were the province of 'losers', aka women, queers, the poor, and people of color—have room to be expressed in the mainstream and that growing power of the disempowered is causing this anti-irony, anti-sarcasm backlash." This argument is predicated on the idea that irony is disguised rebellion, a way the "disempowered and marginalized" can speak truth to power without being imprisoned. (The nature of Soviet humor bears this out.) This all flies in the face of the assumption typically pedalled by cultural commentators of the David Brooks/Chuck Klosterman ilk, that irony is an expression of smug superiority, not of exclusion. They posit the ironist as an overeducated liberal type who needs to reject what other people do and disdain anything that becomes popular with their snide remarks. Unlike the earnest (the phony opposite of irony), the argument goes that ironic people express nothing "positive" and are too afraid to show any "sincere" interest in anything. Ironists are often depicted as elitist hipsters who think they are better than everyone, better than the rules of mainstream society itself, down to its very syntax and semantics. But this could simply be another instance of the persecution mania cultural conservatives seem to suffer from, in which the behavior of others threatens the putative normality of their own. They long so to be normal, yet the concept of normality is maddeningly in the hands of others, and the median and mean they generate. They sense emerging acceptance for something they find alien, so they ascribe a disproportionate amount of power to its purveyors, imply they are dictatorially imposing these alien ideas (be it irony, or marriage rights, or whatever) on a populace that can't relate to them. So the free expression of non-mainstream ideas is squelched, producing ironic discourse, which is then taken as further proof of the twisted and abnormal and inauthentic (because not "earnest") aims such groups who employ irony are harboring. The irony Marcotte suggests is on the rise, creating diversity and threatening that vicious cycle, may in fact be the necessary portion required to keep that cycle going. We need token funny minority characters (be they gay, female, or intellectual) to ensure that such groups remain on the margin. Being funny, then, may be a cultural stigma, and when you're making people laugh, they are perhaps laughing at you, to keep you down.





Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.