Monday, April 29, 2013

On Irony

Let's talk about irony. Not real irony, mind you, but the faux irony that's replaced humor and imagination in this culture. The justification of "I know X is lame, that's why I'm not lame for enjoying X!"

The Guild is a good example of this, despite being a good show in its own right. It follows six hilariously inept gamers as they deal with very mundane concerns like money, romance, and overly protective mothers. It's funny and well acted and never tries to excuse or redeem the characters - who are pretty terrible human beings all around.

But there's this niggling thing in the back of my mind every time I laugh at a scene because I know somewhere, someone is going "Dude, that's soooo us!" and then typing the high five command in World of Warcraft. It's like that blog Stuff White People Like - funny, occasionally sharp satire, but you know the fanbase is the one being savaged by all the jokes. And they're okay with that because...?

Because irony, it seems. It really came together when I saw this -

"Oh ha ha! It's a cheesy pop song but about MMOs! We know it's lame so we're not actually lame! Irony!"

I know language is fluid and changes depending on time, place, and context but this is not irony. We may call it that but it's really rationalization. Someone knows the thing they like is looked down on in polite company, so they claim to be enjoying it because it's bad. Somehow. Like people who pay money to see The Room.

But the truth is, they really do like whatever lame thing they claim to be enjoying ironically. They really are as inept and ridiculous as the characters on The Guild. They really are that dull and miserable - but they can't admit it, to themselves or others. Therefore, they say they like X because they know X is bad.

This whole phenomenon really gets back to how soviet American culture is. We can't enjoy things on our own terms - like, I can't just load the latest Call of Duty and giggle as I blow away foreigners in increasingly brutal ways without putting on this air of being above it all and only enjoying the jingoistic undertones of the whole violent spectacle "ironically."

No, all our terrible indulgences have to fit back into the status quo. So we get people watching The Guild, seeing themselves in the parody, and trying to excuse their own embarrassing behavior as self-aware self-abasement. Because we're not allowed to just like stupid shit.

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