The Shield of Irony

For a while now, I’ve been noticing a growing trend in society towards irony. Sure, it’s often used incorrectly, but it surrounds our every day lives. From the ever increasing population of hipsters, to the current demand for self-reflexive and ironic media such as “The Colbert Report” and “House of Cards”. We have become a generation of cynics. Even advertisements no longer try to woo us in with what we would automatically perceive as ‘lies’ (regardless of whether or not they are); they emphasize their commercial quality and then finish off with a “but hey, buy us anyway” – think, Old Spice commercials or almost any advert that relates to bacon or beer.

We cling to irony as our biggest saviour, but our ironic attitudes, as well as the cynicism that goes along with it, is also evidence of mistrust. We no longer trust others to be honest with us, so we are not honest ourselves. We present a humorous ironic face to the outside world in the hopes that it will make others laugh and distract them from our real substance. We present and excuse for our behaviour before we even present any sort of behaviour.

As a media student it’s fascinating to see what academics refer to as the self-reflexivity that has been emerging in media these days. That is to say, much of our media is very self-aware, it presents itself as a constructed medium that attempts to replicate reality, as opposed to presenting itself as factual reality. In many ways this also relates to the impressionist movement in art. And while within media this opens a space up for new forms of creation, in our daily lives it merely opens a space for us to pretend to be something we’re not. For us to excuse ourselves from our mistakes and our flaws without actually learning anything from them, or learning how to deal with them. Want a better example? Look at all the comedians who are driven into drugs or depression. We all know the two latest tragedies that have been plastered everywhere. Irony, particularly in the form of comedy, is a disguise and a shield.

I’m not saying irony is a bad thing; in fact I love a good ironic story or moment. But with the ever increasing trend towards ironic content in our daily lives, maybe we are revealing a lot more about our society than we intend to. Or else, maybe we’re revealing just how much we’re intending to hide.


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