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Thank you Howling Fantods for this link

09/23/2010

Interesting article– neo-sincerity coming to replace the irony that’s been pervading the way America’s been talking about culture since the 1980s.

I’m still not sure what this whole “irony” thing is/was about. The term has become meaningless to me because I’ve heard it used in so many (incorrect?) ways. Like this article talks about, it’s just a way to feel superior to the entertainment you consume by snark. By not admitting anything to be cool/enjoyable, no one can cut you down for liking the wrong thing. (Or at least that’s how I’m understanding it).

Princeton’s WordNet says this about irony:

  • sarcasm: witty language used to convey insults or scorn; “he used sarcasm to upset his opponent”; “irony is wasted on the stupid”; “Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own”–Jonathan Swift
  • incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs; “the irony of Ireland’s copying the nation she most hated”
and this about ironic:
  • ironic – dry: humorously sarcastic or mocking; “dry humor”; “an ironic remark often conveys an intended meaning obliquely”; “an ironic novel”; “an ironical smile”; “with a wry Scottish wit”
  • ironic – characterized by often poignant difference or incongruity between what is expected and what actually is; “madness, an ironic fate for such a clear thinker”; “it was ironical that the well-planned scheme failed so completely”
The thing the hipsters have been doing is the sarcasm, not the incongruous stuff (you know, the definition you learned– and promptly forgot– in high school).
I think my first real exposure of this neo-sincerity movement was when Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker came to my campus my sophomore year. He talked about how there should be no guilty pleasure in music, that you shouldn’t feel guilty, as if your music is wrong or low or unacceptable to some group that arbitrates what is currently cool. The gist of Frere-Jones’ exhortation to us: you have to consider for what purpose and in what genre the music was made. If it’s a pop record, judge it by pop record standards. If Taylor Swift makes an indisputably catchy single, then don’t feel bad for liking it. It is what it is; don’t let your definitions of cool prevent you from enjoying something that catches your ear (Even Lady Gaga likes “You Belong with Me,” for serious. In light of this post, it’s ironic [in the textbook sense] that the linked article’s title says that Ms. Swift is Lady Gaga’s “guilty pleasure”).
W/r/t “You Belong with Me”: I don’t enjoy country very much, I balk at the unsettling misreading of Romeo and Juliet and The Scarlet Letter in the song, and the sentimentality makes me a little queasy…but I do sing along. The music is fun and it’s okay to like it and listen to something without dissecting its faults to death to prove my intellectual superiority.
Really.
Side note: I’ll have to write about Glee some other time. LOVE.
Another side note: This is linked to DFW and SIP because he was mentioned in the article and YES I’m doing my SIP on him. This neo-sincerity is something that shows up in his work, definitely. More on that later too.
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