Saturday 4 September 2010
Dylan Jones: 'Over the past 25 years, irony it has dominated our pop culture'
While some like to say that irony was invented by Plato, as far as the entertainment industry is concerned, it reared its knowing, nodding felt head in the mid-to-late Eighties, roughly between the first sighting of Bruce Willis's smirk in Moonlighting, and Jack Nicholson's ya-gotta-love-me grin in Tim Burton's Batman.
For us, for me, irony was big. It seemed the natural conclusion of most post-modern experimentation. And what wasn't to like? It was designed to be playful, funny, diverting. In terms of pop culture it had actually started much earlier, almost as soon as the Eighties began, as each new pop genre made a nodding reference to the past. You only need to look at ABC ("Poison Arrow", "The Look of Love", "All of my Heart", etc) to understand just how soon tongue-in-cheek had become brass-in-pocket.
And now we're being told its time has been and gone. According to some critics, Hollywood has not only found a desire for more straightforward entertainment (always a sign of panic), but its audiences have also discovered a desire for more authenticity (unlikely, frankly). Hence a glut of columns asking where all the large polystyrene inverted commas have gone.
Well, I hate to burst the anti-irony bubble, but I actually popped it myself over 20 years ago, in a column in Arena, in an attempt to stop inverted commas being put around inverted commas. Then, over a decade later, years during which irony had defined both alt and mainstream culture (Quentin Tarantino, U2's disco period), irony was pronounced dead once again. After the 9/11 attacks, both Time and then Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter announced the death of irony, as though we couldn't work this out for ourselves.
But irony never goes away, it simply goes in and out of fashion. Over the past 25 years or so, it has become such a dominant strand of every part of the entertainment industry that is has almost become a genre in itself, and so consequently will never really die.
I mean, have you seen Lady Gaga?
Irony? It's the new irony. And I'm not even smirking.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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