he's big! he's huge!
write me, baby
Back in olden times, like the 60s I guess, irony existed solely in the realm of the intellectual, and only presented itself as entertainment in the most advanced forms of comedy, like that of Lenny Bruce and the movies of Woody Allen. Here, in this irony age, the ironic has infiltrated even the most banal forms of televisions--soap operas, advertising, game shows, even the dumbest children's cartoons are all based upon the premise of irony. Take Melrose Place for example. I swear when this show began the producers, writers, whoever, were not aware of it's real target audience: super-sophisticated 20-somethings who would watch in groups and scream at the characters ala Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I think it probably wasn't until the second season that the people actually involved in the show got the joke, realized they were the joke, and decided to turn it around and be the jokesters too. Now that the show is truly high camp I think it's lost it's original audience but now has attracted it's original intended audience. How ironic!
I can't think of one popular television show right now that is not ironic. Even the damn nanny is a parody of herself. The best of these tv shows have a character that the hyper-intelligent and with-it audience can ID with, a character that can observe as we are observing, and a character that is deserving of our love and affection. For example, The Simpsons have Lisa. Now, I know we all want to be like Bart, but we are actually Lisa, we're not part of the action, we're not an actual catalyst, we are the scientist the in lab watching the mice ingest too much sugar and go crazy. No matter how dumb, offensive, over-the-top The Simpsons get, we have always been able to point to Lisa and ID with her (unfortunately, this season the writers are trying to have a little joke at our expense by making Lisa the butt of too many jokes. Perhaps the most offensive episode in the 97-98 season was the one where the 8 year old Lisa headed up an archeological dig in an area that the mall was going to cement over for a parking lot. When she found bones, a complete skeleton with wings that looked like the Mothman, Lisa was the only voice of reason in a town that was trying to convince the rest of the world that this was an angel. The overbearing psuedo-intellectual Stephen Jay Gould makes a guest appearance (whose claim to fame is a theory that the earth revolves around him), and I guess he needed the money for food or something because there was no other reason for him to actually provide the voice for this horrible portrayal of a lazy lying scientist. Marge makes impassioned pleas with little Lisa about the importance of God in out society. The episode ends with all of Springfield gathering around the ďangelĒ at the appointed time, who, in a booming voice, instructs everyone to go the mall. And this could have been a killer episode about the mob mentality and the banality of religion, but instead, at the end, when the 8 year old Lisa gets a little scared that the ďangelĒ is about to say something of import, Marge actually makes fun of her and takes this as an indication that Lisa actually puts more faith in religion than science. As apparently she should, because it turns out that Gould did not perform the tests on the bone fragments that Lisa actually paid him for, and thatís why the results of the ďtestsĒ were inclusive. This was the cruelest of life lessons for poor Lisa: she canít trust her mother, she canít even trust Stephen Jay Gould! This episode was as awful to me as ABC TV's We Love TV campaign, which made fun of the ABC audience. For some reason the billboard, bus and subway adverts are still up in NYC, and I always lament the fact that I donít carry a sharpie with me when I see the goofy silhouetted faces of Tim Whooever and that former Blues brothers guy who didn't die, oh, Dan Ackroyd, on that morning-after piss background over the tagline, Tuesday. Comedy Night. Not to be confused with meatloaf night, which I would like to alter to read tuesday comedy night. Not to be confused with actual comedy. I guess both these are examples of post-irony, or maybe avant-irony (meta-irony?). Whatever it is, I don't like it.
Even movies, whose writers are generally the last to know, have begun to work the irony age: the two campy Brady Bunch movies, a whole slew of horror movies whose point is that they are ironic versions of earlier, better horror movies (did anyone notice that the first Scream is just a better written and funnier version of the last Freddie Krueger film? Never let it be said that Wes Craven didn't continue to ride a good horse until he killed it and then, by the miracle of perhaps the pop-culture version of Quantum physics that horse comes back alive.)
Damn, for some of us, our entire lives are ironic: I wear an east german parka, which, when taken off, reveals a sexy silky black slip and black stockings, I have a collection of shot glasses from different locations in the US, my Ikea furniture is the ultimate in irony, as it emulates the cheap-ass danish modern furniture my mom had when I was growing up, but at a gazillion times the price. Plus, irony keeps us from getting close to other people and close to the truth in our lives. Fríinstance, I can collect precious moment or Keene paintings or Hello Kitty for their pure kitsch value, never admitting to myself or others that in some way the sentimental touches something deep inside me in a completely intangible way. If Lisa had remembered to hold onto to her irony, she could have never been hurt by Marge, she would have just zinged her back before anything touched her. Hence, the appeal of South Park, Kenny dies every week and no one really cares, Jesus has a public access call-in show and is exhaustingly callous, etc. Iím not a fan of the show so I canít really go on in depth about it, but you get the idea. The ironic citizens share in this great pool of irony, weíre soaking in it (and this is the reason why Mike isnít as well-liked as Joel on MST3K, Joel was one of us, over-educated underachiever who is so well immersed in the popular culture that he can spout humorous references to it at the rate of 350 per hour, while Mike is obviously a football jock with barely a brain. Plus, Joel was able to treat the Ďbots as his friends, and they would be his friends even if he was on earth because the ironic can rarely form close attachment with actual people, itís much easier to form an attachment with a cat or a robot, you wonít get hurt, they understand you completely, etc. This is probably part of the reason why so few of the ironists I know are married.)
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