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Is Irony Getting Lost in America?

Updated on July 4, 2012
The "Thunder Buddy Song" scene in Seth MacFarlane's Ted, which released last Friday.
The "Thunder Buddy Song" scene in Seth MacFarlane's Ted, which released last Friday.

The few times the MPAA is right can reveal which Americans are the most ignorant and which are the most capable of seeing a film in theaters the right way. With Seth MacFarlane's Ted in theaters since this past weekend, it's clear to me that many of us don't understand that when a film is parodying something, it means it's a parody. Ever since reading and watching the satirical news “corporation” of The Onion and noticing how many (including an influential congressman) could be so gullible in taking irony for truth, I've seen many people fall for the simplest of satires. In one instance, while working at the movie theater, my manager came under fire by a man of advanced age—must have been around 70 or so—about the fake trailers and commercials preceding Tropic Thunder . The manager hadn't actually seen the film, and since the guy was on such a tirade about the offensiveness of the commercial for “AlpaChino's Booty Sweat” (which you could supposedly buy in the lobby according to the ad), I didn't bother correcting him.

I think people like this illuminate just how much the idea of satire has deteriorated in America over the years. I do think a huge precursor to the lost art of intelligent mockery in modern day can be traced more or less to the release of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho in 1991. Of course the earliest beginnings of satire in the 16th century were also completely lost, but Ellis' commentary of the male 80s yuppie culture was instantly attacked (even before its release due to protests within its first settled publisher) by feminist groups who refused to see what Ellis was doing. All the way up to today, the simplest of parodies, including Ted , are lost on most of the generations before Gen Xers, and it seems like the ones younger than us (Generation Y) are also losing the perception of satire.

On IMDB, people have discussed how those walking into Ted above the age of forty are asking for refunds and humble apologies due to its “offensiveness.” People are so easily offended by today's media, it kills me. Even the simplest ideas of which raunchy comedies like Ted represent (the idea that childhood symbols can be vulgar and childish yet cynical adults) is lost on so many, which only adds to the hilarity as much as it does my frustration. It's like showing a kid that adults can be childish like them; they don't fucking get it. So, they take their kids to see it and come out within the first quarter of the flick all pissed off that it wasn't that “nice” film they were looking forward to seeing. The kids get it and lie, and the parents or grandparents, not being cynical enough, fail to recognize the lie and never do their research out of laziness, and only wind up angry as a result, bitter at America's newest “problem child.”

I can only hope that when I get old I don't lose my grasp on society as it changes exponentially. We're no longer in that “perfect” America, and because of that, the opportunity to mock it is always there. We have people like Justin Bieber, an unintelligent androgynous pretty-boy whose sole purpose seems to be to perpetuate mainstream metrosexuality; we have the fact that the Internet is now a haven for corporations to slip their dicks in Youtube videos with TV commercials in the beginning, or in the middle on some other sites, constantly exaggerating consumerism. I still watch and read The Onion from time to time and find that the news on there isn't far off from what real news stations broadcast, and as a result, more from mine and younger generations fail to see the humor; life is basically a parody of itself.

The only time I see most people understand satire is through the most popular shows like The Daily Show and Colbert Report , where the figureheads are well-known enough by everyone to know not to take them seriously. But you can basically say goodbye to subtlety today, which is what annoys me the most. In order for people to get irony today, it has to be more obvious than the increasing ridiculousness and blatancy of reality. Subtlety in humor is for the most part gone, subtlety in technology is gone, and subtlety in media overall is all but eradicated. I don't necessarily think this loss of subtlety is entirely a bad thing (to think so on impulse is to not only limit your perception but also to antiquate yourself in tradition), but we're definitely headed in a different direction culturally and it's becoming more and more obvious, and interesting to watch.


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    • Theophanes profile image

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      I've got a secret - older people who are so easily offended always were! Every generation has its own form of parody and satire and all of them were considered offensive at the time by the mainstream. There's several reasons for this. The most prevalent of which is that satire is only understood by people who are capable of getting it, in other words smart people. Secondly most of the offended people are offended because they think they should be - social conditioning and that often gets worse with age as the pressures of society to fit in and be normal settles on our overburdened shoulders.

      As for more young people getting it I'd have to disagree. Many young people go out and see Ted because it's cool, because they're not supposed to, and they will talk about it - A LOT but how many of them will understand the satire of yesteryear? Probably only the ones who'll retain their appreciation of the art later in life.

      If you want examples look up George Carlin's 7 Dirty Words. It made him famous - for exposing words you could not say on TV. Young people LOVED this routine, as did smarter older people. Before Carlin there was the musical genius of Tom Lehrer singing absolutely horrible songs like Werner Von Braun (about NASA hiring former Nazis) and Smut (about the US obscenity trials of the day.) There were a small group of people who adored his musings but most found them too risque, too offensive, too blasphemous. Today things like Ted rely on crudeness and swearing which appeals to youth because they're so base. Back then satire was no less offensive when it pointed out how stupid some of our government's actions were.

      PS every now and again politicians and Fox News still pouts about something said on The Daily Show. Just roll with it and laugh.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I've noticed that when I make an ironic comment at work, many customers look at me like I spoke Martian to them. I agree with you, irony does seem to be a dying art.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      It's totally lost. People take themselves too seriously, now. A while back, I wrote a blog about a "typical" day of a stay at home mom. It was a tongue -in -cheek, humorous exaggeration and labeled as such. People wrote serious notes giving me parenting and organizational advice. When I pointed out it was humorous I was told that parenting is no laughing matter. Seriously! So, you're right, it's lost.