Thriving Ironies

After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the United States was shaken. Although, shaken and in disbelief, Americans remained strong. But these events would change everything, and it would definitely take time for everything to go back to what one might call “normal” everyday life in the United States. One person that was struck by the events of 9/11 was Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, who said, “I think it’s the end of the Age of Irony.” It is easy understand why he would say this because of the gravity of the events that took place, but after taking a step back and being more than a decade removed from the situation one may easily see that his statement is false. The “Age of Irony” is not over, in fact, it is flourishing.

In order to analyze Carter’s statement about irony one must first understand what exactly irony is. As stated in the American Heritage Dictionary irony is “the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning or the incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.”1 Now that the definition of irony has been clearly stated, one may now delve into in the idea of whether or not Carter’s statement is correct.

If one were to reflect on Carter’s statement about irony five or more years ago, then Carter may have been correct. At the time, he was right about thinking the way he was; he knew that irony would not be the same after the events of 9/11 but to say that it is “the end of the Age of Irony” is a stretch. In the years to come after September 2001, irony did decline. In fact, as Andy Newman, journalist for The New York Times states in his article, “In New York, irony has been steadily disappearing from daily newspapers for a decade, the analysis found. In two-week November periods from 2000 to 2008, appearances of “irony” and its cognates tumbled 56 percent.”2 It is now obvious that irony was truly on a decline, but that does not mean that it was the end of irony. A more precise statement about what had happened to irony during the events of 9/11 would be the statement of Tony Fox, spokesman for Comedy Central, who said to the Associated Press that, “As someone at the show said succinctly, irony is dead for the moment.”3 His statement is very different than that of Carter’s because Fox is implying that irony will come back, or be reincarnated.

Irony did come back. Prior to the attacks of 9/11, one of the most popular television shows was Seinfeld, which contained lots of irony and sarcastic humor. Americans enjoyed this kind of humor, and because of this everyone watched it. After September 2001, many people were not ready for irony again, or at least they did not enjoy it was much. It is no coincidence that this began the rise of “reality” television.4 This concept of reality television, of people so candid and without a script, is an opposite of irony. Here what you see is what you get, and with irony it’s the opposite. But now shows like Family Guy have once again become popular4, even with its use of irony and sarcastic humor.

Although Carter was not wrong in thinking the way he did after 9/11, he was wrong about it being the “end of the Age of Irony.” It was well anticipated that irony would not be accepted or enjoyed as much in the years to come after 9/11 but today irony is flourishing more than ever. Many people use irony or sarcasm, a form of irony, every day when they speak. And there are also many ironic events that happen every day. These things are inevitable so they will always be around no matter what.

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