When Irony Becomes Cynicism

Topics: Culture, That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is, David Macfarlane Pages: 3 (910 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Understanding modern culture can be very difficult. There are so many parts and variables that make up modern culture, and on top of that, these parts are always changing. In that sense, identifying and analyzing a specific trait in modern culture can be extremely challenging. Pinpointing a trait that is so frequently overused it is often taken for granted. Then being able to explain it so well that people will be able to understand and see this trait as if they had never used, or been a part of it before. This is the case with an essay by Charles Gordon, When Irony Becomes Cynicism. Through his essay, one learns where irony's roots started to grow into today's monster that it is, and how irony is overused in television, radio and conversation. Gordon has skillfully and honestly shown how irony is perceived and used in today's society. He fully shows that people use irony incorrectly, and it is to their disadvantage.

Gordon has a particularly negative view on how much irony is used today. The thesis in his essay is not clearly stated, but his implied argument is that the overuse of irony has made society cynical. This negative view comes across to the reader through sentences such as the following, after Gordon has explained the technical meaning of irony, "In today's context, irony is a sensibility that values cleverness and style above passion and commitment. It attacks bad taste by seeming to celebrate it. It mocks devotion to important causes by feigning devotion to trivial causes… Which makes it sound pretty awful, and it can be." After the first few paragraphs in his essay, it becomes clear which side Gordon is on. However, he does show that he is not totally putting down irony, just the people using it incorrectly, "… there is a line between irony and cheap cynicism that not everyone finds easily. The skillful ironist, one who uses the form as a weapon rather than an instrument of self-amusement, does society a service."...
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