"But Xerxes! You are so sophisticated! You are so subtle that it is not good for you, perhaps! Surely your appreciation of all of these things is ironic. You are just a typical modern-day decadent, who can only say no but never yes to art, to life."
My answer: the fact is that talking about appreciating an artistic work (or about appreciating most experiences) "ironically" isn't very meaningful. It is, in fact, redundant.
Given that I like bad movies and given that I am apparently your Movie Reviewer, it has fallen upon me to articulate this contentious point.
So: no art is meant to be taken at face value, right. That is the whole thing about art, right. You don't imagine the plot of a novel to be literally true or the events of a movie to have actually taken place as they are portrayed. Thus, there is "irony" -- a disparity between what is literally on the page or screen and how you choose to interpret it.
"Ah, but paying attention to this disparity is surely a modern invention," you say. No, it isn't. Merely refer to Aristotle's "Poetics."
Thus: liking something "ironically" is synonymous with liking something as art. Getting worked up about the fate of a fictional pig, like the aforementioned "Babe" fan = an ironic reaction.
Additionally, all of life's so-called "small pleasures" are actually just aesthetic pleasures. They are phenomena that ask you to look at yourself and your environment as if from a distance, that is, as if they were art. The significance of that special look on a stranger's face is not in what is actually happening (as it would have been, for example, if a man had offered you a large sack of money), but in its emotional associations and its meaning for you. Disparity between what is happening and what it means; thus, "irony." That is why these "pleasures" seem so powerful and intangible and tinged with melancholy at the same time.
So if you think you're being the opposite of ironic when you are enjoying that misty, perfect morning, you are DEAD WRONG.
Those who think that it is important to be sincere and "unironic" are wrong. And, those who think that "irony" is the only way to go for such jaded individuals as themselves, as they can no longer be sincere, are also wrong. These positions are but facets of the same error: not accepting the inherent ambiguity of the relationship between art and life and instead whining that art/aesthetic experiences cannot fill the void that is in you. Nothing can fill that void.
Posted by xerxes on Sun, 09 Mar 2008 13:51:06 -0400 -- permanent link