The death of irony


Irony is dead, and I don’t feel so good myself.

My sense of humor, my sense of living is greatly influenced by teenage nights watching my hero, Dave Letterman. The schtick hasn’t changed much over the years (not just Dave’s, but the whole ironic take): deadpan delivery, detachment, air quotes.

Mind you, I’m not talking about the end of humor, just a single trend.

The realization came when I listened to “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers. You can picture the entire evolution in a minute.

The song comes out in 1982, with matching video. The lyrics in themselves are ironic:

I wanna be yours pretty baby, yours and yours alone
I’m here to tell ya honey, that I’m bad to the bone

Pretty much, from that point on, you can only hear it ironically. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” provides a telling example.

The Terminator (the original, not the goopy one) arrives in Present Day and shows up in a stolen biker outfit. Cue the music.

It’s not even ironic, because, technically, the Terminator is bad to the bone. Except that this one is programmed to protect — not assassinate — young John Connor. So maybe somewhat ironic.

Still, the otherwise terrific movie grinds to a halt.

Every cutesy kids’ movie — and some grownup ones — managed to use the song as an ironic audio cue.

(announcer) “John Smith was an ordinary guy. Living an ordinary life. Until one day, he could take no more.”

(Cue the music.)

(Show John Smith in ill-fitting hunting gear.)

(announcer) “Now, John Smith is going on the hunting safari of a lifetime.”

So I’m listening to the song, and it’s completely lost all punch. The swagger is gone, what little it had before it became the musical punchline to many a bad joke.

I happen to be a big fan of irony, both humorous and otherwise. I’m not even sure the repeated exposure to one song even counts as irony, intended or otherwise.

It’s just a song. It used to bring a weird enjoyment. Now it makes me sad.

Funny. Maybe ironic, too.


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