Monday, 14 July 2008

Irony, it's sort of like goldy and bronzy

There's a somewhat asinine debate not quite raging in the comments on this article about the New Yorker's Obama fistbump cover over whether Americans are culturally capable of understanding irony, versus the British who of course see the humour, darling.

I don't think it's as clear cut as that. There are of course dozens of Americans who are quite capable of understanding irony, possibly more, just as one finds the occasional Englishman who does not wear a bowler hat and drink tea while enjoying a multivarious sampling of modern wit. More to the point, the distinction has to do with who's "in charge" from a cultural point of view. It may have to do with the fact that the U.S. is still, on the whole, a much more religiously charged society than the U.K., or that we haven't had a true leftist as president for 30-odd years, but there is a backdrop of cultural conservatism that brings with it a sense that edgy humour (of whatever sort) is a fringe activity, not (as it is in England) a quasi-national pastime.

That's merely my own relatively naive opinion, but it was formed through continuous admonitions to avoid irony, sarcasm, &c. throughout my formative times in the California state school system. I can only wish for a day when these lost arts will be restored to the curriculum.


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