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I could, I suppose, "look at [my] clothes." Wampole wants to know, "What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)?" None! I hope. I hope my clothes are not derivative of that well-known style archetype, "me as a child." I looked ridiculous as a child. My only question with this is, what if you are, in fact, a secretary? How should you dress then? I mean, there's nothing worse than being mistaken for an ironic secretary when you are actually trying to be an unironic administrative assistant, or so I would imagine.
Let's face it. I'm a lost cause. I like living a life full of irony. But, also, I take a lot of things seriously. For example, I take it very seriously that an academic thinks that David Foster Wallace and Wes Anderson are good examples of some sort of "New Sincerity," which, fine, they are both examples of artists who embrace authenticity, but to pretend like there's no irony in either of their work is one of the more obtuse parts of Wampole's op-ed, which is really saying something. There is tons of irony in DFW and Anderson and just because neither of them might have ever been the kind of person to give shitty gifts from the dollar store to their loved ones, doesn't mean that they never possessed a healthy (or even not so healthy) level of detachment from life. A person—and most especially an artist—can be authentic and sincere and still employ irony without necessarily being dead inside.
Wampole concludes by saying that it is her "firm conviction that this mode of living is not viable and conceals within it many social and political risks" and that we should all "determine whether the ashes of irony have settled on [us] as well. It takes little effort to dust them away." And then what? We can all live the lives we are meant to live? So that society can become a playground for religious fundamentalists and dictators and we'll all live happily ever after? I mean, I understand that this is not what Wampole really wants, but does she understand that this is not what she really wants? Does she understand that the rise of irony and a dark sense of humor coincides with the fact that, as a society, we are more broadly educated and connected than we ever have been in history? Of course there is not as much room for irony when a person is just struggling to survive. Of course irony is its own sort of luxury or "first world problem" as Wampole refers to it. But I still don't understand why that is a bad thing.
Irony implies that a person is looking at a situation on different levels at the same time, irony implies that a person is actually applying a deeper understanding to an idea or an object than what is apparent only on the surface. Can irony be a form of detachment? Yes. However, we live in a world where the sea levels are rising, where storms hit and houses burn to the ground and people drown in their own basements, where hundreds of people die daily in sectarian strife, where lots of terrible fucking things happen all the time. Perhaps it is a form of maintaining a kind of mental equilibrium to not look at these things straight on all the time. Perhaps it is better to be a little detached, so that when sincerity is necessary, you can be ready to act. Anyway, I think it is in Wampole's best interest right now to develop a sense of irony and detachment pretty quickly, because if she takes all the commentary on her editorial as earnestly as she has decided to live her life, well, it's going to be a pretty difficult few days. Maybe someone will send her a YouTube video of a cat playing inside a box to make her feel better. That always works for me.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen