The Case Against Irony

It’s hip. It’s big. Does it keep us from living a full life?

Hipster (GabeB/Flickr)

Hipster (GabeB/Flickr)

Who knew that irony could be such a hot topic?  Christy Wampole wrote an essay saying we live in the age of deep irony, and it’s cutting us off from life.  Everything’s an ironic pose, she said.  In our humor, our fashion, our politics, our advertising, our hipsters.  Direct candor has become unbearable.

Rampant sarcasm, she charged, rules the day.  And it’s killing us.  Well, that drew a blast in return.  Lay off the hipsters.  Know thyself.  This world deserves some irony.  It’s a new sincerity that’s really the news.

This hour, On Point:  Our culture, and the power of irony.

-Tom Ashbrook


Christy Wampole, professor of French and Italian at Princeton University. She’s the author of a recent op-ed How to Live Without Irony.

Jonathan Fitzgerald, author of the forthcoming Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity Is Changing Pop Culture for the Better and the editor of

From Tom’s Reading List

You can hear an archived On Point show about irony here.

New York Times “The hipster haunts every city street and university town. Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone). He harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness. Before he makes any choice, he has proceeded through several stages of self-scrutiny.”

The Atlantic “Cultural critics love hypothesizing about hipsters. And certainly hipsters make for useful lab rats if you’re interested in the culture of young, gentrifying, trendy, affluent, and white college graduates. But it’s easy to let this hypothesizing go too far, and you get into trouble when you try to charge hipsters with representing the “ethos of our age.” They’re just kids making their way from young adulthood to the rest of their lives.”


Losing my edge by LCD Soundstorm

I’m on a Boat by The Lonely Island

Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell by Shut Up, Dude Mixtape

Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley

Call Me Maybe by Fun

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