One of my favorite individuals, Penn Jillette, was on the Nerdist Podcast a few weeks ago. He was telling one of the funniest stories I have ever heard involving a little person and a monkey. And towards the end of it he pointed something out that I can’t shake.
Mr. Jillette stated that most people cannot appreciate – deeply, honestly or personally – most art, music, culture or even experiences without tainting it. And we do that by being sarcastic, cynical or even ironic. And I won’t even go into how most people STILL don’t understand irony thanks to Alanis Morrisette.
We live in a time where one of the tools we use to conversate or comment with is to immediately be ironic about it or sarcastic. When so many people have the ability to view our comments or thoughts, it is easier to put an ironic slant to your comment or thoughts. In your head you may sound educated, but in reality you seem distant. The best example of this is the 13 – 25 year old’s. They think that the wearing of 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s clothes is hip. It’s an ironic statement for their fashion. They know they look silly, so it’s a sarcastic fashion faux paux.
How many people do you know that say, write or post things that they don’t mean? And that somehow that is a socially acceptable form of communication. They aren’t liars. It’s just somehow become a way of communicating without involving any real emotion or feeling. David Letterman has made this his bread and butter.
We have the tools (cynicism, sarcasm and irony) to get along in our cult of culture. But how do you really get your feelings across with these useless tools? They are designed to immediately laugh at, make fun of or dismiss the subject matter at hand. Which is why this new breed of hipsters are such douche bags. They have marinated in this stew of cynicism flavored with irony and sarcasm for so long that they have removed themselves from really feeling an emotional connection. The songs and movies from decades past, for the most part, were wearing their hearts on their sleeves. In the words of the almighty Penn – I like the person who wrote these lyrics, more than I like myself. That isn’t a knock against you for admitting that. It’s an acknowledgement that someone put something out there that was real and you responded to it.
Most music and movies are appreciated with an ironic flavor. People bring up crappy movies with a fondness while reminiscing. And the explosion of nerds and geeks being accepted isn’t helping. Nerds, and myself included, have this back catalog of movies and music we won’t shut up about because it has affected us. Most movies and music I love are accompanied by a certain period in my life or experience that is associated with it. It helped mold and shape, and in some instances, guide me ultimately to who I have become and am becoming.
Music from the 70’s and before are standing the test of time because they were written genuinely and from the heart. They had a passion and love for their art. THEY PLAYED THEIR OWN INSTRUMENTS. When you have a knowledge of the history of music, today’s homogenized, computer generated, multi-authored tracks sound fake and soulless. And to appreciate music now, you almost are required to know they aren’t serious. This is all tongue-in-cheek. That is why when bands currently are being genuine and honest they have such dedicated fans and followings. It is a void they are filling. Which explains The Dave Matthews Band.
The cynics and ironicists are trying very much to be any John Cusack character from his early works. The Lane Meyers and Lloyd Dobblers from Better Off Dead and Say Anything were genuine and sincere. They had life experiences that lead up to their genuine quirkiness. When you try to copy that out of the blue, listen up hipsters, it falls fake. A lot of us are relying on what has worked in the past and are recycling it instead of creating and generating new ideas.
When you find yourself lost in fondness for music or movies past, it’s hard to nail down a period prior to the past 15 years where they are not packaged and focus grouped down into specific packaging for mass marketing. But they do exist, it was the time before cynics and ironists ruled the interwebs and our vernacular.