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Saturday, January 10, A.D. 2009
Irony, Corniness, and Bobby Van

A couple of days ago on Big Hollywood, John Nolte posted a clip from Small Town Girl that features a jolly musical number by dancer Bobby Van of Kiss Me Kate fame:

See also Van’s “Take Me to Broadway”:

Nolte’s entry—“What’s Wrong With Corny?”—laments the passing of the old-fashioned musical and wishes for corny to be the new irony. Yet, corny does not impress the folks who fancy themselves philosophical when they dwell upon macabre themes. Only cinema that exposes the demons of the soul deserves such silver screen immortality. The rest is eye candy—or so film snobs think, and they seem somewhat correct. Comedy can be very insightful, but compare the best comedy with the tragic novels of Dostoevsky, and comedy appears to come up short. Yet, Nolte does not contrast comedy with tragedy but the corny with irony. The corny has to be comic, it seems, but what then is irony? Does it deserve the respect that we have for tragedy—the high drama revered since the Greek Dionysia?

Like a skilled surgeon, a great artist may use irony to cut through our willful blindness and foolish assumptions. In our age of the less than great, however, irony has become the safe haven for mediocre minds infected with vain arrogance. Sophomoric nihilists proudly bask in their derisive cleverness at portraying human life with contempt; yet, they offer no constructive critique for the many whom they condemn. They cannot offer such painful assistance because they have not concerned themselves with trying to find an answer themselves. Their irony springs from sterile hatred rather than from a desire to perfect.

I sympathize with them. Sometimes, you simply have revulsion toward something that is wrong even when you do not know how such a thing could be corrected. This situation could lead one to create irony from despair, but I suspect that pride is still involved. Irony seems to result from a special kind of hatred in the creative mind—one that esteems itself worthy enough to play the sophist in a work of art. For irony is the sophist’s stock in trade. He is like a blind man who obtains a superiority over the other blind by haughtily mocking their ignorance—though he knows not the truth himself. As such, irony, in the hands of lesser men, is a smoke and mirrors intellectual game that allows such cowards to entertain their nihilism without accountability—without the risk of losing the status of an intellectual yet never performing the work or the duties of an intellectual. Welcome to our post-modern world. Note how it ironically serves us the inverse of true Socratic irony—a demonic joke upon mankind!

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, January 10, Anno Domini 2009
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