Thursday, May 31, 2007

Irony and the Celebutante

Years ago I had a job that required me to speak on the phone with regular folks from all over the country. Once during a conversation with a woman from Minnesota I said something which I don't recall exactly, but I do have a very clear memory of her deeming whatever it was sarcastic and then deriding me for my "East Coast sarcasm."

Being that it was a sales call I seriously doubt what I said was actual sarcasm -- which, by definition, contains ridicule -- and it more likely fell under the large umbrella of irony. (Sarcasm, a specific type of irony, would be saying "yeah, you're really good at that" when you don't mean it, while general verbal irony would be declaring "what a nice day we are having" when it is raining.)

This common mistake in identifying a rhetorical device aside, I have, years later, come to the realization that the simple Upper Midwesterner was correct in her criticism. There is way too much irony in our society and it is hurting our young people.

Case in point: Young person Lindsay Lohan.

Lindsay has just been through a week full of cocaine-induced automobile accidents and well-photographed incidents of passing out and vomiting. While Lindsay watchers everywhere are blaming her bad luck on bad parenting, sycophantic older friends, bars that serve minors, and even the hard charging redhead herself, I point the dirty stick straight at irony.

Take a look at this video, in which Lindsay encourages kids not to drink and drive. Then check out this photograph (scroll down) of Lilo passed out with a AA medallion marking 30 days sober around her neck.

Now why, when prompted to say something to the masses, would a giggling Lindsay, of all people, choose to warn against driving under the influence? Likewise, who wears a sober medallion while bar-hoping?

The answer is she does both for the sake of irony, and the warm embrace of laughter and acceptance that the device brings to a member of a generation living in perpetual fear of being caught saying what they really mean.

Unfortunately Lohan, like many young people, is doing irreparable damage to herself on the way to the punchline.

Lindsay Lohan is proof positive that irony is killing our children. Seriously.

On a related note, don't be surprised if Lindsay moves to Italy.

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