It was laundry day today. I composed a special outfit comprised of the biggest lumpy grey wool sweater I could find and shiny purple lame' leggings. Then I put on heels for good measure. Is it wrong for me to take so much delight in ridiculous outfits?
Probably. But I do it regularly anyway. Mad King Thomas has fueled in me an unhealthy love of all things shiny, gold, outrageous, or lame'.
And here's the thing. It used to be ironic. Now it's a little too genuine. It used to be a joke. I guess it still is a joke... a very serious joke.
Friends, let me introduce you to perhaps one of the most relevant words in my life: 'post-ironic.' It's not the same thing as just being earnest. Earnestness is perhaps innocent and naive and genuine. It's definitely not ironic- the tongue-in-cheek posturing and cynical laugh have faded. It's that strange space where you've gone through the irony and come out the other side, feeling genuine and whole-hearted, aware of how ironic it could (or should) be, but somehow you can't help your honest love.
Eighties pop is particularly ripe for this, I think because so much of it was made in earnest, with an aesthetic that isn't afraid that people will laugh at the dramatic tone. Our cynical referential generation loves to scoff at the cheesey soul-baring, but eventually the synth beats its way into our hearts. One day you're laughing at Bonnie Tyler and the next suddenly you ARE holding out for a hero, at the top of your jaded little lungs. And by "you" I mean "I", clearly.
I probably experience post-irony most frequently with music, but it's a concept that permeates my life. Honestly, it's one of the best strategies for dealing with the wreck that post-modernism tends to leave well-intentioned liberal arts students like myself. Once everything is deconstructed, lying about in shambles on a floor of shifting truths and self-aware derision, there's not a lot of space for earnestness. You get laughed out of college as a deluded essentialist, sneered at for your simplicity. Earnestness is too easy to undermine.
But it's a bleak miserable life when you can't love anything, when everything has to be picked apart and problematized, when heartfelt emotions are scorned as antithetical to intellectualism. Irony provides the humor and let's us love again in a bleeding, broken way, but it's a cynical existence.
Here's where post-irony kicks in! You've picked apart the world, tried on the pieces in high-irony, laughed and nodded and made knowing winks, and now you've hung out there so long something else is bubbling up. There's a space to engage with the complicated and contradictory nature of a constructed reality, not just wallow in the brokenness of the world. You get to enjoy things! and still value the critical deconstruction and recognize how fraught with problems everything is. But your laughter doesn't have to have that bitter edge anymore.
Okay, so maybe we're not talking about my laundry-day outfit anymore. But we are talking about my dance-making now. Perhaps Post-ironic is a term better saved for musical loves and clothing choices, but it gets at the contradiction that Mad King Thomas talks about all the time. Part of what drives us to make dances, and what makes us make dances the way we do. It's a fucked-up, broken world out there. And we love that world SO HARD. It hurts to love something this much, and it hurts that what we love is so fucked up. We couldn't love it so hard if we didn't recognize how awful and fucked up it is. We're angry, and it is in accepting- no, meeting head-on- that anger and disappointment that we can love and have the most hope.
As facebook says, "it's complicated." We choose to LIVE in the complication, dance from fragment to fragment, knowing that meaning will be made in between, and the need for stability will be diminished in the revelry and inquiry of a dancing spirit. No longer is the only question "What can we do?" Now we ask, What does doing look like? What decides can? Who are we and what is what? What can be? And how can we do to make that be come to be? Let's scrabble it all around, embrace the mud, which we know is also gold, and roll in the mess because magic is in the making.