I didn’t decide in advance whether to blog over the weekends or not. Turns out the answer was no. Too much to do, and it’s good to get away from the keyboard. Anyway, I realized titling these things the same with the date every day was stupid since they’re already dated, so I’m going to start titling them with the main topic(s).
I’ve been reading and thinking lately about sincerity, or the lack of it in this era. That’s the best word I’ve found for it, anyway. It’s like we’re all allergic to anything that’s expressed sincerely. You see it in modern movies, where every dramatic scene has to be undercut with a joke of some sort. Nothing can be too serious for too long.
Compare to an 80s action movie like Predator. It’s completely cheesy and unrealistic, and yet it’s completely sincere. The movie never winks at you and says, “Ha, isn’t this cheesy? Don’t take it seriously.” Within the universe of the movie, and on the level of communication between the movie and the viewer, it plays it completely straight. Even an outright parody like Spaceballs is sincere. It’s nothing but jokes and references, but it’s sincerely trying to be funny. It never winks at you and says, “Don’t worry, we know some of these jokes aren’t funny.”
It goes beyond entertainment. The other day, Vox posted a prediction about something that went pretty far out on a limb. Some of his readers said he was embarrassing himself, and his answer was, “So?” Good answer. We’ve become way too concerned about how we look, especially about not looking stupid or foolish. So everything gets wrapped in Daily Show-style snark, as if to say, “Whatever I’m saying right now, I’m not that serious about it.” The only sincerity that’s allowed is sincere hate (as long as it’s politically correct). Sincere love, sincere patriotism, sincere faith, sincere admiration, sincere heroism, sincere friendship – those we cringe away from, and wrap in irony to make sure we don’t look lame.
I’m probably as bad as anyone about it, but it’s gotten tiresome, having everything that matters wrapped in self-aware mockery – the more it matters, the more mockery. If it’s generational, it looks like a trait of Gen X, my generation. We tend to be pretty cynical, so maybe that is part of it. Maybe it’s an overreaction to the way Boomers treated everything like Serious Business, as if even listening to the right music and wearing the right T-shirt slogan was going to change the world. It might afflict Millennials too, though. I’m not sure about that. It seems to have grown since a decade or so ago, but I don’t know whether it was a response to anything in particular. Whatever the reason, it sucks, and it’s time to cut it out.
More to come on this, I’m sure.