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Post-irony (from Latin post "after" and Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία eirōneía, "dissimulation, feigned ignorance"[1]) is a term used to denote a state in which earnest and ironic intents become muddled. It may less commonly refer to its converse: a return from irony to earnestness, similar to New Sincerity. Noted surreal humor comedian Tim Heidecker portrays a man living a post-ironic lifestyle in the 2012 indie drama film The Comedy.[2][3]

In literature, David Foster Wallace is often described as the founder of a "postironic" literature. His essays "E Unibus Pluram"[4] and "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young" describe and hope for a literature that goes beyond postmodern irony.[5] Other authors often described as postironic are Dave Eggers,[6] Tao Lin,[7] and Alex Shakar.[8][9]


Whereas in postmodern irony, something is meant to be cynically mocked and not taken seriously, and in New Sincerity, something is meant to be taken seriously or "unironically", post-irony combines these two elements by either having something absurd taken seriously or be unclear as to whether something is meant to be ironic.[10]

One example given is the film The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans:

The film contains what a Snakes on a Plane-style irony-fest should: hokey plot, bad acting, and deliciously over-the-top glorification of sex and drug use. But the film does much more than revel in its genre’s campy history—The Bad Lieutenant is gorgeously shot and contains pervasive, incisive commentary on everything from race relations to police corruption and the definition of finding success in America.

— Matthew Collins, The Georgetown Voice[10]

A central element of post-irony is the obfuscation, ambiguity, watering-down, degradation, or simple lack of meaning and intent in statements and artwork, and whether the creator or disseminator intends this to be celebrated, decried, or met apathetically can itself be part of this uncertainty. As journalist Dmitry Lisovsky writes, "Post-ironic memes [...] don’t even have to be of great quality: I once took 10 random pictures from a few post-ironic meme communities and shuffled the captions between them. Users had a hard time telling the difference between the new ones and those that came before."[11] Post-irony, meta-irony, and the often vague deconstruction and reconstruction of irony in general, are common elements in millennial and zoomer humor.[12] Post-irony has been stated to be utilized in internet memes to spread disinformation and as a tool to radicalize people into extremist communities, especially relating to the American alt-right and related movements.[13][14][15][16]


In the early aughts, Zoe Williams described the increasing popularity of the term with disapproval:[17]

...there are a number of misconceptions about irony that are peculiar to recent times....the eighth is that "post-ironic" is an acceptable term – it is very modish to use this, as if to suggest one of three things: i) that irony has ended; ii) that postmodernism and irony are interchangeable, and can be conflated into one handy word; or iii) that we are more ironic than we used to be, and therefore need to add a prefix suggesting even greater ironic distance than irony on its own can supply. None of these things is true.

— Zoe Williams, The Guardian

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, v. sub εἰρωνεία. Archived 2021-08-15 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "The Comedy reigns as king of the Flyover Film Festival [Movies]". June 10, 2012.
  3. ^ "Sundance Film Festival 2012 lineup". CNN.
  4. ^ Post-Irony Is the Only Thing Left in the World That Gets a Reaction - Vice
  5. ^ Wallace, David Foster. "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction", Review of Contemporary Fiction 13(2), Summer 1993, pp. 151-194.
  6. ^ Jensen, Mikkel. 2014. "A Note on a Title: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" in The Explicator, 72:2, 146–150. [1]
  7. ^ David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture|
  8. ^ Hoffmann, Lukas (2016). Postirony: The Nonfictional Literature of David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8376-3661-1.
  9. ^ Konstantinou, Lee (2016). Cool Characters: Irony and American Fiction. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674967885.
  10. ^ a b Collins, Matthew (March 4, 2010). "Post-irony is real, and so what?". The Georgetown Voice.
  11. ^ Lisovsky, Dmitry (13 December 2018). "On the Origin of Memes: Meme Scientist Explains Post-Irony and Future of Internet Culture". Itmo.News. Vadim Galimov (translator). third-to-last paragragh: ITMO University. Retrieved 27 February 2022. Today, post-ironic memes are the thing. They don't even have to be of great quality: I once took 10 random pictures from a few post-ironic meme communities and shuffled the captions between them. Users had a hard time telling the difference between the new ones and those that came before.
  12. ^ Oliver Sotirios Bourne. "Understanding Gen Z: Post-ironic Humour". WYSPR. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  13. ^ Greene, Viveca S.; Rasmussen, Makena; Clark, Dutch (2021). "Memeology: Normalizing Hate Through Humour?". The Journal of Intelligence, Conflict, and Warfare. 4 (2): 75–80. doi:10.21810/jicw.v4i2.2962. ISSN 2561-8229.
  14. ^ Greene, V.S. (2019). ""Deplorable" Satire: Alt-Right Memes, White Genocide Tweets, and Redpilling Normies". Studies in American Humor. 5 (1): 31–69. doi:10.5325/studamerhumor.5.1.0031. S2CID 167093926.
  15. ^ Woods, H.S.; Hahner, L.A. (2019). Make America Meme Again: The Rhetoric of the Alt-right. Frontiers in Political Communication. Vol. 45. Peter Lang. ISBN 978-1433159749.
  16. ^ Nagel, K.W. (2020). "Book Reviews: Make America Meme Again: The Rhetoric of the Alt-Right". Quarterly Journal of Speech. 106 (2): 216–219. doi:10.1080/00335630.2020.1744818. S2CID 216492882.
  17. ^ Williams, Zoe. "The final irony", The Guardian, June 27, 2003.

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