Sixty years ago, cynicism and ironic discourse were the perfect response to the hypocrisy of disastrous national strategies like the Vietnam War. They were brilliant as a means to debunk illusions and expose pitfalls to unveil hypocrisies in a way that would villainise the subject in a demeaning, parodic and absurd fashion. So powerful they were, that they nursed a cultural shift of kindred attitudes such as skepticism and distrust towards grand narratives.
Unfortunately, what was once a powerful tool in discussion became a paradoxical nightmare. The issue being that once irony had ensnared any unpleasant phenomenons and snickered at any faults there was never any recourse. It made fun of the pitfalls it found but never suggested a way to fix them. And so what began as a great way to pinpoint problems turned into a lazy cynicism, which became relentless as various pop culture mediums (namely T.V) used it to humorously ridicule characters, which would later give rise to shows like Seinfeld, Community and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (which, by the way, are tremendously entertaining), whose storylines never stray from the absurdity, ignoring and often demonising the sincere (i.e. Ross from Friends) for being overtly sentimental and naive.
But there’s been another cultural shift*, perhaps in part to the unsurpassable writings of David Foster Wallace, towards a world where genuineness and earnestness are neither mocked nor ridiculed, but instead respectfully held without fear or anxiety of satirical retorts. Shows like Scrubs, Rick and Morty and The Office have successfully managed to compose universes where, although characters may still be subject to satirical jibes, emotionally charged moments are handled with a serious empathetic response, one which transcends sentimentality and helps build redeeming characters. These moments, more often than not, are the ones we remember best.
*This ‘movement’ of sentimentality has been aptly named (because humans love to label everything even if they don’t actually fit neatly into buckets) post-postmodernism, the irony being that the very name is an obvious victim for ridicule.