When you hear somebody telling you they only enjoyed something “ironically,” it’s only human nature to ask them what the fuck they are talking about. Can you enjoy something ironically — whether it’s a movie, a show or a song? Can art itself be ironic?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. However, just as the definition of “irony” is always misconstrued by stupid people, so is enjoying things through it. To understand enjoying art and media ironically, we must first understand the definition of irony, which according to the dictionary is “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.” Applying that definition to art and media, it means that the only way to enjoy something ironically is to enjoy it for the opposite reason it was meant for.
For example, enjoying the 1930s propaganda film “Reefer Madness” for its hilariously bad and blatant lies about marijuana, rather than as the serious and harrowing melodrama it was meant to be, is enjoying the film ironically.
Ironic enjoyment is not to be used when you’re embarrassed to admit that you actually like an LMFAO song: Stop lying to yourself and to us.
This definition is easy for things like “The Room” or “Birdemic,” two films that are both trying to be dramatic pieces of fiction but are too inept, miscast and structurally messy to be taken seriously in that way. So viewers who enjoy them only enjoy them ironically, for the most part (although I’m sure there are at least some people who exist that were moved to tears by Tommy Wiseau’s “acting”). You ironic enjoyers laugh at the glaring continuity errors, sloppy writing, production gaffes, etc. You are legitimately enjoying the piece, but you’re doing it for reasons oppositional to the original intent of the work. It’s also why people enjoy things like Rebecca Black’s unmitigated disaster, “Friday.” Okay, okay, so she gave all her profits to Japan after the earthquake. She and her song are still awful.
However, this paradigm does still create some unique dilemmas. What if you legitimately enjoy watching bad movies, even though you know they’re supposed to be terrible? Like, say, you actually enjoyed “Battleship” (hypothetical, since no one actually saw “Battleship”). But if you were one of the two people who did see it and you somehow liked it, you then have to ask yourself: Did I legitimately enjoy it? Or did I only enjoy it ironically? For instance, did you actually like the explosions and snippy one-liners? Or did you just enjoy how ridiculously over-the-top the action was in an “oh my God, this is so dumb” kind of way and laughed about how hilariously hacky the one-liners were? There isn’t an easy answer for that because spectacle is spectacle, and it’s hard to deny when even a bad movie does that right. You’re supposed to laugh at a good one-liner, so your biological response is technically the same whether it’s a good or bad line. Also, if you dance and bob your head to an LMFAO song, it means you like it, so stop pretending.
Additionally, some things try to be ironic, which is just sad, like ads that are purposely bad to get attention (like those old fucking Quiznos commercials with that cut-out deformed rat … thing. You know which one I’m talking about). They try to have it where you — as a consumer — look at the ad, notice how bad it is, and supposedly enjoy it for being so bad (and thus buy their product, supposedly). The problem is, they’re trying to be bad, and if you comment on it or enjoy it for that reason, it’s not ironic because it’s not oppositional. They want that “what the fuck is this, it’s terrible!” reaction from you. It’s the same reason why enjoying or laughing at someone like William Hung isn’t ironic. The record company and producers know he’s bad … that’s their selling point. It’s a form of corporate, prepackaged schadenfreude. In fact, if you are moved emotionally by William Hung, you would be enjoying it ironically.
But you know what? Who gives a fuck if you liked it ironically or not? No one cares. No one ever cared. I wrote this article mainly so people would use the fucking definition of irony right in everyday conversation. So, yes, at the end of the day, you can enjoy something ironically. Technically. Just don’t say you are. Please. Because if you do, you can only blame yourself if someone (probably me) punches you in your stupid, ugly face.