The “Dear Burrito Guy” Essay, and Why Irony Does not Translate

Over on Medium, a fellow referring to himself as “Lucky Shirt” (twitter handle, I’m assuming), just penned (it just sounds better than “typed”) an amusing rant about his poorly made burrito.

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It’s funny in that over-the-top-rage way that the Internet loves to love; most of the joke is in how ridiculous it is to summon this much dudgeon over a burrito, while acknowledging that we all get hacked off from time to time at lousy customer service. The rest of the joke is in how wittily he does all that.

But the part that interests me is the appendix, added later:

Angry about the tone of this post?

It was a joke. The tone of it is most of that joke. I would never actually get this angry about anything. I hope nobody would. And it makes me sad that I even have to explain this.

Ah, but you do, good sir. You do.

Because working yourself into a towering rage over something unimportant: people do that. People take to the internet to issue jeremiads over how poorly mixed their smoothies were. It is an assumption to think otherwise.

And the worst of all assumptions is that everyone shares yours.

Irony – and indeed, all humor – is based on shared assumptions of what is rational and what is absurd. None of them are global. All of them are contextual. This is why we say “you had to be there.” This is why gags that tickled your parents’ collective ribs seem utterly tired and lame to you. And it is why the Beastie Boys spent the rest of their career denying that they were anything like the guys in “Fight for Your Right to Party”, to no avail.

This doesn’t mean that people who don’t “get it” are stupid, mind. It just means they aren’t in on the gag. Either because they haven’t been introduced to it, or they are confused by the assumptions inherent therein. So, the more over-the-top your irony, the more obvious it is to you that no one could take this seriously, the more it needs a disclaimer warning against exactly that.

Because IRONY DOES NOT TRANSLATE TO MASS MEDIA. Irony is a wink. Mass media is a bullhorn.

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