Comedy

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The times are those of distraction. Intensive scrutiny of slights and perceived hurts, while the libidinously ironic engage in rampant expressive display of mildly unacceptable comic-cum-outrageous transgressive provocation. At the same time substantial, world destroying, crimes of armaments, pollution, resource obsession, privatised prisons and obscene wealth carry on regardless.

While we should no doubt be interested in efforts to extend a ‘theoretical framework for how appropriations contribute to both the construction and reception of visual icons and how personification constitutes the main link between icons and their appropriations’ (Mortensen 2017: 1143) maybe we want to stress context as key to what is called personification. The personification is, we might contend, of a moment, a period, a, tragically, zeitgeist, that would identify as emergent, even established, cynicism on the run. Never wants to be tied down, and never thinks of its own identification as such, but fascism might be another name for it. Sure, we can recognise the difficulties of this as context – it looks back too far and the danger of any interest in Adorno is that some people think a postcolonial Adorno is not plausible. The contexts of appropriations that took place then, already dated in WW2, are also now, and the now is a time when the critical power of irony has been stolen. The memes and edgelord culture of the far-right thrives on a cynicism that is hardly worth the name, it is ironically cynical and all the worse. There is no telling some people. Yet, conversely, on the other side, an eroded ‘left’ politics is often where irony and perspective have been eviscerated by an unexamined warrior earnestness, exaggerated and solemn intensity, unable to recognise self-inflicted, humourless, damage and futility. The ancient idea of humour being about having a laugh has long, long gone, if from Freud and others, as we note, it never was without power plays. For the caustic circulation of name-calling and regimented thinking that refuses to laugh, even sometimes inappropriately, is what Adorno had already diagnosed as a taboo. An injunction that ‘nothing should be moist’ (Adorno), and even if this has still has not taken hold absolutely everywhere, sometimes even the moisture just tastes like what Michel Leiris called a ‘sexual lozenge’ (Leiris), an approved limit to desire imposed with a sales pitch effectively keeps us quiet, keeps us from getting at them with a bat as the bombing continues.