Is snarky wit on its way out?

From music to movies and late-night TV, earnestness seems to be everywhere in pop culture right now.

Robb D. Cohen/Invision/AP
Jimmy Fallon

The word “snark” has been around for well over a century, but it took hordes of bloggers and tweeters to turn it into a way of life. Snide remarks and too-cool-for-school attitudes permeate US culture nowadays, and earnestness has all the cachet of Hootie and the Blowfish.

See what I did there? I snark, therefore I am. (Sorry, Hootie.)

Yes, for many of us, there’s no stopping our desire to show our superiority to the world by pointing out the inanities and hypocrisies that permeate our ...
“It might seem crazy what I’m about to say ...”

Wait, what’s this I hear? Is it Pharrell Williams singing his hit song that just won’t quit?

“Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break ...”

All I want to do is move around to the music. And smile. But not for the usual reason – because I just totally burned someone with a wicked tweet. No, this time it’s ...

“Because I’m happy!

“Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof!

“Because I’m happy!

“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth!”

Argh! Must seek antidote to sincere music that makes me want to bust a move instead of dwelling on humanity’s foibles. Maybe a downer of a movie will help.

Let’s see what’s playing: “Heaven Is for Real,” “God’s Not Dead,” “Noah.” Plus animated movies like “Rio 2” and films about the Muppets and even Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

In other words: Faith, wonder, and childhood innocence galore! Also known as snark kryptonite. There’s even “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” directed by Wes Anderson, who’s been linked to a “New Sincerity” movement in American pop culture. Is there no escaping all this non-meanness?

Maybe I’ll just stay home this evening and watch TV. Ah, there’s David Letterman, the grumpy late-night host who brilliantly punctured the glittering self-regard of Hollywood’s starmaking machinery.

But wait: Letterman’s a short-timer. He’ll be replaced by Stephen Colbert, who’s expected to shed his satirical attire as a conservative blowhard.

Click! Oh look: It’s “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, who is topping the ratings with bubbles of good cheer.

“Fallon is always happy to be there, always happy that his guests are there, and always happy you are there, too,” writes Slate’s Willa Paskin. But, she adds, there’s method to his lack of malicious madness: “Fallon and his staff understand the power – and not just the authenticity – of Jimmy’s ultimate-nice-guy persona.”

This may be the ultimate importance of being earnest in 2014. It helps sincere performers stand out from the crowd.

We snark, and they shine.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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