OK, Alanis isn't ironic... What about Futurama?

The following bits are from “The Robot Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings”:

[The Robot Devil spins a wheel with the name of every robot in the world to see whose hands Fry gets; it almost lands on Bender, but instead lands on the Robot Devil]

Robot Devil: Oh, what an appallingly ironic outcome.

Bender: It’s not ironic; it’s just coincidental!

[The Robot Devil makes a deal with Bender to give him an air horn. The first thing Bender does is blow it - right in Leela’s face. Now she can’t hear the opera Fry is composing in her honor with the Devil’s hands]

Robot Devil: How delightfully ironic!

Bender: It’s not ironic; it’s just mean!

[The Robot Devil makes a deal with Leela: she gets robotic ears to hear Fry’s opera in exchange for “her hand.” The Robot Devil reveals that the fine print of the contract reveals that the deal was for her hand… in marriage.]

Bender (reading from a dictionary): “The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention.” Now THAT is irony!

So, is Bender any better at irony than Alanis?

Right up until the last one, presuming the Devil didn’t rig up the wheel in the first situation, and accidentally rig it to land on him.

The last is just sneaky, not ironic, though.

Funny, I was just discussing this last night. Look at it this way: comedy writers are much more likely than songwriters to find a dictionary. :wink:

Bender is spot on. It’s just that he’s not talking about what we normally think of when we think about/observe irony (or what purports to be irony). Definition numero uno in my dictionary is “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.” Almost exactly what Bender says. I remember a high school English teachers who was more specific and called this verbal irony, but it’s irony nonetheless. I’d say definition number four, “an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected” is the meaning we usually think of, and it’s the one the Robot Devil tries to use. I guess it fits the first situation (the wheel), but not the others.

The American Heritage dictionary makes the actual meaning of that one a lot clearer:

This is very different than simply giving only partial information, which is what the Devil did.

I think the Devil, being a sneaky jerk, did his best to make it sound like he was going to chop off Leela’s hand. After all, he spent most of the episode trying to get hands to replace Fry’s after he lost his own hands to Fry.

Does anyone happen to have a transcript of this episode? I’m trying to remember Leela’s exact conversation with the RD at the coat room. Doesn’t he make it sound as if he wants both of her hands, and then ‘backs off’ to only the left one?

And it’s the meaning Alanis applies in her song.

I’ve always thought Alanis took a lot of unwarranted grief over that song.

Aside from the song sucking, she doesn’t apply it correctly. I can’t remember all the words now, but for example “10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife” doesn’t meet the criteria. That’s not ironic, it’s just aggravating. A guy taking his first flight and the plane crashing is coincidence. There’s nothing ironic about “rain on your wedding day,” the two events are unrelated and it’s not contrary to your expectations." Maybe it would be contrary to what you want. “A free ride when you’ve already paid” is nonsense.

Exactly. Way back when the song came out, a friend and I set about trying to add to Alanis’ situations to make them truly ironic rather than, at best, coincidental or irritating. The best we could manage for that was (paraphrasing, I can’t remember much of it at all anymore)
“It’s like rain on your wedding day when you happen to be marrying a meteorological expert who predicted a heatwave for this day and as such arranged to have the wedding on it, in an area renowned for its harshly dry summers.”

We felt even that fell horribly short.

Yeah, in a song about irony she doesn’t mention one example of irony.

Ironic, cxu ne?

OK, we’re getting off topic here. :slight_smile:

To try to get it back on, I just have to say that the third incident from Futurama STILL doesn’t seem like irony to me. For some reason, the first and second, despite the fact that most here seem to think they’re not, feel a lot closer to what I think is irony.

Anyone? :slight_smile:

I don’t think any of those are ironic. If I recall correctly, Bender reads out the defintion to irony on his own (in tune with the song!), not in response to any of those situations.

That could be ironic. Let’s say you’re a surgeon who needs to do an emergency tracheotomy or something. All you need is a nice sharp knife, but you’re in a spoon factory, surrounded by boxes and boxes of spoons. That’s irony.

For a definition of irony, I usually refer people to the gag in the Simpsons where someone gets shot out of a cannon, bounces across the hard roof of a pillow factory and then gets run over by a truck filled with marshmallows. (And there’s a similar one involving Luke Perry and an imploding pillow factory, but anyway…)

Being surrounded by spoons when you’re in a spoon factory is not ironic at all. :wink:

Bender gives his definition because he says the Robot Devil’s final move (with Leela’s hand) is actually ironic. He says “The use words to convey something other than their literal intention- now THAT is irony!”

I’m with Marley in pointing out that finding spoons in a spoon factory is hardly ironic.

Now, if it was a knife factory, and you needed a knife for emergency surgery, and then found out the company had been sold the day before to Spoons, inc. which had cleared out all the old inventory and retooled, so now all you had now was thousands of spoons, that would be ironic.

Pretty damn funny, too.

You need a knife urgently, and haven’t got one, but you’re surrounded by a million spoons. Or ten thousand spoons, or whatever the hell is in the song.

That is irony.

It STILL doesn’t feel like irony to me (there are answers both ways so far). And the examples that folks say isn’t, do.

Is THAT ironic? :smiley:

Nah, it’s just unfortunate, unless you’ve got the reason to expect the existance of a knife.

Here’s what the O.E.D. sez:

Wait, that’s not it

here we go

Since the Robot Devil, and a lot of the TV audience (I imagine) were assuming it would be Bender that would have to sacrifice his hands, I think the outcome of the first example was Ironic, in the figuative sense of the word (#2).

So Bender was wrong and the Robot Devil was right after all.

From Larry’s cite:

A whole shitload of spoons when all you need is one little knife? That’s ironic. It’s a bit like being starving, having a whole lot of cans full of food but no can-opener.