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"Irony: The one form of humor that everyone thinks they understand, when actually no one really does. Truly, it is the cleverest joke ever played on mankind."

The intended meaning is an inversion of the plain meaning. Pretty simple, really, but somehow a difficult concept for some to grasp.

Let's describe what irony is not, since that is where the confusion mainly comes from (and it's misused a lot).

Irony can overlap with those (with the possible exception of the last one), but just by themselves, they are not irony. This is where the confusion of the meaning of the word usually starts. People try to apply it where it doesn't belong.

It enjoyed a renaissance in the '90s thanks to Post Modernism, which is a slightly different concept of irony.

There are seven main situations where Irony belongs: Socratic, Verbal, Dramatic, Tragic, Situational, Cosmic, and Historical. If something does not fit in any of these, it is not irony.


Socratic

This type is different from the others. It's more of a debating tool than modern irony. Thus it rarely overlaps with the other types.

In a nutshell, this is the use of constant questioning in order to reveal the truth of any position. You know how kids like to ask "Why?" no matter the answer? This is the more sophisticated version. You keep feigning ignorance of the topic, in order to force the other person to explain it further. The irony lies in the fact that you are treating the other person as one possessing coveted knowledge and/or wisdom far above your "lowly" station, the whole point in doing so is to expose the fact that they are, in fact, not. Jon Stewart favors this Method.

Closely related to Armor-Piercing Question.


Verbal

Verbal irony is part of the modern irony types, but it differs from the others in that the irony is intentional. Basically, you state something in a manner that has literal connotation, but expresses something different in the context of the situation. This may be done for any number of reasons, but typically the intent is either humor or emphasis.

Again, you have to intentionally create this difference in order for it to be verbal irony. If you deny that you're upset, but in an angry tone, that's just plain denial, not irony. You mean to try to convince people you were calm, but your tone betrays you. To be verbal irony you have to deny it in a calm tone, but deliberately make it clear you are seething on the inside and want the other person to know it. Note however that just because this example wouldn't be verbal irony, this doesn't mean it couldn't be ironic; the irony in this case would be situational, since it's not intended by the speaker.

The distinction between irony and sarcasm is that sarcasm is meant to mock things. The two frequently overlap, but not all verbal irony is sarcastic and not all sarcasm is ironic. Using the case above, denying your anger in a deliberately angry tone would be sarcasm, but would not be verbal irony because the angry tone would imply your intention.

Note however that, though a sarcastic tone does betray the ironic intent of the words used, this does not mean that irony is no longer present. Indeed, it is only tone and context that distinguish verbal irony from outright lying. For example, take the film About a Boy. The main character's father wrote a hit song, and every time he mentions the song, people start singing it. When the eponymous boy and his mother do the same, they apologize, seeing the look on his face. When they mention he probably got that a lot, he politely says, "No, you're the first." If he had said it in a sarcastic (that is, openly derisive) tone, that would be sarcasm. If he had said it in a normal tone, and added something like, "In fact, I'd like people to do it all the time," there would be a hint of mocking, also making it sarcasm. But since he said it the way he did, it's just an example of verbal irony.

One non-sarcastic form of verbal irony is the "ironic simile". A common example would be the expression "clear as mud"; the message conveyed is the polar opposite of the adjective used, and this is made clear by the fact that the noun used for comparison is obviously not something possessing that quality.

Now what about lying? Though it may at first seem as though they may overlap, this is not really the case. Verbal irony has the intention of getting the meaning across. As in the example from About a Boy, he did mean that they were not the first, but that he was being nice about it. In the case of most lies, the intention is not to give that hint; it's just outright deception.


Dramatic

This is basically letting the audience in on something of which one or more characters is unaware. Thus any actions or words from the character about this thing are ironic to the audience, because we know better.

Take the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. Prince Phillip meets Briar Rose, but neither of them knows that other is royalty (and Briar Rose doesn't even know she is, herself). The Prince's father is horrified to learn that Phillip wants to marry a commoner, and it seems as though they can't be together, but we know who Briar Rose really is, so we know that they can.

So this literally applies any time the audience is in on something, and watching characters react without knowing what the audience knows. Often a key part of a screwball comedy, but it can just as easily be played for drama or tragedy, such as in Shakespeare's Othello, where the audience knows that Iago is lying long before the characters do.

Another way to create opportunities for Dramatic Irony in a story is to alter the chronology of its telling, by making use of Flashbacks or doing the whole tale Back to Front. This style allows characters to make promises that the audience already knows were ultimately broken.


Situational

In truth, a more fitting term would be "Expectational Irony", since that is what it covers. Situational Irony is when the outcome of some situation or action is the exact opposite of the intended outcome.

Take the trope Failsafe Failure, for example. The expectation is for safety features to ensure that something is, well, safe, and then the safety feature itself turns out to be dangerous.

Or see the tropes The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.

This, in a nutshell, is what people mean, or think they mean, when they say "that's so ironic."


Tragic

This is a specific type of dramatic irony, usually found in a Tragedy, Film Noir, or in general a story with a Downer Ending. The character's words or even actions are not ironic to them (or perhaps anyone in the story), but the audience is fully aware that their actions will bring about a tragic or deadly result, all while they ostensibly fight against such a result.

A tragedy can have dramatic irony in it without being tragic irony; tragic irony depends on the audience knowing how the story ends ahead of time. This might be intentionally produced by a Framing Device, such as making the whole piece a Flash Back so the audience sees the end first ("Two households, both alike in dignity..."), or it might be unintentional because the end of the movie becomes very well known, or somewhere in between those two, or it could simply be a story whose ending the viewer is expected to already know about from everyday life (such as Pearl Harbor, Titanic or The Passion of the Christ).

For example: Charles wants to save his father from being jailed for "helping" commit a murder he was framed for. In the process of clearing his father's name, Charles discovers that his father was innocent of that crime, but guilty of murdering Charles' mother, thus beginning the entire torturous process of trials, jail time, and eventual execution, as well as Charles learning something unforgivable about his father.

This would be Tragic Irony if the audience knew from the start that the father had murdered his wife (say, if it were shown early in the film) and could foresee that investigating the father would lead to that discovery. If the audience discovered that fact at the same time as Charles, then it becomes situational irony (at least, the first time you watch the film) because the viewers and Charles suddenly realize that everyone would have been better off if he had never started investigating.


Cosmic

Basically, the universe is screwing with you. The difference between this and situational irony is a matter of degree, but if it causes a mess of some sort, it's usually this.

Take A Simple Plan. It's situational in that the expectation is of course simplicity, but the way things tend to just snowball, often through no fault of the initiator, is this version.

The fact that most Self Fulfilling Prophecies are caused by the very act of trying to prevent them.


Historical

This is any of the above (save for Socratic), through hindsight. We know it happened, and unless we don't get the cultural causes, we know why it was ironic.

Take the Oracle at Delphi's prophecy to Croesus that if the king went to war, he would "destroy a great empire." Since the empire that was destroyed was his own, it's a case of situational irony for Croesus (who chose to attack based on this supposed encouragement; his opponent was Persia, also a great empire at the time), verbal irony from the Oracle (who is entirely aware that Croesus will misinterpret her)[2], tragic irony for the audience (who already know how this is going to go), and possibly cosmic irony (for those who believe in hubris, like many Ancient Greeks did), but since it's in the history books, it's also historical irony.

For some more lighthearted examples of historical irony, see the trope This Is Going to Be Huge.


Metallurgical

"Sort of like gold-y and bronze-y, but made of iron."

  • Actually, the use of irony as a metallurgical term is absolutely correct, and predates the more generally accepted use of irony by at least 100 years. "Irony" - in the sense of this particular trope - is pronounced "ahy-ruh-nee". "Irony" - as a term having to do with the metal iron - is pronounced "ahy-er-nee". (Hurray for the dictionary!)
  • I'm sure we can all agree that a ferrous wheel is ironic.

A Super-Trope to

Examples of Irony include:


Anime and Manga

  • In Full Metal Panic TSR, it's pretty ironic that Ax Crazy Gauron of all people would call Gates "one hell of a nutcase." Especially considering that he was perfectly serious when he was saying it. And yes, this is coming from the man who canonically wanted to kill Sousuke and " fuck his corpse up the ass."
    • Actually, in the novels he seemed annoyed with the man more than anything, and most likely referring to the guy's abilities when compared to those of Mithril soldiers rather than Sousuke or himself. Gates was created specifically for the anime, so the originally un-named, un-developed character in the books may have been somewhat different?
      • When it comes to Gauron, irony pulls double shifts. For instance, within Amalgam (an organization whose main members all have code names of metals which are chemically able to form amalgams with Mercury), Gauron's code name is Mr. Iron, a metal that is, in fact, not able to amalgamate with mercury at all. (It is, however, very resilient and highly magnetic. Draw the parallels as you see fit...) It is mentioned in the later novels that Gauron had been given this name as a petty little in-joke, meant to set him apart as "not really one of us". After TSR, though, it became painfully obvious that the joke was in fact on Amalgam, as Gauron betrays them to Sousuke. The consequences of his betrayal are still being felt a couple of novels later. Not one of us, indeed.
    • Yet more irony that involves Gauron: In Sousuke's life, it seems that every single one the men who eventually became close friends with him started out as his mortal enemy that he was trying to assassinate. Examples: Majid, whom Sousuke was sent to assassinate (though his attempt failed), only to take a liking to Sousuke and adopt him as his own son. He was described as an incredibly kind foster father to him - someone Sousuke would always respect. Kalinin, whom originally was Sousuke's enemy, since he was in the KGB and Sousuke was an Afghan Guerilla - Sousuke even tried to kill him, only to get kidnapped by him. Again, Kalinin treated him well, and liked him ever since the beginning (as he took a liking to Sousuke ever since he rescued the boy as a baby), eventually resulting in Kalinin legally adopting Sousuke as his son. Kurz, who was revealed to have been hired as a mercenary on the opposite side of Sousuke in Lebanon, before either joined Mithril. They almost ended up killing each other, and ended up developing a great amount of respect for each other, each claiming that the other was the strongest opponent they faced (despite being in Arm Slaves, meaning they didn't even see either's face). And then there's Gauron... who was actually one of the few main male characters who met Sousuke not as an enemy. And it was Love At First Sight for the crazy guy, resulting in his attempt at picking the boy up and taking him to his camp, which was rejected. And so, despite being one of the few guys who first met Sousuke on semi-amiable terms, he turns out to be the guy Sousuke hates most.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate does not believe any girl could ever like him. The dramatic irony here is, EVERY girl likes him. Situational irony also occurs in the manga on Valentine's Day, when Hayate is talking to Maria. Hayate tells her all the reasons he feels like he will never get a girlfriend (Which are identical to the reasons she doesn't have a boyfriend) and believes he is not in any position to ever get one. Maria contemplates this afterward and realizes that the only man she can get and is interested in is Hayate. Too bad her Ojou is also interested in him...
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, it's rather ironic that Rokudo Mukuro, who hates the mafia more than anything else and would rather die than get captured by them, eventually becomes Tsuna's guardian.
    • It's also become very ironic when the series keeps claiming that "no-good Tsuna" is ugly and that no girl would want him... when he looks like this after Art Evolution. Extra irony when he's become the fandom's LOATS that's apparently wanted by everyone - ESPECIALLY the men.
    • Rokudo Mukuro's main goal is to pull a Grand Theft Me on Tsuna and then proceed to destroy the mafia, and yet Daemon Spade's whole plan consists of doing the same thing, only via taking over Mukuro instead of Tsuna.
  • In One Piece, Monkey D. Luffy's first voyage as a pirate was to drop Coby off at a base to become a Marine.
  • Three-quarters through season 1 of Code Geass when Suzaku is going to sacrifice himself to hold Lelouch/Zero in place for a massive missile strike, Lelouch whips out his Geass and commands Suzaku to 'live' thereby making a Heroic Sacrifice impossible. Exactly one season later in R2, while fighting (and losing to) Kallen the Geass activates causing Suzaku to fire the FLEIJA warhead, destroying most of Tokyo and supposedly killing Nunnally.
    • A case of Cosmic Irony occurs early on in Code Geass when nobody can figure out who Zero is, but Lelouch almost gets unmasked by a cat.
    • Two episodes after her declaration of The Power of Love and just one right after she finally requites her own love for Lelouch, Wrong Genre Savvy Shirley is killed by Rolo. Especially ironic in that she could have saved Lelouch from the path he would go down in the subsequent arc, and that her death was a catalyst for much of it.
    • Also Ironic that after the "Orange Incident" Jeremiah was told by Guilford that his options were to continue working as a grunt, or go work on an orange farm. His profession after Lelouch's death? He works on an Orange farm with Anya
    • On a smaller scale, the main antagonist of the story is the world's most powerful superpower, the Holy Britannian Empire, which, despite controlling over a third of the world at the start of the series...doesn't actually control Britain.
    • Lelouch's entire plan to save the world was based on an attempt to make it 'gentler' for his sister Nunnally. He cares about this plan so much he sacrifices his own life for it, but as he lies dying in front of her, she tells him that the only kind of world she ever wanted was one where they could live together.
    • Also, Suzaku killed his father to stop a war, but it really just started one.
    • Also ironic is that at the beginning of the series, Lelouch took on the title of Zero, to become a symbol of Justice against he Britannian emperors tyranny, while Suzaku had joined the military hoping to change Britannia from within. At the end of the series, Suzaku and Lelouch had Their roles switched. Suzaku became Zero, as a symbol of Justice, never to live again as Suzaku Kururugi, while Lelouch became the Britannian Emperor, and gave his life in the process of changing the system from within.
  • At the beginning of "The Atonement Chapter",of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, we see Shion. Shion went on a killing spree the last few episodes before that,and died in the last episode. We see her just sitting at Angel Mort, with her body guard, just being Shion.
  • Bleach has recently had a moment of irony. Kaname Tousen had been fighting Sajin Komamura, and revealed that he had gained hollow powers which, to Tousen's surprise, allowed him to see. However, as he was about to finish Sajin off, Hisagi attacked from behind, before remarking that Tousen would've dodged the attack easily if he hadn't been distracted (and, in effect, blinded) by his newfound sight.
  • Miaka of Fushigi Yuugi is not fond of books very much. And then she ends up in one.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (The manga and Brotherhood), Truth appears to like irony. Edward wants to support his family, so Truth takes his leg. Alphonse wants to feel his mother's embrace, so Truth takes his ability to feel. Izumi wants to have a child, so Truth takes away her fertility. Mustang has a vision for the country, and Truth takes away his eyesight. Father/Dwarf in the flask/Homunculus didn't want to be a prisoner to no one so Truth traps him behind the door of truth. See a pattern?
  • In Toradora!, Taiga at one point chews out Ami's stalker for taking pictures of her without her permission, despite the fact that she herself has a large stash of picture she's surreptitiously taken of Kitamura.
  • Kamichama Karin - Kazune has the power of the sun god Apollo, but he sunburns easily. Micchi has the power of the sea god Neptune, but he can't swim at all.
  • In Mazinkaiser, the Mycene send one of their generals to attack Koji before he can ride his Mecha, Mazinkaiser. Said general is stopped by someone piloting a different mecha. Thus, the plan to kill The Hero before he gets on his mecha is stopped by a Joke Character riding a mecha.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has the so-called "big irony bomb". In episode 2, Misato said she won't "put the moves on a kid". Cut to episode 23, and later End of Evangelion, and...she does. Well, maybe.
  • In Dragon Ball's Red Ribbon Army arc, the commander of the Red Ribbon Army wants to obtain all seven Dragonballs so he can make a wish to be taller, sacrificing hundreds of his men to do so. In retaliation, his second in command shoots him. In Dragon Ball Online, which takes place over 200 years after that event, it is revealed that Dr. Gero took the commander's body and modified him into a mindless android. As a result, he now stands at least twice as tall as the player character.
    • Frieza wiped out all the Saiyans because he was afraid that he will be beaten by a Super Saiyan. He was defeated by Goku, and ultimately killed by Future Trunks, both who are Super Saiyans.
  • Early on in Gundam Wing, Duo locates the sunken, damaged Wing Gundam and decides to take it for his backup supply. Two episodes later, Wing has been salvaged but needs to be repaired overnight for a new mission despite a lack of spare parts. Heero manages it anyway, which amazes Duo until he finds out that Heero stole the needed parts from his Gundam, Deathscythe.
  • In To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, Misaka Mikoto sees one of her clones get brutally murdered by Accelerator. There's a brief flashback to before she knew about the clones, discussing the possibility with Kuroko.

 Kuroko: What would you do if a clone of yours appeared before you?

Mikoto: Ah, that would freak me out. I think I would wish it would just disappear.

(present): Mikoto goes ballistic on Accelerator

Comic Books

  • The first appearance of Captain America featured him punching out Hitler. Cap's secret identity, Steve Rogers, has blond hair, Blue Eyes, and after taking the Super Serum is a specimen that anyone would be happy to call ubermensch.
    • The origin of the Super Soldier Serum underwent some retconning in the 90s, which added an extra layer of irony: the scientist working on the serum was in fact a Nazi agent, using American resources to perfect the serum, and he was killed by a different spy who wasn't in on the charade. So a Nazi scientist actually created the ubermensch, who spent his career kicking fascist ass up and down the globe.
  • In the various versions of Spider-Man, the protagonist finds a school nemesis in Eugene "Flash" Thompson, who bullies Peter while simultaneously idolizing his alter ego Spider-Man, an irony in which Peter takes delight and gratification.
  • Superboy Prime was initially DC Comics' way of making fun of fanboys (a Straw Fan). Recently the explanation for any inconsistencies in the DC Universe is that Superboy-Prime punched reality so hard that it changed history (seriously). So the one character they made to make fun of the stupidity of fanboys is now the answer to those same fanboys' questions about continuity problems. It's like giving the keys of a circus to a monkey.
    • Which seems to sum up Running the Asylum right there, whether or not that counts as irony.
  • Empowered is about a superheroine who is almost always the Damsel in Distress.
    • An extra layer is added by, despite her being derided as an incompetent because of this, she is really one of the most noble and selfless heroes in the setting, unlike the idiots and Glory Hounds that most of the other heroes are.
  • In Judge Dredd, this is where a good portion of the humor is derrived from, a lot of it being of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Hoist by His Own Petard variety. One of the most lasting pieces of subtle irony is how Mega-City One's city wall, originally ordered built by Chief Judge Cal to keep the citizens from escaping (so he could kill them), has since become used as an integral part of the city's defense and protection against any foreign threats and invasions.
    • Whenever a story focuses on a robot, computer or similar machine, there will almost always be disaster, tragedy and multiple deaths because the machine is too capable and/or too self-aware and empathic. The reason robots are programmed to be sentient, aware and empathetic? To help people more effectively.
    • One story focusing on Mega-City's extreme unemployment problem had a man go on a shooting spree after he was fired from a post he'd held for years. Judge Dredd arrested him... and sentenced him to several years of hard labor, to the man's great delight. Dredd reflects that for once, he was able to use the law to bring a bit of happiness.
  • In the old Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi comics, one of the main characters falls to the Dark Side and eventually kills his helpless brother in a fit of rage. The irony is that, normally, such an act would be a character's Moral Event Horizon, would have sealed his fate as a Dark Sider forever. That's how it's always played in Star Wars. Instead, performing the irredeemable act of evil prompted him to turn away from the Dark Side and seek redemption.
  • One of Freelance Peacekeeping Agent Death's Head's early cases was when he was hired by a group of rebels to assassinate an oppressive king. During the hit, Death's Head discovers he was actually set up by the King as part of an ongoing ruse to stop assassins before the real rebels can hire them. Peeved, Death's Head proceeds to kill all of the guards and the King -- completing the original contract.
  • In the graphic novel Watchmen nuclear physicist Jon Osterman accidentally locks himself inside a disintegration chamber minutes before it's due to activate. When he begs to be let out, his supervisor Dr. Glass tells him that the automatic door lock can't be overridden once the countdown has started: "It's...it's a safety feature." The last four words are set in tiny print, indicating that Glass is all too aware of the situational irony.


Fan Fics

  • The whole idea of Kirk/Spock, in that it's the ultimate Ladykiller in Love, and he's in love with a man.
    • Probably counts without the Slash, too. Out of all the relationships he's been in, which is the longest-lasting and the closest?
  • The Man with No Name involves the Serenity crew being hired to find an alien, a job they often bemoan as being idiotic. Their new passenger is the Doctor. Yeah.


Film

  • One of the quotes here, from Con Air. This was in response to when the inmates (with the exception of Cameron Poe, Baby-O, and Greene) celebrated their escape, dancing to "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
  • In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin sees a vision of his wife dying in childbirth. Determined to not let this happen, he joins the Dark Side in order to find a cure. Doing that turns out to be what kills her.
    • Meta-example: In 1977, many theaters refused to book the original Star Wars, now known as A New Hope, for fear it would flop and only did so when 20th Century Fox threatened to withhold the potential blockbuster The Other Side of Midnight from any theater which didn't run Star Wars. The Other Side of Midnight bombed and we all know what happened with Star Wars.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke goes to Cloud City to rescue his friends, knowing that it's a trap. Luke ends up trapped on a weather vane at the bottom of the city while his friends escape on their own. And then they rescue him.
  • The film Seven Beauties is built around tragic irony. The film is told in Anachronic Order, and we get snippets of lead character Pasqualino in his feckless womanising days, in a brutal insane asylum, as a soldier in wartime, and as a prisoner of war. As the film goes on we see the decisions which brought about each change in situation - being arrested for his hedonistic ways, he decides to plead insanity because it'll be a breeze compared to prison. We know otherwise. Eventually the increasingly-desperate Italian army offers to get him out if he goes off to war, and he agrees, figuring war couldn't possibly be as bad. Yyyyeah. Then during his service he can't take it any more and surrenders, thinking being a POW would at least be a step up from what he's gone through so far. It's a whole movie of watching a guy make decisions which we know are awful, awful decisions.
  • In the Terminator films Kyle Reese tells Sarah Connor that the human race survived because John Connor refused to admit defeat and rallied humanity to fight back against the machines. At the end of Terminator 3, John notes that the terminator's ceaseless dedication to fulfilling their mission taught him to never stop fighting. Ironically Skynet gave John the motivation that made him such a threat.
  • In Shrek, Shrek tells Donkey that he doesn't like annoying creatures who never stop talking (paraphrasing here). Donkey launches into a rant about how much they annoy him, too.

 Donkey: And there's that awkward silence, you know...

AWKWARD SILENCE

Donkey: Can I stay with you?

  • In Iron Man 2, a sub-plot involves the device that Tony Stark built to keep himself alive is actually killing him through the volatile metal that powers it. What a beautifully ironic twist to a story about a man associated with iron.
    • Much of the underlying plot of the first film is tragic irony, as pointed out by Stane:

  "How ironic, Tony! Trying to rid the world of weapons, you gave it its best one ever!"

  • The whole song "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" from The Lion King. Turns out Simba could wait.
  • The Body Count Competition scene in Hot Shots Part Deux claiming "BLOODIEST MOVIE EVER!" despite the Bloodless Carnage.
  • The whole concept of The Truman Show is the dramatic irony.
  • The Final opens with a scene of a girl in a restaurant with her face horribly disfigured. She orders a burger. The movie flashes back a while ago and we hear a throwaway line from a vapid teenage girl "Red meat is for people who don't care what they look like". Said girl ends up getting a compound smeared on her face that erodes her skin away. It could be either tragic or dramatic irony.
  • Dramatic irony in Gangs of New York, when a Tammany worker tells Bill he will be rewarded for delivering the Irish to the polls, Bill spits and says his father and his men died for this country in 1814, he will not let his memory be befouled for people who didn't fight for this country. Cut to Irishmen being made to sign their enlistment papers along with their citizenship applications, and getting onto the troopship headed for Tennessee while the coffins are being offloaded.
  • Thor, the god of thunder, gets tasered by a human when he lands on Earth after being depowered.
  • The movie "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn!" was itself about a movie that was considered one of the worst ever made. The movie itself ended up being considered one of the worst ever made. It featured a guy who tried to have this name removed from the film. The director of the actual movie, Arthur Hiller ending up having his name removed.
  • Final Fantasy the Spirits Within ended up being the most critically acclaimed movie based on a video game to be featured on Rotten Tomatoes. It also ended up being the least financially successful (in terms of damage to its producers) movie based on a video game.
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country features a black Insane Admiral who supports Fantastic Racism against Klingons, using language and arguments similar to twentieth-century white racists. For extra irony, his actor previously played Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird.


Literature

  • Le Morte Darthur. It's called "The Death of Arthur". Unsurprisingly, the whole thing is tragic irony, as Arthur struggles to build a just and fair kingdom, only for his own knights, and his own actions set in motion the events that lead to his death, and the collapse of the kingdom.
    • Also Cosmic irony. Time and time again, especially as the story approaches the end, it seems as though Arthur just might save it yet, only for cruel Fate to invert the situation to its opposite. The bit about the snake is downright mean.
    • Also situational irony produced by the title, as Arthur doesn't actually die, being put on a ship.
  • In First Casualty by Ben Elton a policeman Douglas Kingsley stands as a conscientious objector and refuses to join WWI. After he's put in prison and is nearly beaten to death there, the Intelligence service feigns his death and then enrolls him to conduct an anonymous investigation of a murder of an officer in Flanders. Right then fate seems to pick up a huge mallet named "Tragic irony" and start hammering poor Kingsley on the head with it. He can't stop contemplating (and others can't stop reiterating) about how feeble and absurd the notion of "murder" sounds in the middle of the unthinkable massacre that is WWI. But wait, It Gets Worse. In order to obtain the evidences he has to follow a raid into the German lines and eventually joins the fight, kills some Germans, leads the raid safely back and is awarded a medal! But wait, It Gets Worse. He finally manages to aquit the suspect and save him from the shooting squad...only for him to be blown into "red dust" right in front of Kingsley's very eyes.
  • In Moby Dick, Ishmael winds up floating to safety on the coffin Queequeg had built when he thought he was going to die of a fever.
  • In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Turn Coat, the White Council denies that there is any such thing as the Black Council. Therefore, Ebneazer proposes dealing with the issue behind its back: by denying the existence of a conspiracy, they force a second one into existence. Harry comments on "a twofer with a sidehelping of irony" -- especially since this new conspiracy could be pointed out as the Black Council to cover the original one's tracks.
  • Sort of literature: Exodus 17:14 reads "I [God] will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven". The only reason anybody remembers Amalek nowadays is because they're in The Bible.
  • An in-universe example in Jingo. Nobby Nobbs uses Socratic irony on Colon to point out the flaws in his thinking about the Klatchians.
  • Harry Potter often displays many examples but Half Blood Prince is probably the biggest one. In this book Snape stops teaching Potions class and teaches Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts and is replaced by Professor Slughorn. Previously, Potions was one of Harry's worst subjects because he hated Snape and never made the effort in class. In his first class with Slughorn he finds a second hand book labelled as property of the titular character. Inside the book are lots of hints that help Harry with his Potions, thus making it his best subject. Then the big reveal is that Snape is the Half Blood Prince. At one point in the book Harry even makes a throwaway remark that The Prince was a better teacher than Snape. Dramatic irony at its finest.
    • The people who seem to care the least for Harry (Vernon, Petunia, Snape, Abertfort) are the people who sacrifice his own security and commodity to keep him free from Voldemort, while the people who care most for him constantly expose him to face the Dark Lord (The entire Phoenix order, his best friends).
  • There's an Irish poem that compares the careers of poets to engineers and has a mocking tone where it states that engineers are overlooked in favour of poets. At first glance it seems like straight up satire since an engineer is a very important job and is looked highly upon by society while a poet is thought to be frivolous since they don't earn good money. However the true irony comes with Fridge Brilliance - in the long term, engineers end up being forgotten while poets are immortalised forever through their work. Think of it this way - do you know the name of the man/woman that built that brick building down town or do you know who wrote "The Road Not Taken".
  • Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie is chock full of this. Let's take two just characters:
    • Morveer: At the start, a master poisoner with a devoted apprentice. He always whines about how the profession of poisoner is horribly undervalued and unrespected. Monza is suspicious of him from the start, and tries to turn his apprentice against him for security. By a complete accident, she succeeds too well; the apprentice misunderstands Morveer, thinks he's going to betray them, and tries to kill him. He kills her, believing that Monza deliberately wanted to replace him, and starts acting against her. In doing so, he poisons every leader but Monza who might have united Styria, effectively turning her into the best candidate for queen. After he gets killed by his own poison, something he spent the entire book warning his apprentice to be careful of, Monza uses him as a scapegoat to deflect suspicion from her over the death of the other leaders, turning Morveer into the legend he always wanted to be.
    • Friendly: A mass murdering Serial Killer with no understanding of right and wrong, and a severe case of OCD over numbers. Guess who's the only character in Monza's party not to betray anyone else's trust in any way, or commit any murder of innocents, or cause any other form of collateral damage? And guess who saves Monza's life from the ally she had trusted most at first? That's right, in a novel filled with betrayal and revenge, the obsessive sociopath is one of the most trustworthy and upright characters.
    • And that's just two of the merry band. The whole novel is like this.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest has a very good example of situational irony. The main character is charged with statutory rape. He fakes insanity and gets himself committed because he thinks it'll be easier than going to a work camp. the knowledge that he's not insane and doesn't fit in makes him get on the bad side of the staff, who label him as genuinely insane and lobotomise him.
  • In Murder on the Orient Express, it is revealed that the murder victim was himself responsible for the murder of a small child, but had gotten away with it. One of the passengers comments on what an abominable act that is, and says "We are not so wicked as that in Germany."
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford Prefect wipes a bottle of liquor with his towel. Instead of the liquor dirtying up the towel, it actually cleans it, since the liquor in question is highly antiseptic.


Live Action TV

  • This is a collective extensive list of all the irony one can milk out of Lost right down to the lost drop.
  • A textbook case of verbal irony, from an episode of Blackadder the Third where Prince George is insisting he doesn't need a woman in his life.

 Prince George: What can I possibly do with a woman that I can't do with you?

Edmund Blackadder: I cannot conceive, sir.

    • The prince's reaction shows he takes it to mean that Blackadder can't think of anything. Blackadder's smug smile shows the joke was deliberate.
  • It is ironic that John Simm, the man who took the role as The Master in Doctor Who in order to impress his fanboy of a son, ended up forbidding him from watching the episodes in question due to their fearsomeness.
    • In-universe example: the Fifth Doctor's attempts to return Tegan to Heathrow Airport landed them on various alien planets or, in one case, in the right location but three hundred years early. Eventually he decided to stop trying and decided instead on a trip to the Great Exhibition in London, 1851. You have three guesses as to where they ended up, and the first two don't count.
  • Nearly every episode of Dexter has multiple cases of verbal and dramatic irony. Dexter's secret life as a serial killer requires him to deceive everyone he knows about who he really is and what he does, so the comments he makes while he acting with the "pretense of normalcy" are often heavily laced with lies about his attitudes and intended actions. We as the audience know better and understand the irony.
  • In an episode of The King of Queens, Arthur gets in an argument with Doug about whether a situation was ironic. The kicker came in the end sequence where Arthur wakes Doug up in the middle of the night to say: 'I was checking the dictionary and it turns out you were right. That situation was ironic. I thought "ironic" meant "Made up entirely of iron"' Doug merely replies "Good night, Arthur."
    • The story was that Doug had to scan a box, but the scanner was broken. When he opened it, it turned out that the box was full of new scanners.
    • The silly thing about this argument is that the word "ironic" actually does mean "made entirely of iron."
  • During the otherwise comedic Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles", it turned out the Klingons poisoned the grain meant for a disputed planet, so that it destroyed the digestive system. When the tribbles got into it, and died from it, Kirk described the situational irony thus, "In a room full of grain, they starved to death."
  • The Britcom The Worst Week of My Life bases its plots on cosmic irony to the main character.
  • The Vision On gallery theme tune ? the intended audience was deaf children.
    • Although it does have a very clear beat to it, which a deaf person might discern if they set their fingers on top of the television and turned up the volume.
  • H₂O: Just Add Water: Becoming a mermaid destroyed Emma's career as champion of her school swim team.
  • Part of Jeff Dunham's act, usually happening when he brings Peanut out, describes an occasion when he noticed that someone, against all logic, had brought deaf people and a signer to a ventriloquist act, apparently without a trace of irony in their heart (but plenty in their situation). Not one to let irony go unpunished, Peanut first begins gibbering nonsense and then mouths vigorously without actually saying anything, driving the deaf people nuts as the signer isn't translating anything that's being "said".
  • From Keeping Up Appearances... Hyacinthe goes out of her way to appear as a posh, upper-class woman and is always trying to hide her poorer relatives from society's judging eyes, yet all of Hyacinth's upper-class "friends" much prefer her poorer relatives to her.
  • The Charmed episode "All Halliwell's Eve" opens with Phoebe talking about how much she hates the stereotype of witches as wearing pointy hats and cackling while riding broomsticks. Later on in the episode when the sisters are in the 17th century Virginia colony, they need to ward off a group of men with muskets and Phoebe declares "I'm embracing the cliche" and puts on the hat and flies on a broomstick, cackling for good measure to scare the men away. Yep, she may well have created the very stereotype she was complaining about.
  • The actor who played Sergeant Schulz in Hogan's Heroes was Jewish.
    • So was Col. Klink, or at least his family was. A lot of the German characters were, and asked to play the Nazis as bumbling as possible.
  • In the Monk episode Mr. Monk's 100TH case, Monk ended up arresting a tv magazine news anchor for murdering his extramarital mistress. Ironically, it was right after he aired a segment relating to Monk solving his 100th case relating to a serial killer photographer.
  • The core of Frasier Crane's character is that he's a brilliant psychiatrist who can always be counted on to help his friends, family, and patients with their problems, but has no idea how to deal with his own ample neuroses. Lampshaded by the title song: "And maybe I seem a bit confused / Well maybe — but I got you pegged!" Crops up explicitly many, many times, from one-off throwaway jokes to major plot points (like Frasier and Lilith successfully counseling a married couple, while tempestuously divorced themselves) to serious running themes, like the fact that Frasier's deliberate machinations managed to get Niles and Daphne to confess their love for each other after years of UST, but he himself cannot keep a girlfriend for more than a few episodes.
  • In The X-Files, Scully, who refused to acknowledge the existence of the paranormal, was abducted by aliens three times before Mulder, who steadfastly believed in aliens, was even abducted once.


Music

  • Weird Al's song "Don't Download This Song" was explicitly made free to download by Weird Al himself. What's the song about? Piracy.
  • The folk song "I Will Not Sing Along" is an audience-participation piece.
  • The song "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette lists several examples of irony. The true irony of the song however is none of the examples she gives are actually ironic, therefore making the whole song a kind of Dramatic Irony.
  • There's a techno track out there with an unattributed author--at least six people have insisted that they are the creator of the track. What's the track's name? "I Am the Creator".
  • Barry Manilow did not write one of his bigger hits, "I Write the Songs."
  • While Helen Reddy did write the lyrics to the women's liberation anthem "I Am Woman," a man wrote the music.
  • The music video to the D12 song "My Band" once ran on some music television presented as "Eminem feat. D12"
  • Nicely employed in "Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind" by Confederate Railroad. The narrator sings about his dad, a simple man who teaches him an anti-materialism lesson after he (the narrator) buys a Cadillac. In the third verse, the dad dies and is driven off to his grave in a Cadillac, causing the narrator to laugh despite his mourning.
  • "Yesterday's Hero", a song written by George Young of the 60s Australian group the Easybeats about his band's struggle with fame, was the song that created a new star, John Paul Young, in the 70s.


Newspaper Comics

  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin saves a snowball in his freezer for months. He then misses Susie when he throws it at the back of her head. While Calvin laments missing, Susie gathers up the snowball and hits Calvin in the face with it. Calvin then lampshades this event by saying "The irony of this is sickening."
    • An homage to that Calvin and Hobbes comic appears here in School Nights, sans Lampshading.
    • Something similar takes place in the title routine from Bill Cosby's Revenge (see below for details).
  • In a Dilbert comic, Dilbert is typing on his computer while Wally stands behind him and says "Have you ever noticed that people continuously bother you when you're trying to work? That's why I come here - to get away from those morons." In the final panel, Wally has "an unpleasant realization".

Tabletop Games

  • The Planescape campaign "Faction War", Duke Rowan Darkwood was looking for a gemstone containing the soul of a mad mage who tried to overthrow the Lady of Pain. He found it, broke it open to release the soul inside, and was promptly sent back in time by the Lady. In the process, he lost his memories and became the very same mad mage who tried to overthrow the Lady. But that's not all. This time, the Lady imprisoned his soul inside a gemstone, where, a couple of centuries later, he finally died when the gemstone was broken open by his younger self. Irony to the power of Three indeed.


Theater

  • Oedipus Rex uses both Tragic Irony and Cosmic Irony. Appropriate, considering how the Greek Gods are petty gits.
  • An example of verbal irony shows up in Chicago, during Billy's song "All I Care About". Taken out of context, it is a song about a man whose sole priority is saving damsels in distress, and who cares nothing about money. In-context, however, the show makes it clear that he's just a money-grubbing Amoral Attorney.
  • Last year (2009) saw the release of the musical Rock Of Ages. The soundtrack consists mostly of rock and pop songs of The Eighties. Notably absent (they couldn't get the rights): Def Leppard's "Rock Of Ages".


Video Games

 General Townes: If you build a Particle Cannon and I destroy it with a particle beam... is that irony?

  • Myrkul's death in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer: killed by the power that's keeping him alive.
  • Touhou has this in the form of Reisen Udongein Inaba, who is a "Master of Lunacy". The Irony? She's probably the most rational character in the series.
    • Another irony occurs with Youmu Konpaku, who is terrified of ghost stories despite being half-ghost as well as the servant of Cute Ghost Girl Yuyuko Saigyouji.
  • A rare instance of Tragic Irony can be found in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Because it's a prequel to the original Final Fantasy VII, we know exactly how it ends, which makes the final few hours unmitigated Tear Jerkers.
  • In the Subspace Emissary, Sonic, the fastest thing alive, is very late to the final battle against Tabuu.
    • Super Smash Bros Brawl can apply here in of itself. Why? The game was designed by Masahiro Sakurai to specifically NOT be competitive, yet the number of official money tournaments featuring it actually exceeded those of Halo in 2010.
  • The intro movie of the World of Warcraft add-on Wrath of the Lich King has a voice over of the words Arthas' father left for his son for the event of his own death, reminding him of the responsibilities of a just ruler and that he has complete confidence in Arthas becoming a great king. In Warcraft 3 Arthas murdered his own father, slaughtered the entire population of his country (he originally did it to prevent what he saw as a greater crisis), and turned the land into a blighted, monster-infested wasteland. He later bacame the Lich King, the greatest and most terrible tyrant of the world, but still a king.
  • So you have Brunestud of the Crimson Moon, a borderline Cosmic Horror and strongest being of Earth's moon. In comes Zelretch, looking to kill it. He goes about this by first using his power to manipulate dimensions to move their fight to another dimension. He then proceeds to drop the moon on Type Moon.
  • Zero from the Mega Man X and Zero series was created by the character who started the entire Robot War, yet Zero is ultimately the one who ended the war, finally bringing peace to humans and Reploids.
  • One part of F. E. A. R. has a room with a massive pool of blood in it. On the wall above the puddle, a sign says, "Please help us keep this room clean."
  • Dead Rising 2 has a activist organization that promotes the protection of zombies, called C.U.R.E. After the outbreak occurs, the protagonist can use C.U.R.E. picket signs to beat zombies to death.
  • In Final Fantasy X the summoners journey to Zanarkand in order summon the Final Aeon which destroys Sin. The fact that it is called the Final Aeon is quite ironic in that though it is the last Aeon the summoner will ever gain, the Final Aeon summoned will become the next Sin and thus continuing the cycle, meaning that there will be more Aeons called because this Final Aeon has become the next Sin.
    • Oh Tidus. Irony just loves you. First example: Tidus doesn't want Yuna to die killing Sin. He ends up dying while killing Sin. Second example: Yuna will die if she fights Sin and everybody doesn't Tidus this. Later on Tidus will die if Sin does and doesn't tell everybody.
    • From Final Fantasy IX there are two cases with the plot to kidnap the princess. First of all, Tantalus go to kidnap her when she was planning to run away with them anyway (they didn't know this). Second of all, the plan involved Zidane and Blank stealing the knights' armour and when they run into the princess in the midst of her trying to escape, she panics and runs off which starts off a big fiasco that leads to them all being discovered. The irony is that if they hadn't gone to so much trouble to create a perfect plan and just snuck in normally, Garnet would have recognised them and gone with them anyway.
  • A nice example in Chrono Trigger. There are three "gurus" named Belthasar (The guru of Reason), Melchior (The Guru of Life) and Gaspar (The Guru of time). After being attacked by Lavos its revealed that The Guru of Reason went insane, the Guru of Life developed weapons, and the Guru of Time reached an area where Time didn't exist
  • Word of God stated that Dr. Eggman of the Sonic the Hedgehog series was based on Teddy Roosevelt (and was going to be the hero originally). Want to know how it's ironic? Dr. Eggman essentially is a threat to Environmentalism, and Roosevelt was actually one of the people who pioneered environmentalism (he was one of the reason why America even has Nature Reserves, for one thing).
  • Sibrand, one of the last targets of Assassin's Creed I, was gripped with paranoia bordering on madness after most of the rest of the Templar brotherhood was assassinated. He wanders around, accusing everyone of conspiracy and believing assassins to be all around him. While chewing out some guards for whispering to each other, he whirls around and loudly proclaims that there's probably an assassin nearby at that moment; further evidence of his insane paranoia, except that Altaïr happens to be sitting on a bench listening to them.
    • In the prologue of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, an engineer mentions to Ezio that the future of warfare is firing a cannon from your hands. Ezio's been using one, far more advanced than the one the engineer's boasting about, for over a decade at that point.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Heavy, who has a PHD in Russian Literature and is technically a "doctor", is reliant on the healing capability of The Medic, who lost his medical license some time ago.
  • A Double Subversion can be seen with The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker. Medli, a Rito girl whose race and tribe have a fixation towards sky (and they indeed can fly), is chosen to be the sage of the Earth Temple. Makar, a plant born from the earth thanks to the Great Deku Tree, is chosen to be the sage of the Wind Temple. It looks at first that their corresponding elements are deliberately mixed up, but the assignations make sense. Birds are fond of rocky, earthly places to put their nest safe from predators, and plants are the reason why air (and, by extension, wind) exists for us to breath. It turns out that the characters' respective temple placements in the game are very accurate thanks to this!
  • A positive example is the Final Fantasy series. The original was named because Square had almost run out of money and decided to make their final game a fantasy RPG, hence "Final Fantasy". They're currently making Final Fantasy XIV, meaning that "Final" Fantasy is one of the longest running video game series ever. In particular, the double-dose of irony from Final Fantasy X-2 was probably dense enough to make a dent in space-time.


Web Animation

  • In one Strong Bad Email, a fan told Strong Bad that he liked it better when Strong Bad simply answered the email without any gimmicks. After Strong Bad answers by expressing his agreement and supposedly ending the email, his computer spontaneously explodes.


Web Comics / Web Originals


Western Animation

  • In a Mickey Mouse Works short, Minnie becomes tired of eating the same sandwiches at picnics because Mickey can't cook. When Micky later sees Minnie talking to José Carioca (of all people) about how he's going to prepare her a gourmet meal, he panics (thinking that Minnie wants to date José because of his cooking ability) and tries to learn how to cook. Minnie tells him that's not necessary, because she was just hiring José to cater their picnics. Cut to the picnic, and what is the gourmet food José has prepared? The exact same sandwiches that Mickey has been making the whole time. In trying to spice things up, Minnie has made things exactly same. The irony is not lost on her.
  • In Samurai Jack. Qouth The Scotsman, "You are the only stranger I know."
  • From The Simpsons:

 Lisa: I think it's ironic that Dad saved the day while a slimmer man would have fallen to his death.

Bart: And I think it's ironic that for once Dad's butt prevented the release of toxic ga-

Marge: Bart!

    • Also:

 Homer: So, Mr. Burglar. It seems the cat has been caught by exactly the person who was trying to catch him.

Skinner: How ironic.

    • Then there is this part:

 Quimby: Congratulations, Barney, and enjoy your grand prize: a lifetime supply of Duff beer. (curtains open to reveal a huge truck filled with Duff Beer)

Barney: Huh? [pulls up sleeve] Just hook it to my veins!

This happened after winning the film festival for his entry: A film depicting the hardships of suffering from alcoholism, and even saying outright that he intends to quit drinking in his winning speech.
    • Another good example is the Car Built for Homer. It (in)famously ended up costing $82,000.00. The irony is that it was supposed to be the car designed by the average citizen for the average citizen.
      • Therein lies the problem: Homer is sub-average.
  • WALL-E, a robot who crushes trash into manageable cubes, is at one point found in a trash cube that was made by a larger trash-compactor bot.
    • Also, towards the end, he is crushed to Disney Death by a machine whose purpose has nothing to do with crushing.
  • The Disney's One Saturday Morning block that used to be on ABC should be considered an example. They advertised it as "the best thing to happen to weekends since... Saturday!" and sang that it was like "five hours of summer once a week" in its theme song. But most of the shows on the block were cartoons that took place almost entirely at school, something kids clearly don't associate with Saturday or summer.
    • Court dates are not easily associated with summer either.
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender short "School Time Shipping", Aang, Zuko, Jet, and Haru all compete each other to take Katara to the school dance. In the end, Katara goes with the Blue Spirit, Zuko's alter ego, saying that she "preferred the mysterious type." "I did NOT see that coming," says Zuko as Katara and the spirit walks off into the sunset.
    • Although since the Blue Spirit and Zuko are one and the same, it can be asumed that Zuko won Katara in that round.
  • One Froggy Evening is a perfect example of situational irony. A man wants to make money off a singing frog, only the frog won't perform in front of anyone else, making financial exploitation of its talents impossible.
    • Also contains an example of dramatic/tragic irony at the end, when the Future Construction Worker runs off excitedly with the frog. We know full well what is going to happen...
  • The Coyote/Roadrunner Looney Tunes are cosmic irony incarnate. A good example is the time Wile E. straps himself to a motorized scooter headed for a cliff. He manages to free himself as it goes over, and just before falling, watches the scooter land safely on the other side.
  • In Recess, Spinelli, in an attempt to keep her friends from finding out about her parents (she felt they embarassed her), tried to lie to them by claiming her parents were spies/secret agents. In the ending of the episode, it turns out they actually are secret agents.
  • American Dad has a brief example of historical irony:

 (After a lady gives a speech on how alcohol killed her teenage daughter)

Principal Shepherd: Thank you Mrs. Holiday. Your last name is very misleading given your tragic circumstances.

 Fireman: It looks like the cause of the fire was these stress relief candles.

Chief: Huh. Irony!

  • Cow and Chicken was accused of being a ripoff of Ren and Stimpy. Series creator John K. stated that Cow and Chicken is actually his favorite cartoon from the 90's. It's practically the only one he does like.
  • Superjail is a meta-example. This Bloody Hilarious show by Augenblick Studios was often compared to Metalocalypse for the extreme levels of gore and carnage. However, when the company behind Metalocalypse produced the second season of the show, since Augenblick was unavailable, the bloody contents were toned down greatly.
  • In the Rugrats episode "At The Movies" the babies end up in a movie showing two people kissing. Lil gives us this little gem:

  Lil: I hate kissing movies. Nothing ever happens.

  • The Irony can be found in Team Umizoomi, where it's a show about math and 2 of our 3 main character has only four of all 5 fingers.


Real Life

  • Apple aired advertisements in which they asserted that while PCs were chocablock with viruses, Macs had none.The people's natural reaction to something like this was to write up some brand new viruses (Exclusively for the Mac!) for the benefit of Mac users worldwide.
    • Apple has also asserted that because OS X is fully UNIX compliant, it's very secure. Except security reports and hackers routinely find more holes in it than Windows or Linux.
  • In 1932, Peg Entwistle, a Los Angeles actress, committed suicide by jumping from the big H of the great Hollywood sign, because nobody seemed to want her as an actress. On the same day, finally a letter from a film producer arrived, offering her a role in a movie. She would have played the role of a girl that commits suicide.
  • Sax Rohmer, author of a series of Yellow Peril novels that demonized Asians, died of Asian Flu.
  • Tragic Irony: Fritz Haber, a Jewish German chemist invented hydrogen cyanide as an insecticide. His invention was branded for commercial sale as "Zyklon B" and would be used by Nazi Germany to exterminate 6 million of his people, including members of his family.
    • Haber's tragic irony is far deeper. He did everything within his powers to help Germany win World War I as a patriot. His actions caused the deaths of several million more and made the war far longer and more brutal than had he done nothing. Specifically, he created the Haber process to produce artificial nitrates that let Germany survive without the imported bat guano they were otherwise dependent on for fertilizer and weapons production. Without them, the war would have ended far sooner and more decisively as Germany ran out of food.[3] He also invented chemical warfare as a way to make war too horrible for anyone to think of committing. After the war he won the Nobel Prize for his nitrates work.
  • Bill Cosby's '60s standup album Revenge has multiple cases from his own childhood:
    • In the title track, Bill plans to hit Harold with a snowball, only for Junior Barnes to hit him with one instead (prompting Bill to complain in much the same way Harold always does). Bill ends up saving a snowball in his freezer, but when he goes to use it against Junior Barnes in the middle of July, he discovers his mother had found it and thrown it away. (Undaunted, he spits on Junior Barnes instead.)
    • In "Buck, Buck", Bill is taken in by a prank involving a statue of Frankenstein's monster. When he tries to help play the same prank on Fat Albert, it backfires on him:

  "I forgot I was behind him."

    • Then they take him to the hospital and put him next to "a wino who was run over by two kids". In the previous track, "9th Street Bridge", Bill and Harold ran into a wino in the dark, mistaking him for a monster and trampling him as they ran away.
  • The City of Brotherly Love, where they boo Santa Claus, commit assault with batteries on opposing baseball players, boo Santa Claus, require a prison to be built into their football stadium, and did we mention they booed Santa Claus? The irony is that this nickname isn't sarcastic; it's the literal meaning of the word "Philadelphia". The fact that this does not describe the city in the least means that its invocation will inevitably be verbal irony.
    • The fact that the city was founded by a pacifist Quaker also makes it a historical irony.
  • Though the factual accuracies surrounding this example are debated, it is said that the astrologer Thrasyllus predicted that Caligula had "no more chance of becoming Emperor than of riding a horse across the Gulf of Baiae". As you all know, Caligula was later made emperor, and in order to add insult to injury in regards to Tharasyllius and his prediction, he ordered a temporary floating bridge to be built using ships as pontoons. And then Caligula, a man well known for his inability to swim, proceeded with riding across the Gulf of Baiae while wearing the breastplate of Alexander the Great... The irony, from Thrasyllus perspective, must've so palpable he could've put it on a slice of toast and called it cheese.
  • The 2010 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has the potential to become the worst ecological disaster in American history. While the explosion took place on April 20, the actual sinking - which started the discharge of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf - happened on April 22...Earth Day.
  • There is one notable case in the history of communism, in which the workers united and rose up to fight against an oppressive regime that was controlled by a small group of people, who ruled by intimidation and exploitation, while they themselves lived in luxury, and for the first time successfully gained true democracy. And just as Karl Marx hat intended when he wrote "Workers of the world, unite!", the uprising spread through numerous other countries as well. This took place in Poland in 1989, and the system they opposed and overthrew was the supposedly communist Soviet Union.
  • At one point a group was going to present James Earl Jones with a plaque that contained stamps from a Martin Luther King commemorative series . The original version of the plaque was misinscribed and read: "Thank you, James Earl Ray, for keeping the dream alive." For those who don't get it, James Earl Ray was King's assassin. That would be like hiring a guy named Mark Chapman to play John Lennon. Oh, wait...
  • This happens a lot with fandoms, including but not limited to Computer Wars and Console Wars. Someone with brand loyalty calls a fan of that brand's competition a "sheep who is supporting rich greedy bastards". Oh, the irony.
  • You know how people always laugh when a CEO or executive who earns 100 times more than the average guy says he's unhappy with it? The average American earns over 100 times more than someone in Nigeria, which usually comes up on surveys as the happiest country in the world.
  • Republican politicians tried to stop Alaska from being admitted as a state because they thought it would wind up being a mainly pro-Democratic state, as opposed to Hawaii, which was thought to be mainly pro-Republican. As it happens, they both wound up being admitted in 1959, meaning the first presidential election they would participate in would be the 1960 one. Results? Alaska goes Republican, Hawaii goes Democratic. It's been that way ever since(except for the LBJ landslide of 1964, when Alaska voted Democratic, and the Republican landslides of '72 and '84, when Hawaii voted Republican.)
  • People sure ignore the trope of Vocal Minority and just stereotype Americans as being the source of all loud, boorish, fat, lazy, uncultured, stupid, etc people. Never mind that many, if not all countries; even the "preachers" themselves, also have a good number of these "bad apples" as well, and has been throughout all of human society. Oftentimes, it's not uncommon to hear the No True Scotsman fallacy being thrown around....
  • The 2010 British general election saw a surge in Liberal Democrat popularity. A lot of their votes came from people who voted for one of two reasons: keeping the Tories out, or the Lib Dems' pledge not to increase tuition fees (they got a lot of student votes). Fast forward a few months? Not only have the Lib Dems formed a coalition which got the Conservatives into government, but documents were leaked revealing the the Lib Dems were planning to drop the fees pledge two months before the general election.

    Incidentally, the other main reason for people voting Lib Dem - that they seemed different from the other two mains, more trustworthy, etc - probably also counts as irony, considering that whole planning-to-break-their-main-pledge thing. Nick Clegg is... not a popular man in Britain right now.
  • The state of Massachusetts gets in a triple-whammy for historical irony. It was founded by a group of Protestant fundamentalists, the Puritans, who felt that the Reformation in England didn't go far enough in purging the new Anglican Church of "heretical" Catholic traditions, and wished to fully purify it (hence the name) of such. Once they arrived in America, they set up the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a theocratic state that was highly restrictive in its morality and interpretation of Scripture, to the point where dissidents founded two other colonies (Connecticut and Rhode Island) in order to have religious freedom.
    • Irony #1: Today, the state of Massachusetts is one of the most Catholic states in America, thanks in no small part to The Irish Diaspora.
    • Irony #2: Modern Massachusetts is also heavily associated with secularism and social liberalism (it was the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage), to the point where conservative Moral Guardians have been known to use the phrase "Massachusetts values" in order to describe anything that they don't like.
    • Irony #3: The largest religious body claiming descent from the Puritan congregational churches, the United Church of Christ, is one of the most liberal denominations in the United States, having been the first in the country to come out in support of same-sex marriage rights.
  • As shown in the picture, a certain World War I memorial ended up being heavily damaged by bombings on May 24th of 1941, during World War II. Ironically, World War I was called the War to End All Wars.
  • In World War II: The Nazis had two projects that, had they been completed, would have resulted in the largest and heaviest tanks the world has ever seen. The names of the projects? Maus and Ratte, which is German for "Mouse" and "Rat", respectively, which are among the smallest of mammals.
  • Similarly, in real life, the astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire died because the capsule door had been bolted on; if the door could have been opened, not only could the astronauts have left the burning capsule, but the influx of normal atmosphere (as opposed to the pure oxygen environment inside) would have immediately doused the flames. The irony is that the original plan called for the use of explosive bolts, but NASA refused to use them due to concerns about the risk of having the bolts blow accidentally while in orbit.
    • It is also an example of both tragic and historical irony, as we know now, after a long history of explosive bolts use, that their primary mode of failure is not "blowing up accidentally", but, quite contrary, not blowing up when commanded to. Which is exactly opposite to the NASA's initial fears.
    • The Apollo 1 fire is also tragic and/or historical irony because the door mechanism was changed due in part to the premature firing of explosive bolts during the second Mercury flight, piloted by... Gus Grissom, who died in the Apollo 1 fire.
  • Let us consider the ocean, a gargantuan repository of life's most necessary resource, which is also completely undrinkable for creatures used to fresh water, like humans. Thus the line in the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

 Water, water, everywhere

Nor any drop to drink.


References to and spoofs of using "ironic" incorrectly:

Live-Action TV

  • People misusing this trope appears to be something of a minor Berserk Button for Richard Castle (not entirely surprisingly, seeing as he's a novelist).

 "Whoever killed her also murdered the English language."

    • In one episode, they are interviewing a patient of the victim(a shrink) who is commenting on how ironic it is that she is now dead and is not available to help him. Castle points out that this isn't ironic, it would be ironic if her death made him feel better, it is actually just sad.
  • Thirty Rock did this when Liz's handsome boyfriend got to live outside "the bubble" which allows attractive people to think whatever they do is right:

 Drew: I didn't like it outside the bubble. It was very ironic.

Liz: No, it wasn't - that's not how you use that word.

Drew: Stop it. I want to use "ironic" however I want. I want to stay in the bubble.

 Nina: You know what's ironic? The same day I ran Elliot down, is the same day I ruined his life forever.

Maya: That's not ironic, that's what happened!

Nina: So true.

    • And later:

 Elliot: It's ironic, but you running me over that night may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.

Nina: Elliot, that's not ironic, that's what happened.

  • Once on Roseanne when Dan informs his daughter's boyfriend that the joke he made was not irony.

 Dan: That wasn't irony, it was sarcasm. But it was ironic that you didn't know the difference.

    • (It wasn't.)

Web Comics

Web Original

 Grif: So now we're forced to work together. How ironic.

Simmons: No, that's not ironic. Ironic would be if we had to work together to hurt each other.

Donut: No. Ironic would be instead of that guy kidnapping Lopez, Lopez kidnapped him.

Sarge: I think it would be ironic if our guns didn't shoot bullets, but instead squirted a healing salve that cured all wounds.

Caboose: I think it would be ironic if everyone was made of iron.

[Beat]

Church: Okay. We all agree that while the current situation is not totally ironic, the fact that we have to work together is odd in an unexpected way that defies our normal circumstances. Is everyone happy with that?

  • In Dilbert Newsletter #49 Scott Adams discusses how people seem to think that "irony" means "unlikely, and bad."

Western Animation

  • In the Futurama episode "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings", the robot devil throughout the episode describes the results of his schemes as ironic, to which Bender kept correcting him: "It's not ironic; it's just coincidental!" or "It's not ironic; it's just mean!" Only at the episode's musical ending did Bender note that the robot devil finally executed the dictionary meaning of the word: "The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention! Now THAT... IS... irony!"
  • Simpsons:

 Homer: How ironic that now he's blind after a life of enjoying being able to see.

Homer had missed the much more obvious (and possibly actually ironic) joke of a Private Eye having been blinded.
    • Another episode:

 Homer: (poetically) Well Malloy, it appears that the cat burglar has been caught by the very person who was trying to catch him.

Principal Skinner: (flatly) How ironic.

  • In Jimmy Two-Shoes, Beezy exclaims that something is ironic. He then pauses and wonders if he actually knows what irony is. Later in the episode, he's still wondering if he got it right.

Notes

  1. Rather, sarcasm is a form of irony. Your English teacher called it "verbal irony".
  2. Assuming she knew that what she meant was "Your empire will be destroyed"; the Delphic Oracle was famous for giving answers that would be right no matter what. In this case, she would be right in assuming that one empire or the other would be destroyed, since they were both great powers that would fight each other to the death.
  3. In Haber's defense, the Haber process is one of the two reasons--the other being improved healthcare--that there was such a huge boom in the world population in the 20th century. With good health but no mass-produced artificial fertilizer, there wouldn't be enough food for everyone. Literally billions can credit their existence to him.
  4. One newspaper summed up his campaign as "Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. Our future lies ahead."
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