But you can't determine the ethos of an entire age by looking at a sub-sub-sub-sub-culture. Rather, there are far more prominent indicators like, for example, a society's cultural output. Take that into account, and a different picture emerges. The success of filmmakers like Judd Aptatow, the increasing popularity of ultra-sincere indie artists from Arcade Fire to Vampire Weekend, and the proliferation of wholesome, though not traditional, family-centered television shows like Modern Family point to a rise in what some call the "New Sincerity."
If that phrase sounds familiar, it may be because Professor Wampole brings it up toward the end of her essay as an example of an attempt to banish irony. She notes that the New Sincerity has been around since the 1980s, and is a response to "postmodern cynicism, detachment and meta-referentiality." She's right about that, and the examples she cites—David Foster Wallace, Wes Anderson, and Cat Power—are right too. But the New Sincerity failed, she tells us. She wants us to take her word for this, even though each of her examples still wield a great deal of cultural influence and continue to model the New Sincerity even, in the case of Wallace, posthumously.
Now, I'm not one of those "irony is dead" people (otherwise I wouldn't be having so much fun with irony here), and I really don't like the descriptor "post-ironic," which came to popularity in the wake of September 11, 2001. Rather, I like how Jesse Thorn, host of the PRI show Bullseye and an early promoter of the New Sincerity, describes the ethos as a joining of irony and sincerity. He says it better: "Irony and sincerity combined like Voltron, to form a new movement of astonishing power." Irony is not dead—it's (ahem) a useful rhetorical tool—but it's certainly not the ethos of our age.
Looking back all the way to the 1950s and tracking the trajectory of pop culture, I do see an over-emphasis on irony for sure, but early in the aughts I see a change. Maybe it was September 11, and maybe it was that combined with the pendulum swing of time, but whatever the case, around the turn of the century, something began to shift. Today, vulnerability shows up in pop music where bravado and posturing once ruled—see artists across every genre, from Conor Oberst to Lady Gaga to Frank Ocean. Television sitcoms and "bromance" movies depict authentic characters determined to live good lives. And respected literary authors like Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, and Michael Chabon write sincere, popular books with a strong sense of morality.
All across the pop culture spectrum, the emphasis on sincerity and authenticity that has arisen has made it un-ironically cool to care about spirituality, family, neighbors, the environment, and the country. And pollsters find this same trend in the up-and-coming generation from which Wampole culls her hipsters, Millennials. A recent Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll survey found that among Millennials, six out of 10 prioritized being close to God and having a good family life above anything else. For those in Generation X, family was still important, but the second priority was not spirituality—it was making a lot of money. Clearly, a change has been underway.