An Urban Dictionary entry for it is what it is shows that this phrase is deeply irritating to some people.
A trite, overused and infuriatingly meaningless cliche that is utilized by provincials who think they are adding some deep, meaningful insight during a discussion when all they are offering is senseless, unwarranted repetitiveness to what would otherwise be a far better conversation had they not shown the shallowness of the gene pool they spawned from by using this asininely useless and redundant phrase to begin with.
An interesting conversation is being had, when quite suddenly:
Robin: My house burned down last night. It is what it is.
Aidan: Fuck you, provincial.
Wow, lighten up, dude.
Me, I like the phrase's meaninglessness. Zenlike, it points to the this'ness of is'ness (a truth'ness that will make a lot more sense to you if you're stoned or drunk, which is the best state of mind to read Church of the Churchless blog posts like this).
If you live in a part of the world where it is what it is isn't as common as here in the United States, give this informative Slate article a read: "It Is What It Is. But What Is It?"
As the article says, this phrase is often heard in sports interviews, such as when a basketball player is asked about his missed free throw with one second left in the game that would have won a national championship for his team.
"It is what it is, man. What more can I say?"
The author of the Slate piece decries this sort of talk as not adding anything to what we already know about a situation. That's true. Which to me isn't a drawback; it's what makes It is what it is such a marvelously profound commentary on the human condition.
Almost always people try to make more out of something than is obviously evident.
Offhand comments supposedly have a deeper meaning. A beautiful sunset is thought to be a reflection of what life is all about. Chance meetings are considered to be part of one's destiny.
Religiosity is a prime example of humankind's propensity to prefer it isn't what it is.
For example, Jesus wasn't simply another man of his time who was crucified on a cross for running afoul of the authorities. This is the apparent physical fact, but Christians ladle a big heaping mound of blind belief on top of it, making an is into an isn't.
Religions can't survive on it is what it is. They thrive on dogmas which regard the evident truths of this world as being an illusion, maya, a deception, a veil hiding divine reality.
Religious believers also love to make more out of an experience than meets the eye. A baseball player hits a home run. Before rounding the bases, he points skyward toward an imaginary God -- something I find hugely more irritating than a simple "That home run is what it is." (See my "Please God, no more sky-pointing.")
If someone has an urge to cancel a flight that later crashes; or has an unusual remission of a normally fatal cancer; or runs into a long-lost friend after taking an unplanned turn in a strange city...there's nothing wrong, and a lot right, with just saying It is what it is.
Sure, it feels good to think that we're special. Believing that we are able to discern hidden depths to the shallow material world that other people wade around in puffs up the spiritual ego.
But there's also something unspecially special about not viewing life through a Meaning Magnifying Glass. Just taking things as they are. Not making more or less of them than they seem to be. Embracing is rather than could be or maybe.