Posts Tagged ‘hipsters’

Still Betasked

Posted: November 17, 2010 in Braak
Tags: , , ,

Plus, it turns out that people pay money, sometimes, for the short critical writing that I like to do, so I am trying to sell some of it.  We’ll see how that goes!

In the meantime, check out this:

Paul diFillipo interviews Thomas M. Disch

Thomas M. Disch, now the late Thomas M. Disch, was a prolific science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer, in addition to being a poet and, perhaps most interestingly, a rigorous historian in the subject of SF literature.


Brent linked to this article from Adbusters. It’s called “Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization” (really? Hyperbole? You’re breaking out hyperbole that quickly? Huh.), by Douglas Haddowe, and it is somehow NOT an old entry from, like, 2003. When The Hipster Handbook came out. Back when making fun of hipsters was kinda fun, not weirdly anachronistic.

The question is, “Why bother?” But who knows, maybe the author’s got some new spin on the subject. Or maybe, he just wants to ask antagonistic, borderline-retarded questions that won’t help anything:

“So… this is a hipster party?” I ask the girl sitting next to me. She’s wearing big dangling earrings, an American Apparel V-neck tee, non-prescription eyeglasses and an inappropriately warm wool coat.

Yeah, just look around you, 99 percent of the people here are total hipsters!”
“Are you a hipster?”
“Fuck no,” she says, laughing back the last of her glass before she hops off to the dance floor.
There’s two ways of reading this. In one, the writer’s struck on the great irony that hipsters generally hate other hipsters, refusing to admit that they themselves, are what they hate. Then there’s option 2: This girl just listened to a weird guy she doesn’t know ask her a boneheaded question, and so decided to fuck with him using superior wit and guile.

Later, he tries to wax philosophical on scenes and trends, but it gets away from him:

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.” An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning.

Yep. That’s it. Culture is officially done now. Because it’s now defined by a hard-to-classify idea – “Hipster” – which by virtue of its absorption of various cultural tastes, can no longer create anything new.

Nevermind that the author actually just described how ideas form. Civilization is ending! ENDING, I TELLS YA!

Okay, here’s my favorite part:

I ask one of the girls if her being at an art party and wearing fake eyeglasses, leggings and a flannel shirt makes her a hipster. “I’m not comfortable with that term,” she replies.

Her friend adds, with just a flicker of menace in her eyes, “Yeah, I don’t know, you shouldn’t use that word, it’s just…”
“No… it’s just, well… if you don’t know why then you just shouldn’t even use it.”
“Ok, so what are you girls doing tonight after this party?”
“Ummm… We’re going to the after-party.”
After-party? AFTER-PARTY?! What kinda crazy mixed-up stuff is this, after-party? These hipsters, even when they’re not at a party, they’re at a party! Ahh, fooey!

What makes it my favorite part is the “Ummm.” Once again, couple ways you can read it. “Ummm” as in, “Duuuuhhhh, like, y’know…” or “Ummm…are you maybe not terribly bright? It’s Saturday night, it’s 1 in the morning, and we’re young. So…no, not heading home just yet, gramps. And you can’t come, because you just insulted my fashion sense and my intelligence in one fell swoop.”

But the author must be a smoother talker than he lets on with his pithy line of questioning. He does get to go to this bizarre rite of passage the native urban hipster calls an “after-party.” And here’s where we get to the meat of the matter:

“He’s 17 and he lives for the scene!” a girl whispers in my ear as I sneak a photo of a young kid dancing up against a wall in a dimly lit corner of the after-party.

Ah. There’s the problem! The author’s just confused. All this time he thought he hated hipsters, but actually, he hates teenagers. See, if a girl speaks in awe – and in rhyme – of a 17-year-old who clearly seems like a bit of a shitbag … you went to the wrong party, my friend. At this point, if you just go back through the article and replace the word “hipster” with “teenager,” the whole thing makes a lot more sense.

In many ways, the lifestyle promoted by hipsterdom is highly ritualized. Many of the party-goers who are subject to the photoblogger’s snapshots no doubt crawl out of bed the next afternoon and immediately re-experience the previous night’s debauchery. Red-eyed and bleary, they sit hunched over their laptops, wading through a sea of similarity to find their own (momentarily) thrilling instant of perfected hipster-ness.

And about here’s where he just gives up on any sense of journalism so he can write like an asshole. “Wading through a sea of similarity to find their own thrilling instant of perfected hipster-ness”? THEY’RE LOOKING AT PHOTOS THEY TOOK LAST NIGHT, YOU JACKASS.

I do feel bad for the girl with the glasses who said she wasn’t “comfortable with the term.” Which is a little silly. If she’d just said “I don’t grant your premise,” the writer would have been forced to talk to her like a person – rather than a collection of kitchy accessories – and may have been able to get a decent conversation on the subject out of her. But instead, he aimed to fill a narrative that has already been covered enough times to spawn a couple of books five years ago.

See, the reason “hipster” is such a nebulous, sometimes-offensive, and usually weightless term is that unlike hippies or punks, which the writer points to in contrast, there really isn’t “hipsterism.” There’s no ethos. “Hipsters don’t believe anything” is a wild fallacy. Hipsters believe lots of things – many of which contradict other things, because “hipster” is really just an aesthetic sensibility. That’s it. There is no “hipster belief system,” so it’s just clothes, man.

Stylistically speaking, skinny jeans = hipster. And boot-cut jeans = hipster. But the skinny jeans kid may be an artist or a dancer, and the boot-cut jeans kid may very well be a pretty solid accountant. Or, hell, reverse it. The jeans tell you NOTHING about the value system he has.

“All hipsters love irony.” No, people with good senses of humor love irony. I work with a huge collection of dorks with terribly ironic senses of humor.

I have a lot of fun making fun of tight pants and needless scarves, and disaffected poses (they sound like this: “Eeuuunnng”). But I think it’s time the good people at AdBusters – ADBUSTERS, WHOSE AUDIENCE IS MADE UP OF HIPSTERS! – to maybe take a step back here and realize they just published an article that means about as much as my own jokes about tight pants.