UPDATE: Why do you people like this essay so much? It’s quickly becoming my most popular post, with several hundred people reading it each day. I don’t understand that. It rambles and takes forever to get to the point. And I’m not even sure what my point actually was, now that I think about it. Can someone explain the appeal?
I rail against hipsters in this one, but I really don’t hate hipster kids. As one commenter pointed out, all kids are hipsters in one way or another. I think what irked me about this group of kiddos was that they were just vapid and stupid. But then again, that’s all kids. Heck, that’s most adults I know.
Maybe I was just in a cranky mood, but I’ll always be annoyed at people who appropriate cultural icons without having experienced them, or at least having some understanding of what they’re going on about. My problem with hipsters isn’t general. I don’t loathe every kid in vintage clothes and ironic t-shirts. I only hate the ones I hate.
Just don’t ask me to explain why. I don’t think I know, but there’s some truth to be found in the words of someone much funnier than myself…
“One way to tell if your Frank Sinatra hat isn’t working for you is if you’re not Frank Sinatra.”
Words to live by, hipster kids. Words to live by.
Earlier this week, it occurred to me that I really don’t like people. More specifically, I don’t like what pop culture and advertising has done to people. Even more specifically, I don’t like what people have allowed pop culture and advertising to do to them. My fiancée (And no, that’s not a typo. She’s my fiancée, and I’m her fiancé. Look it up, and stop proving how stupid you are by trying to correct me.) were trying hard to enjoy our dinners despite the brackish horde of youth sitting in the booth behind us, assaulting our delicate eardrums with an incomprehensible cacophony of brain-dead, waterheaded inanity.
There were three of them altogether – two guys and one girl – and each of them gave off the distinct odor of people who believe that items like soap and shampoo and general hygiene are things that happen to other people. As such, they appeared largely unwashed, with clumps of stringy, frizzed hair that put to mind what one might expect to find tangled around the diseased and bloated corpse of a beached mermaid, assuming merfolk are real and don’t believe in using Product. Salt water is murder on the old follicles, dontchaknow?
So anyway, we were sitting there, like I said, and doing our best to try and enjoy our meal, despite the odious death cloud of stink that was wafting over our table from theirs, like some terrible low pressure system moving across Tornado Alley. That wasn’t the worst part, though. No, the ghastly stench of body odor combining with the heavy scent of diner grease mixed together with the sticky high notes of maple syrup was not the worst part. That oughta tell you something right there, kiddos – but I’ll go on, so that you can truly understand the depth of my revulsion and horror.
I don’t hate all people. Not really. Not all the time, anyway. It’s just that some people – and their numbers are growing at a geometric rate – have just been so warped and maimed by the jagged edge of disenfranchisement that they no longer resemble people, so much as they do dolls. Empty, ugly dolls with empty, ugly minds. They’ve been so distanced from society that they eventually gave up somewhere along the way, and surrendered the animus of their humanity to the trendsetting tyranny of Madison Avenue. At some particularly low point in their miserable lives, they must have looked up at their television screens and began pleading to the eldritch phosphorous gods of Red, Green, and Blue to have mercy on their souls, while they prostrated themselves in front of the glowing nightmare faces of nip-tucked bodies and Joker-faced smiles, and begged to be included.
You know the sort of person I’m describing. You’ve seen them before. They’re everywhere. They are in the winding queues of movie theaters across the country on the opening night of The Next Big Thing. They are wandering the country’s shopping malls and thrift stores, carefully choosing just the right combination of contemporary style and vintage fashion to create the perfectly crafted look of the sloppy, devil-may-care hipster. They are in your restaurants and churches and schools. They stand behind retail countertops and glare at you with judgmental hate and mocking scorn. They are the murderers of authenticity, and the usurpers of culture. They exist merely to consume iconic cultural imagery and reflect it back as a hollow, mirror-flipped inversion they call their own, personal styles. They pick and choose and steal from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, robbing those decades of meaningful art and music and film before appropriating it all for themselves – not as expressions of meaning or significance, but as simple, dunderheaded fashion. A way to stand out and stand apart. To deny being labeled and categorized. To be unique and special. To be just like all the other hipster rebels and trendsetters, who “have defanged, skinned and consumed” the dangerous visions of others “into a repertoire of meaninglessness”.
What’s worse than hipster fashion and hipster stench, is hipster conversation. As Brittany and I sat there in that diner the other night, listening in on the three hippayuppies and their incessant bibblebabble, we discovered that they can talk with each other at length about things like life and love – but only in the context of something else. Something trendy. Something marketable. Fashionable.
To my horror and disgust, this group of trendbucking trendies sat down and immediately began talking about World of Warcraft. They went on about this sword and that sword, this armor and that spell, and about monsters and dungeons and quests. They argued over the game. They agreed over the game. They bonded over the game. They lived over the game. But, not to pick on WoW players too much, I’m happy to report that they eventually moved on to other topics. Soon, their conversation turned to movies. Movies and criticism.
Here were three people who God mercilessly beat with a Texas-sized ugly stick before ripping their personalities out right along with any capacity for actual talent – and they had the audacity to try and criticize someone else’s hard work. According to these idjits, Robert Downey Jr. apparently not only “looked the part” but he “acted the part” while filming Iron Man. In contrast, Christian Bale neither had the “grizzled, hard-living look” of John Conner when starring in the latest Terminator movie, nor did he have the “acting chops” to “accurately portray the angst John would have over Judgment Day.” Things kept on like this, but only got worse.
Eventually, Hipster X was arguing with Hipster Y by way of stealing quotes from Kevin Smith, and Hipster Girl wasn’t taking sides. In fact, she would repeatedly pipe up to tell them how wrong they both were, before saying something about Star Wars or Thundercats, and then quietly lowering her head to get back down to the bleeps and bloops of her Nintendo DS. She did say something about how District 9 was a rip-off of Half-Life at some point, though – which pissed off Hipster X (or was it Y?) to no end, resulting in a ten-minute dissertation on the absolute storytelling genius of the Half-Life videogame saga. Seriously.
As the meal winded down, their talk grew heavier. It started with a reverent and thorough examination of all things Harry Potter before the subject turned to love – but not love as any of them had ever experienced it. No, they could only talk about such a heady subject through the context of other things. This time, they chose music. “Which song do you think best describes love?” one of them asked. The answers were always wrong, of course. Each hipster was right unto themselves, and took great pleasure in discussing exactly why it is that their chosen song was the most genuine. The most pure. The most disconnected from real love and actual reality, which meant it was undoubtedly being ironic – the ultimate symbol of meaning to the hipster.
Hipsters are vapid, hollow-headed people who have intentionally disenfranchised themselves from society in an effort to become as enfranchised and accepted as possible. They express their disgust with pop culture by saturating themselves in it to the point where they no longer have the capacity to experience life as it happens to them, and can only find meaning through their meaningless appropriation of cultural iconography. They don’t know what love is, only what love songs are. They know movies that tell them what struggle and perseverance mean, but they’ve never struggled to persevere against anything. They don’t understand revolution, but they love Che Guevara. They can’t create art or music or literature, but they can critique it. They take anything with substance and whittle away thought until only fashion is left. They consume, they appropriate, and their live their lives through the detached lens of simulation and fantasy.
I don’t know what to do about these people. There really is no way to reach them, as they seem to live in some sort of simulacrum universe where nothing is entirely real, and where consequences don’t exist. They don’t think beyond themselves, and they don’t consider other people except with regard to how other people affect their own lives. Everything exists to serve them. The struggles and trials of others are the fountainhead of their fashion. Their identities are bound to real societal contributions, made by real people with real lives, and the hipsters trivialize them into meaningless etceteras. They float about in their judgmental groups, scorning the non-hipsters even as they depend upon them to supply a steady diet of culture for consumption. They take everything. They contribute nothing. They are an embarrassing brown stain upon the world’s white dress, and it makes one embarrassed to go out in public.
The funniest part about my hipster encounter the other night was when one of them began trying to pass off Kevin Smith quotes as his own. Not surprisingly, Kevin has become a sort of slacker idol to these hordes of waterheads, despite how much he talks down to them in his films. Trust me, the man is far from a slacker. He just panders to the mushbrained crowd in some sort of diabolical attempt to trick them into hating themselves. Clerks wasn’t about embracing mundanity; it was about transcending it. (Clerks 2 replayed this theme, only louder and in color, in the hopes that the audience might pay attention this time around.) Mallrats predicted the rise of the hipster from the ashes of the grunge-age slacker without passing judgment on either, but while cautioning against the latter. The hipster is the result of the dead-end of consumer culture, where postmodernism has played itself out and irony is no longer ironic. Simulation is reality, and understanding isn’t necessary. Image is everything. Fashion is personality. Flaunting consumption is the ultimate expression of self.
The Hipster Creed:
Spend. Buy. Advertise.
Be different, just like everyone else!
© 2009 – 2015, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.