Friday, April 17, 2009

The Meaning of Hipsterdom

Hipsters hate being labeled as such, and they sure hate being discussed. I will just go ahead and say that I am included in this group, I guess. More so than any other group?

I revisited Marginal Utility, and found some juicy new articles up. Some excerpts:


“Hipsterism,” as I tried to argue in this post, is more a fear of irrelevance or phoniness than it is an aesthetic one would purposely adopt. It is the shadow that passes over us when we begin to tentatively plan to do something unconventional, the chill that tells us that maybe it would be safer to do nothing rather than become one of them, trying for cool but failing. That is to say, “hipsterism” is the term for that sinking feeling that cool is at stake in any endeavor, and that nothing can be pursued for its own sake anymore. Of course that is not true, but it often feels like it is, and the image of a stereotype arriviste hipster is there to personify that feeling. And the final twist is that once we begin to fear becoming hipsters, begin thinking primarily about the way what we are doing will be perceived by others who somehow can see through us to the roots of our motivations, we become at that very moment hipsters ourselves.

And, why do we even talk about it?

It boils down to a question of where a generation of educated, privileged, creative class sorts of people are ending up. As a group, those who wind up being hipsters tend to have a good deal of opportunity, so if hipsterism is a kind of psychological/cultural zombie state (suggested by the Time Out New York article, and the Adbusters article from a couple years ago “Hipsters: The Dead End of Western Civilization”) then there is a vast amount of potential being wasted.

Those of us who routinely write about “culture,” including cultural ephemera, do so exactly because we’re trying to figure out what (if anything) its impact will be on wider society and the way we live our own lives. Culture routinely has a more immediate impact on us than politics does, but it’s often harder to pin that impact down because it’s more subtle and variable (which also means that people are more likely to disagree on what’s important based on where they live, who they interact with, etc.) It’s a vicious cycle, to a certain extent: when no one is aggressive in calling attention to something in culture and explaining what its significance is, people get progressively more resistant to the idea that anything cultural is really that lasting or important — because they certainly can’t see what its significance could be!

I think the way out is to grow out of it. Once you have a family and kids, assuming you take your roles seriously, you really don't have much time to care about identity by way of interests, fashion and particular tastes. I look forward to that freedom, as I feel like I'm running a race that isn't worth it at all. It's the easy thing to care about- it makes me world so much smaller and managable. It's especially not worth it to even be aware of this culture, I think. Find a way to feel good about yourself, and then move on, because there are so many other issues outside of yourself! And those hipsters who really, really love culture could hope to become successful and influential tastemakers. Do it for a job. But that is a highly unlikely outcome for most.

1 comment:

kristi said...

good reads