BIRDEMIC and the Dichotomy of Ironic Hipster Fan Luv

Lucky, lucky Los Anglicans. Your cup runneth over: Tarkovsky festivals, the approaching Hollywood Forever film season, Kenneth Anger screenings… and soon, an encore presentation of Birdemic: Shock and Terror:

Only last month, Cinefamily housed the drunkenly enthusiastic world premiere of this cinematic Tour de Farce. The screening was hosted by Tim and Eric in cahoots with Severin Films, who turned the entire West Hollywood theater into “a temporary aviary with epic displays of Birdemic special effects, props and costumes that… put the Smithsonian to shame.”

Some background on the film from Severin’s official press release:

Birdemic, described by [writer/producer/director] James Nguyen as a romantic thriller, is a horror/action/special-effects-driven love story about a young couple trapped in a small Northern California town under siege by homicidal birds. Birdemic also tackles topical issues of global warming, avian flu, world peace, organic living, sexual promiscuity and lavatory access.

Nguyen, a 42-year-old Vietnamese refugee, wrote, cast and shot the film over the course of four years using salary from his day job as a mid-level software salesman in Silicon Valley. The film pays homage to Hitchcock’s The Birds via location shooting in Mission Bay, California, as well as an appearance by star of Tippi Hedren. When rejected for an official screening slot at Sundance, Nguyen spent eight days driving up and down the festivals nearby streets in a van covered with fake birds, frozen blood and Birdemic posters, while loudspeakers blared the sounds of eagle attacks and human screams.

Severin’s executive producers took one look at Nguyen’s labor of love and bought the rights to Birdemic for the next 20 years.

After the premiere screening last month, Nguyen and Birdemic co-stars Alan Bagh and Whitney Moore stayed on hand for a lively Q&A session with their soused and roaring public. They laughed, they cried, it was better than Cats. Now, thanks to popular demand, Birdemic is hitting the open road. Screenings are scheduled in thirteen cities across the continental US, starting April 2nd. Not since The Room or Troll 2 has a film been so poised for Ironic Hipster Fan Luv.

Hey… can we talk about Ironic Hipster Fan Luv for a sec?

Or not. In fact, I’m going to put the rest of this post under a cut, because I honestly don’t know if its ouroboric tone will be interesting, or merely irritating, to the majority of our readers. If you’re not already rolling your eyes with your arms folded across your chest, I invite you to read on!

Ironic Hipster Fan Luv is a term I use to describe the phenomenon of large groups of fairly young, fairly shrewd people latching onto certain “naive” or “unsophisticated” creative works, and lavishing them with an oddly self-conscious, obsessive, yet backhanded, praise. Such luv is often expressed with elaborate, even theatrical group PDA in the tradition of Rocky Horror. Only something’s… off. A little bit mean-spirited, maybe? Or just painfully self-conscious.

Recently, Matt Fraction shared a link to a brilliant edition of The Best Show where radio host Tom Scharpling fields a satirical call-in from a reigning hipster prince of Williamsburg. Take a listen (bit starts at 1:14) and tell me if the guy’s jeering, wretched “it’s so awesome… I mean, retarded… I mean, awesome” diatribe isn’t definitive of Ironic Hipster Fan Luv in every way.

Before going any further, I gotta ask: what do you think a hipster is, anyway?

In his widely read Time Out article Why the Hipster Must Die, Christian Lorentzen posits that hipsters –in the modern, non-Beat vernacular– are those who “fetishize the authentic”.

They trawl for signifiers from all of the “fringe movements of the postwar era—beat, hippie, punk, even grunge”, drawing on the “cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity” as well as queer culture. Then they “regurgitate them with a winking inauthenticity” and well-developed sense of irony. [via]

Pop Matters writer Rob Horning hypothesizes that hipsters are the “embodiment of postmodernism as a spent force, revealing what happens when pastiche and irony exhaust themselves as aesthetics.” LAist editor Elise Thompson conjectures in her passionate op-ed piece Why Does Everyone Hate Hipsters Assholes that hipsters are “soldiers of fortune of style” who grab whatever’s trendy and wear it for a while –both literally and figuratively– without giving much thought to what the style really means. She laments:

They don’t seem to subscribe to any particular philosophy or to have an allegiance to any particular genre of music. Whatever it is, as long as it is the latest and the coolest and the hippest, they have to have it.

I guess what it comes down to is that once upon a time, we had really good cake. It was good and it was good for you. We were waging a war agains Reaganomics, nuclear weapons and the Star Wars defense system. We had a solid left-wing agenda. We had seen the scars of Viet Nam and learned from them. We were picking up the mantle that the hippies dropped when they all bought yuppie “Beamers” and became “the man”.

We had the Minutemen. We had the Descendents. The Ramones were all still alive. The fashion was fun, and goofy, and like bandannas in our back pockets, it let us know who each other were. It helped us find each other in a hostile society.

It was fucking cake, and the blue hair and the cartoonish clothes were just icing on the cake.

I think the reason people hate the hipsters so much is that they only have the icing. And who wants to just sit down to a big bowl of icing? It makes your teeth hurt.

 

Does her excerpt remind you of anything? Joshua Ellis voiced some personal observations of similar cultural shifts in an essay published in Issue #04 of Coilhouse Magazine: Children by the Millions Wait for Alex Chilton. [Which was also posted in full on the blog a couple weeks back, and now, thanks to a surprising turn of events, can be downloaded as a PDF from the official Pixies website.]

Another Wiki-cited social commentator, Zachary Kamel, calls hipster culture “fashionable nihilism.” Viewed from either side of a Vice Do’s and Dont’s column, that seems like an apt assessment. Yikes.

Is it true? Have the more insecure, oversaturated and jaded among us moved beyond shouting into the void to merely snickering at it? Or worse yet, shrugging? This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a “meh” in a mesh hat?

It’s no wonder no one ever wants to admit they’re a hipster. Have you ever met someone who was proud to wear that mantle? (If you have, well, wow, I’m impressed. That’s like Irony³.) Hipster is a bad word, a damnation, a label intended to negate the dismissive and jeer the mocking. Nobody wants to admit they’re insincere on a bone-deep level.

But, as sharper tools than I have said before, “I’m rubber, you’re glue!” Meaning, if you’re overly quick to slap that label on others, there’s a fair chance you may be one yourself, or cynical enough to be a kissin’ cousin.

A clarification: if you’re a fan of the Shaggs’ music or Judith Scott’s sculptures or Walter Potter’s taxidermy dioramas or Henry Darger’s saga of the Vivian Girls, and you’re pissed that I’d call you a Bad Bad Name for it, please relax. That’s not what I’m talking about when it comes to Ironic Hipster Fan Luv. If you’re a hipster for appreciating “unselfconscious” art because you think it’s refreshing and inspired (as opposed to “stupid” or “retarded”), then I’m a hipster, too. We can be hipsters together.

Or… not? A love of offbeat fare should not an automatic hipster make, should it? I was discussing hipsterness with some friends the other day; one of them chimed in with this:

Here’s my general problem with hipsters: a fundamental part of their existence (perhaps the fundamental part) is mocking something other people genuinely love, while attempting to take that thing away from the people who genuinely love it.

Back in the old days, [we] just identified protohipsters as people who thought they were just too cool for the room, but kept showing up, anyway.

Maybe an obsession with art brut doesn’t make one a hipster, as long as there’s no sniggering or aloof posturing involved. But what about kitsch and camp? If you want to duck that dreaded label, are the tchtochkes off limits? No Remains of the Day lunch box for you? No McPhee catalog? How about a love of “so bad it’s good” fare that’s so ridiculous, you can’t help but giggle? Or, alternately, something so culturally outdated and foreign, or even just plain certifiable, you’d need to have lived off the grid in a cave your whole life, or atop some pristine, DIRECTV dish-free mountaintop, not to catch a whiff of the irony? When and how does the love become too tainted?

What to say, what to do, when this tainted love has been a time-honored tradition among me and mine ever since our fervent Public Access TV bootleg tape-trading days? I’m always cautious in how I present this love to others, because there’s a fine line between laughing with someone, and laughing at them. More rabid group displays of Ironic Hipster Fan Luv tend to obliterate that line, publicly and painfully. (Ever go to a Wesley Willis concert? ‘Nuff said.)

I have trouble believing that anyone who creates sincere, vulnerable art purely out of a desire to communicate enjoys being picked apart, or worse yet, outright mocked for it in a public sphere. (See Mark Borchardt’s blitzed, heartbreaking rant in American Movie, where he voices this fear of exposure directly to the camera lens that’s been documenting his artistic struggle for months.)


(Toothpaste For Dinner)

As a documenter of culture, does it make a difference that my championing the likes of Mark Gormley and Fred & Sharon Spencer and Shooby Taylor stems not from a desire to mock or debase, but from genuine fondness and a hunger to share creative output that, albeit wonky and guffaw-inducing, is also delightful to me because it feels so pure and unaffected? Am I, too, guilty of fetishizing the authentic? Alas, there can be no doubt: the answer is yes. Should I stop? Would Mark Gormley want me to? Would Fred or Sharon? Regardless, should I have done my small part to protect them by not talking about them online, where a majority of individuals will offer them nothing but a pointed finger and a Nelson laugh?

If, in fact, my guilt by dissemination drops the H-bomb on my head, will I find redemption in riding a penny farthing bike or playing the theremin (according to many, the kitschiest instrument there is, save the keytar) for no reason other than I unreservedly love doing these things? If I involve myself in “oddball” creative pursuits only because they give me uncomplicated joy on fundamental levels, with no trace of winky-nudgey, will my past sins of insincerity be absolved? Or does only further damnation await me because it’s not enough to be earnest when I’m also self-aware enough to realize how “quirky” my choice of activities appears to be?

What about loving creepy/goofy retro-satirizing humor? Does that alone make one a hipster? I wear tee shirts with unicorns humping on them. I think Lenora Claire’s Erotic Golden Girls art gallery phenomenon is fantastic. The schadenfreude of Keyboard Cat (non-snuff editions, anyway) makes me pee my pants a little, and I’ll admit it: I thought Napoleon Dynamite was hilarious. Am I damned for all time, branded eternally with that scarlet H? Should I give a shit?

Wait a minute, isn’t giving a shit enough to keep one from being a true hipster, those poster children of the dismissive shrug, the wan “whatever”? Maybe worrying that you’re a hipster is like worrying you’re insane– no one who actively, deeply questions their own behavior past a certain level could actually be that monstrous thing they most fear.

Do you ever stagger home from the pinball bar after a night of singing the theme songs from 80s sitcoms, secretly worried you might be a hipster, too? It’s okay, you can tell me. I won’t judge. Perhaps we should become allies, banding together as lepers. Like the supposed 80% of America’s adult population that furtively suffers from one form of herpes or another, let us take comfort in our diseased solidarity. We may be shunned, scorned, mocked publicly. But we are all, first and foremost, human beings, and we are legion. A silent, damned majority.

If one is to be damned as a hipster, who exactly does the damning? By what authority? Who are they to cast the first snark, er, stone? What if, instead of trying to deflect blame by scapegoating those around us with even more extreme hipster traits, we accepted the possibility that we might be hipsters, too? THE FIRST STEP TO RECOVERY IS ADMITTING YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. What if hipsterism could be combated and cured? Purged from the system, like syphilis? What then? Would you want to be cleansed? Or is the next phase of hipster cultural awareness to embrace it and revel in it? Will it become hip to be damned?

Is irony the new sincerity the new irony the new sincerity the new irony the nGAH SOMEBODY SLAP ME!

Phew. Enough hypotheticals for one day.

It’s true, I’m overthinking all of this. Still, I’m genuinely curious to know if this is a self-examining line of thinking that any Coilhouse readers have also traveled down. I can’t be the only one whose perception of certain cultural trends and customs has changed in recent years.

The internalized irony winds within me “as pleasant and relaxed as a coiled rattlesnake”. The same self-awareness that fuels my wistful escapist’s love for all things Camp and Wonky has deepened, and now I can’t help but see the inherent imbalance created by obsessive, tittering fan culture built up around “naive” work.


Isn’t it ironic, dontcha think? A little too ironic.

Here’s the bottom line in regards to Birdemic and group displays of Ironic Hipster Fan Luv: I feel protective of the creators who gift us (and they are gifts, no matter how you look at it– heartfelt creative expression is always a gift) with “so bad it’s good” fare. On the one hand, I’m glad that Nguyen’s making a profit off his hard work. On the other, I wonder if it doesn’t wound him on some level to know that folks love the movie because it’s so bad, it’s good.  That he’s a Florence Foster Jenkins; an Ed Wood. (Then again, who knows, I could be selling Nguyen short– maybe he’s a culture-lampooning mastermind on par with the likes of Andy Kaufman, and laughing all the way to the bank.)

As much as part of me is curious to attend a live screening of Birdemic, a larger, arguably more empathetic part of me is certain that such an event can only turn into rabid frenzy of IHFL, and at the risk of sounding like I take everything way too seriously, that’s just not something I want to experience at its director’s expense while the man’s sitting in the very same room.

Still, I want to see the movie. Maybe when it comes out on DVD, I’ll rent Day of the Animals, Kaw, and Kingdom of the Spiders and host a movie night of my own. You’re welcome to join me. Just leave the Pabst at home, okay?

50 Responses to “BIRDEMIC and the Dichotomy of Ironic Hipster Fan Luv”

  1. Rick Says:

    Crossposting from my Twitter reply to Mer:

    My quick definition of hipsterism: If you’re being so ironic you actually are what you like ironically, you’re a hipster.

    Example: “Ha ha! I love PBR because it makes me look like a dirty loser!”

    It’s stripping the subtlety from irony, I guess is what I’m saying. 90s U2 probably crossed into hipster territory.

    I’d love it if the whole movement would fall apart. It’s a movement based entirely on what you think other people think about you, while at the same time trying to portray itself as authentic. Nothing is more fake than saying you like things you hate. Seriously, do what you do, like what you like, and fuck all those people that don’t think it’s cool. Who cares what they think?

  2. selizabeth Says:

    This is tremendously interesting – I enjoyed it immensely, brava!

    Your closing remark was so amusing to me…I have often said: “I really have no idea what a hipster is, all I know is that they drink Pabst Blue Ribbon”. Hee!

    All I know is that for myself I don’t have the time to feel less than genuine about something. I don’t really get “ironically” liking something. What’s the point? It doesn’t feel sincere to me. I don’t know if this is a good example, but I genuinely and sincerely love Xena: Warrior Princess. Not because of the camp and the cheese, but really in spite of it..or maybe just the whole package, all of it together. Maybe that’s the difference. I don’t know, and I don’t care – I just like it. Where was I going with that? I don’t know.
    Thinking about hipster-thought gets me very confused. Is it hipster-y to like something because it is campy? Is it hipster-y to not like the campiness, watch it anyway, mock it and promote it in your blog as must-watch cheesy bad programming? Or do you have to add the Pabst into the equation? Argh! I don’t know!

    And your comments about mean-spiritedness and mockery…yes. I’ve never been able to put that into words.

  3. legion Says:

    “But for any anti-hipster screed to qualify as anything but a full-on strawman-torching session providing a smokescreen for a riot of unprocessed anxieties, I’d like to find a writer able to identify, say, three so-called hipsters by name and provide some minimal grounding of generalizations in fact. Even anecdotally. If you actually ask almost anyone five or six questions, I bet they’d soon complicate the stereotype beyond recognition. (As Margaux Williamson’s Teenager Hamlet film in many ways shows.) There are no hipsters, only anti-hipsters – or at least the ratio is approximately the same as that of actually existing Satanists to anti-Satanists during the heavy-metal and Goth panics of the 1980s and 1990s. The question is what in turn the hipster allows the anti-hipster to deny, and what’s being lost in that continuing deferral.

    (from http://www.zoilus.com/documents/in-depth/2009/001688.php )

    This article is unbelievably self-indulgent. I hope it was at least satisfying to write.

  4. Mer Says:

    Legion, you’re totally right. It’s a very self-indulgent piece, which is why I have bared my throat at the beginning, middle, and end, hoping to invite further discussion and clarification, rather than just piss people off and shut down communication.

    However, it’s NOT an anti-hipster screed. I promise. One of my main points (beyond mentioning my discomfort with public mocking displays of ironic affection toward those who aren’t necessarily in on the joke) is to say that hipster name-calling benefits no one. There’s no smokescreen, here. Just an exposed jumble of guts. I think you may have misread, or maybe I’m even less articulate than I feared to have given you that impression! Could be. I’m okay with that. I never presented this post as anything other than what it is: a hot, sloppy mess of ideas that seem relevant to the blog. And y’know, it was satisfying to write. I’m looking forward to sussing things out further with input from others. I’ll try not to take your contempt too personally.

  5. Miss Spite Says:

    I can see your point in being fearful of being a hipster. I think there comes a line when sympathy/empathy is involved to be honest. I’m not sure if this is the case of you, but when I watch something like Napoleon Dynamite, I don’t think ‘HAHAHA he’s so stupid I LAUGH IN HIS DIRECTION’, what I do think is not only that it has these notes of the genuine, and how strange and glossy reality actually is, but that it reminds me of me.

    Because I was the dorkiest, most awkward person I knew, with hand me down cloths and social inabilities that would have truly been amazing for anyone to behold.

    I think the love of things that seem odd, naive, primitive is splits-ville for people. Either you love it because it genuinely has this tableau quality that takes you to a slice of your own life, or eeks of some character you knew/loved.

    This is also incredibly opposite than someone who is just taking another go at someone different than them. Hipsterism eeks of one-upsmenship and some small scale pop-cultural colonialism where they take the ‘exotic’ naiveté of the dorks (that they may have a moment ago stuffed in the trashcans/humiliated for being uncool) and turn it into something cool, hip, ironic, and a reminder that these popular kids can take and subvert a little genuine piece of something.

    So Mer a Hipster? Nahh. You don’t much seem the type, to me.

  6. Tom Gastall Says:

    Well done.

    Originally I thought the difference between the group you’re writing about and other cultures or cliques was generational: Gen X vs Gen Y.

    But now I really think the key element in the group you are talking about is the snark. Too much snark simply makes for toxic situations, and that’s why I think people despise hipsters.

    It has to be all in the attitude.

  7. penciller Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhAr_UeroCk

    The only difference being that these days hipsters do seem aware of the paradox of their uniform individuality and wear it like a badge which makes it all so ironic and meta. My head hurts.

    Oh, and Birdemic looks like a genuinely fun film.

  8. Mer Says:

    @RickiePooh Well said, but I have a question: how can something become a movement when no one wants to admit they’re a part of it? Is there too much, or too little self-awareness standing in the way?

    @Tom Agreed that snark is a key ingredient for what makes others cringe and point a finger at a group of hipsters. But the strange twist is, it really feels like we’re reaching a point where that reaction to the snark is similarly snarky. It’s becoming this closed circuit of infinitely looping snark! Like a hall of mirrors of the aformentioned Nelson, all pointing and sneering, all bounced and refracted, with no personal accountability. I wonder what the hell is going to have to happen to break that down.

  9. Mer Says:

    @penciller Holy shit. That clip is so good, I’m going to add it into the post!

    Those guys on their Idiot Bikes made me wince. And maybe I’m an idiot, but I still love my funky bicycle. She is beautiful.

    The only difference being that these days hipsters do seem aware of the paradox of their uniform individuality and wear it like a badge which makes it all so ironic and meta. My head hurts.

    Hahaha. Exactly! Sorry to exacerbate your headache from the infinitely repeating meta. I have one, too.

  10. JDobbs Says:

    As I have never heard of a single one of the other art references you dropped I can’t comment too much, but all I can say is that at the premiere of Birdemic Nguyen declared it to be “The best night of [his] life.” In the words of Mr. Lobo of Cinema Insomnia, “They are not bad movies, just misunderstood.”

  11. Mer Says:

    Because I was the dorkiest, most awkward person I knew, with hand me down cloths and social inabilities that would have truly been amazing for anyone to behold.

    @MissSpite Same here, sister. In SPADES. And I think you’re right, that empathy/lack of empathy is a key splitter, here. It’s this weird sort of paradox, too. Do people become hipsters when they are TOO aware/anxious about what other people think, or not aware enough?

  12. Mer Says:

    Your closing remark was so amusing to me…I have often said: “I really have no idea what a hipster is, all I know is that they drink Pabst Blue Ribbon”. Hee!

    @selizabeth Heee. I just had to go out ironically, didn’t I? BLARGH. NO CHOICE. DOOMED DOOOOOOOOMED.

    But see, I completely understand what you’re saying about Xena, in particular. That’s a really great example. For instance, I just spent several months hanging out on the fringe of the Weta Companies in proximity to a bunch of swordsmiths (including the fellow who made all of Xena’s weapons) and dragon sculptors, and armor-makers. They’re incredible people, very focused and sharp. A lot of them are a bit older, and don’t spend a lot of time on the internet, so they’re not aware that LoTR or Xena sometimes take the piss from people who are too “sophisticated” to appreciate them on a non-snarky level.

    Meanwhile, while I was ostensibly tromping around in Middle Earth, folks back home kept sending me Flight of the Conchords and My Barbarian clips. I’m not above having a giggle at them. I’m the first to make “hobbit-fluffer” jokes.

    And yet? Deep down, I’m just friggin’ excited and happy as hell to be in proximity to these incredibly talented artisans who are in dead earnest about what they do and who have devoted their lives to their various crafts. They are accomplishing things I only ever daydreamed about when I was a kid, doodling dragons and princesses and knights and trolls all over my Trapper Keeper. I’m in awe of these guys, and I’m excited to see the movies they’re devoting years of their lives to making. There is absolutely nothing I can see about any of them that isn’t deserving of respect and admiration.

    On a similar tip, I don’t play D&D to be ironic. I play because I love it. I don’t watch LoTR to snicker at the slow-mo. I watch it because I love it. I don’t wear the things I wear, or listen to the things I listen to, or read the books I read, or dance the way I dance, to impress anyone else… I do it for my own happiness.

    Then AGAIN…

    “Is it hipster-y to not like the campiness, watch it anyway, mock it and promote it in your blog as must-watch cheesy bad programming?”

    I guess it is! And I guess that means I’m hipstery, because I often do just that, albeit more gently than most, I hope, and almost always with love. Having admitted it, what’s my next step, I wonder?

  13. Josh Ellis Says:

    Y’know, it’s funny…the kitsch/camp/ironic appreciation center of my brain is broken and always has been. I got nothing. That’s why I despise Tim and Eric, hated NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, and why hipsters irritate me so much.

    Bad irony always just seemed so easy to me; it’s not hard to make crap and then pretend you’re making crap because it’s funny, rather than because you’re not clever or talented enough to make something genuinely interesting.

    Not that I’m above laughing at insane bad art (Mer, you HAVE to check out Tonetta: http://prince.org/msg/100/318405) but it’s a fairly rare impulse for me.

    I was thinking about this a while back, though, and I realized there are two different types of hipsters: the cool kids who dress like they were just released from a special needs halfway house and took whatever clothes were left in the donation box by the door (aka Sally Jesse Raphael glasses, Mork and Mindy puffy vests, etc.)…and people like you and me. The hipster kids are tourists; they stop being hip when they hit 35 and start being normal people. They’ll listen to Animal Collective mp3s and wax nostalgic about all the bumps they used to do in the bathroom of Spaceland.

    Whereas people like us…we’re ALWAYS going to be hip. We’re always going to be hanging out at weird art exhibitions and listening to new cool music and know what’s hip, even if we don’t necessarily participate.

    (Also, theremin is NOT a kitschy instrument to play. Theremins are awesome. You are awesome for learning to properly play one.)

  14. Mer Says:

    In the words of Mr. Lobo of Cinema Insomnia, “They are not bad movies, just misunderstood.”

    Amen to that. As usual, Lobo speaks truth. I’ve had long, winding conversations with my boyfriend along this line– he wholeheartedly loves a lot of B-movies in a very uncomplicated way. Not with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge attitude, or in smirky way. Because of that, he doesn’t enjoy going to big group screenings of these films… he just doesn’t want to hear people braying with laughter or yelling MST3K quips over the dialog. I have to say, I can completely understand that, and again, I think that’s why I worry that a Birdemic screening might leave me with a bad taste in my mouth… even if Nguyen thinks it’s the greatest thing ever that everyone’s hooting and hollering over his film.

  15. Miss Spite Says:

    Well, that is a good question… But I think we make too much of the being self-aware thing. Being self-aware of your personal idiocy can be empowering, and doesn’t deserve a ‘hipster’ like moniker, at least in my pov.

    I think being too aware/anxious of what people think is very very very natural, and without any anchor alot of people will float around being pulled by the tides of ‘what people think’ indefinitely. Maybe that’s why subculture is such a siren’s call to people? I think the failing comes in where one personally decides to make the divide. Will you live at the whims and rules of a pop/sub-cultural identity? Or will you clench for a moment in ANXIETY and Self Awareness, then promptly assure yourself that it doesn’t matter if you are cool? (or you should at least assure yourself that most of the time, everyone else wants everyone to think they are cool too, its a strange human obsession).

    Anyway the point is you will always care what people think, you just have to not care what people say, because people say all kinds of things.

    I think you can’t say there’s ONE thing that makes someone a hipster. I’d say that ‘becoming’ A hipster is the a combination of factors, both in that it requires the homogenization of something that was diverse, and requires rules that exclude someone on the basis of price of garb.

    Which frankly sounds batshit, I’m by no means against expensive clothing, I’m just saying that people tend to ‘hipsterize’ things by fetishisng their cost, quality, or designer. I suppose in that way its equally a force of destruction and progression?

    Ooh! Maybe its ultimately some kind of reflection of the struggle of the Artist. I think awkward weirdo creatives need some kind of manual as to how to deal with being alive. lol

    (I also completely agree with Josh Ellis, The Theremin is an amazing instrument to learn, and not kitschy at all. Just think of how much of the ‘Low’ album you could cover!)

  16. Tequila Says:

    Oh dear Mer, this is quite a bit to gnaw on in one go, but bravo on the execution. I don’t think I could be quite as tactful in dealing with the issue without arguing for the limited use of nuclear weapons. It’s not that I hate Hipsters but this nails it…

    “Here’s my general problem with hipsters: a fundamental part of their existence (perhaps the fundamental part) is mocking something other people genuinely love, while attempting to take that thing away from the people who genuinely love it.”

    If it wasn’t for the mean spirited nature of it all they would be fine. Hipsters at heart are just trendy fashion victims who MUST be told what is out there in the world as opposed to finding or discovering it themselves.

    That’s fine, every subculture has people like this. Usually they only stick around long enough till they are bored. In this case though Hipsters are a black hole where everything from indie music to old skool sneakers get sucked in with no possibility for escape. All of it taken for the sake of a juvenile sense of superiority in mocking things. It’s less about insecurity than it is about wanting to simply be better than others in SOME way. Again not uncommon but they do it with such bad taste they harm everything they touch.

    While a lot of bands I like attract a large hipster contingent, it is fun seeing them outnumbered by those who genuinely love said bands at live shows. If not in numbers then by pure unfiltered exuberance and energy. That ultimately drowns out whatever cooler then thou mentality infecting the populous.

    It’s sad in way since while Hipsters really are the evolution of the yuppies, the preppies, etc. they do show it’s better to have even a blackened soul than no soul at all.

    Still Mer, you’ve raised quite a lot to think over…this will be a fun post to revisit over the next few days.

    “But we are all, first and foremost, human beings, and we are legion. A silent, damned majority.”

    Yes. As long as we don’t have to wear V for Vendetta masks while protesting against Scientology, I will GLADLY sing 80′s sitcoms songs and play pinball while drinking late into the night. Goddammit I do love

    No Pabst or Red-Stripe though…one has to have SOME taste dammit. Though I really want a Remains of the Day lunchbox …

  17. JDobbs Says:

    I would on the other hand say that film is a medium that is meant to be enjoyed in a group. It’s a communal experience or at least it should be. Comedies are funnier in a group, tragedies sadder. It’s not just economics that built movie theaters and has bands playing to large groups instead of individuals. There is something freeing about joining a mob and while we may not like it when we put thought into it, it is something that people do on an instinctual level. Trust me, I fight against that communal urge almost every day, but more often than not it wins out in the end. Preferring to watch a DVD in a quiet apartment seems to be much more akin to that aloofness that you are branding hipsters with. People have been shouting down bad performances since the first caveman bombed on open stick night.

  18. Mer Says:

    @Jdobbs

    You’re right. Sometimes I couldn’t be more glad that I got to see certain movies with a group, rather than alone at home. And this cracks me up:

    People have been shouting down bad performances since the first caveman bombed on open stick night.

    It’s true! But then again, speaking as both a performer and an avid concert-goer, I don’t think there’s nothing worse at a show than a heckler in the audience when YOU personally want to enjoy the experience without criticism. I’ll set aside Birdemic as an example of why I’d say that, since it’s expected that the audience will hoot and holler there. But under more ambiguous circumstances, I’m less enthusiastic about the idea of mob mockery.

  19. V. Blame Says:

    I deeply appreciate this piece as a sincere attempt to sort out the tangled mess that has become our self-referential nature.

    The fact is, it’s now difficult for us to enjoy something without perceiving ourselves as part of a special interest group. If you have ever enjoyed an episode of Firefly, clearly you’re a Browncoat! If you’ve ever been to Burning Man, you might be a Burner!

    The categorization and subcategorization of our tastes has combined with our propensity for labeling in a wholly awkward way. Anytime we profess enjoyment or love for a work, an act, a genre – it’s now a manifesto for a new sub-sub-subheading of our own personality description.

    It is confusing. Most of the time I can’t make heads or tails of it. Hipsterism, as described above, seems like the natural reaction. One we all, to varying degrees, participate in. If the act of enjoying something alters our identity, we feel the need to distance ourselves from our own enjoyment. We start to craft a persona, one step removed from ourselves. Selfº.

    We ask, “What sorts of things would Selfº enjoy? What should I cast away as non-conducive to the creation of the persona Selfº?”

    My hope is that it will eventually lead to the frustration with and abandonment of these meta-identities, and the gradual re-learning of our collective ability to just enjoy shit.

  20. Mer Says:

    it’s not hard to make crap and then pretend you’re making crap because it’s funny, rather than because you’re not clever or talented enough to make something genuinely interesting.

    Yep. I think that unconscious hipster culture often ends up becoming a celebraton of mediocrity. Banality is safe. It’s almost like… if you’re not sincere, you can’t be hurt. Unlike you, I can’t honestly say I haven’t contributed to that celebration from time to time. Ack! It’s in me! I dunno what to do about that. But there’s also this ache, this longing for more, for better, for purer. Sometimes the two sides get together and fight like cats. I suppose that’s where this entire, addled post came from. I’m glad to be talking it out.

    Josh, believe it or not, we had Tonetta over for Zoetica’s birthday party last year!

    If it wasn’t for the mean spirited nature of it all they would be fine. Hipsters at heart are just trendy fashion victims who MUST be told what is out there in the world as opposed to finding or discovering it themselves.

    You’re onto something there. I’d say that waiting for approval or sayso before “letting” oneself enjoy something is a problem endemic of socialized human beings in general, but it definitely manifests more blatantly with folks who are highly fashion conscious, which is why a lot of subcultures that are supposed to be about expressing individuality end up disappointing a gal like me, because you see a lot of the same old uniforms and rules of dress/behavior.

    I agree that there’s nothing more satisfying than watching enthusiasm and glee at a show or a dance club reclaim a space from the self-conscious, uncertain energy of skinny, somber “cool kids” who are too terrified of looking like a twat to properly enjoy themselves. I also kind of want to grab those same cool kids around their tiny waists and tickle and twirl them around and around until we fall down. :)

  21. Richard Says:

    If alternative culture no longer exists and everything will instantly be compromised or commodified or taken beyond their ‘pure’ origins by the internet or viral marketing or whatever, then perhaps the only actually ‘authentic’ thing left in the general culture is the human emotional response to the things produced by that culture? It would be funny if a “wow, that is soooo cool” geeky response to creation or even a Wil Wheaton-esque archiving of emotional responses to games or art experienced before ended up pointing the way to some kind of new radical earnestness…

  22. Mer Says:

    RADICAL EARNESTNESS.

    YES.

    We’re always going to be hanging out at weird art exhibitions and listening to new cool music and know what’s hip, even if we don’t necessarily participate.

    Heh. I just got an image of us sitting in rocking chairs on Mars 50 years from now, smoking the latest designer nanoVapor and singing “Debaser” at the top of our (transplanted bionic) lungs.

    @Josh and @MissSpite I owe you both a theremin serenade. Cheers.

    Damn it, there are some more amazing comments coming in, and I really want to keep digging into this. But I have to run for a while. Gooby and I are driving out to Scottsdale, AZ to catch the Joslins at Jessica’s gallery show! My apologies for being AWOL for the next little while. I’ll be back! I hope the discussion continues while I’m gone, and I’ll try to check in from the road.

  23. Mer Says:

    PS: Hey, guys? Thanks again for talking with me about this. I know this wasn’t my most coherent blog offering ever, but I still think it’s relevant stuff, and there’s something to be gained from talking about it.

  24. Nadya Says:

    On the subject of enjoying things like Birdemic in a way that might be hurtful to the creator: my feeling is this that the more familiar you are with the creative process, the more of a right you have to enjoy whatever creative works you want, in however manner you want to enjoy them (at their face value, for their camp appeal, etc.) The more you put your own original creations out into the world (not necessarily artistic objects – just the product of any venture that you care about), the more you open yourself up to criticism, the more you ACCEPT criticism, the more “points” you earn towards being allowed to do things like throw around plastic spoons at a screening of The Room, let’s say. Does that make sense? I can expand, but my brain’s mush at work this afternoon. Thank you for this post!

  25. jennifer Says:

    this is an interesting article! i have thought about this in the wake of rampant hipsterism as i’ve seen it in various countries… i left the u.s. before it really blew up.

    i did have a small crisis after writing about mark gormly in twitter though! i truly loved his sweetness during his interview, but realized afterwards that everyone would interpret my comments as being ironic. this is something new for me & one i readily blame on The Hipster, hehehe!

    what would hipsters think of me as a teenager, wearing my Adopt A Wolf t-shirts because i really did adopt a wolf for one birthday? what would they think of my 5th grade Trapper Keeper with a pegasus running along a rainbow? all i can think is that the average hipster would have a field day with my jr.high clothes and accesories…whereas for me, it was a source of derision from peers & all my mom could afford at kmart.

    the whole phenomena is just strange to me. it’s a searing comment on the extreme capriciousness of human nature & the cultural laziness that appears to be trendy right now. the things that were ‘dorky’ when i wore them in school are utterly hip now.

    are hipsters simply too bewildered & lazy by the glut of fashion & information that they just affect an ironic attitude toward all in fear of actually digging their heels in & god forbid, truly admit to truly liking something?

    i often ask myself, if i had been a teenager now & not when Guess jeans were popular, would my miserable school existence have been different? would their carefully constructed weirdness have made my own natural weirdness more accepted?

    possibly…but possibly for all the wrong reasons.

  26. Douglas Says:

    Dorothy Gambrell’s brilliant take on this: http://catandgirl.com/?p=2061

    “Everyone’s SEEN a hipster but nobody IS one.”

  27. Evv Says:

    To me, the term “hipster” simply means laughing at yourself so that others can’t do the same, and I don’t mean this in a positive way. It’s a subculture/trend/defense mechanism full of people who are so afraid of being laughed at that they don’t have any authenticity. Every single one of their interests hold ambiguous interpretations, e.g. a Labyrinth-fan who, upon being attacked for being a Labyrinth-fan, immediately says that their fandom is for the sake of irony, so that, in a way, they can control people’s reactions to them, or at least lessen the impact and hurt that results from being made fun of.

    When everything’s suspended in a state of constant insecurity, it’s rather hard to make fun of something.

    Then again, this may be just a “teenager” thing. At my high school, many people, even those who don’t wear ironic plaid or listen to M.I.A. employ this sort of defense mechanism, this sort of “If I laugh at myself first then I won’t be hurt as much” mentality. Maybe it’s just human nature, and hipsters are humans who have taken this defense mechanism just that one step further and made it into a way of life.

  28. Tertiary Says:

    I have a very simple formula that I apply to all people, music, and art:

    This thing that you are doing, are you doing it because of love?
    Are you doing it because you are incapable of doing otherwise?
    And will you admit it?

    Or is it a way to hide your real self? Is it just something to pass the time? Something to make you look cool? Some way of making yourself feel superior?

    That how i sort out people who are really Punk Rock, or ‘alternative’ or whatever, from those who are not. They are Punk as Fuck because that’s just who they are, not because they want to get in the panties of that hot girl with the mohawk who’s always talking about how Henry Rollins ruined Black Flag.

    If you sneer, if it’s “ironic” love, not genuine, or it’s a mask you’re wearing? Then you’re a poseur.
    And Hipsters are the Uber-poseur.

    I have this simple system because I personally am not interested in your “ironic” love of Wesley Willis, or Rocky Horror, Viking Metal or anything else weird, campy, or otherwise out of the mainstream (or even in the Mainstream, like NASCAR).

    What’s the point of that? Seriously. I listen to stuff that’s ‘so bad it’s good’ because I think it’s fucking awesome. Not to show how cool I am, or how in the know I am, or how much above it I am.

    I am strictly interested in the sincere, the true, and the honest. If that’s ‘naive’, well, so be it.

    And, I would say, that’s why you’re not a Hipster Douche, Mer.
    You might understand and appreciate the ironical nature of some of the things you love, but you LOVE THEM. And you’re never going to stop loving them just because other people are no longer interested.

    You are obviously working to find the most meaningful expression of yourself you can; you are the way you are because it is the way you are. You have no choice in the matter. Sure you can be sarcastic, and so forth. But I like Coilhouse because while it might sometimes be tongue in cheek, it’s rarely in that sneering, Hipper-than-thou, Indie Rock Pete fashion. It’s a place to see awesome shit, presented by people saying “OMG! Check out this awesome thing that i found!” with genuine enthusiasm.

  29. burke Says:

    Thank you for posting your thoughts on this. You covered some things that have always confused me. I was never quite sure what a hipster was until I encountered some incredibly rude folks at a midnight opening of Harry Potter who made it loudly clear they were there because they hated it. A friend told me they were hipsters, then tried his best to explain what a hipster was.

    It got me to thinking about my love for bad movies, and whether or not it was the same thing. I’m still not sure but I think there‘s a difference. I know I sincerely love them, and I don’t like watching them with people who only like them because they think they’re stupid. It dawned on me that I had once dated a hipstery sort of fellow who claimed to like some of my favorites, but when we’d watch them together he’d mock them in a way that actually hurt my feelings. Like I had honestly tried to share something I enjoyed and he’d just taken a dump on it. I guess that’s where there’s a difference.

  30. Tom Gastall Says:

    “new cool music”

    Tangent: I’d really like to see Josh Ellis follow up his #04 article with a piece about where he thinks the new cool music is and why it’s an example of quality – as opposed to music that’s merely trend/zeitgeist/meme.

  31. SL Says:

    Tertiary and burke kind of hit it on the head for me. I don’t have a problem with irony in life – hey, I like Plan 9 as much as the next alterna-chick – but all this so-called hipster irony has arrived at the point where it’s become somehow uncool to appreciate things sincerely. It’s the difference between being able to laugh at yourself and being unable to take yourself seriously.

    I think the other big driving force behind the hipster hate is their – as I think I read on LATFH once – “perpetual childhood lifestyle”. When I think ‘hipster’, I think of an entitled kid who coasts through college, partying on their parents dime – note the trust fund cheques in the Hipster Olympics video.

    It’s bad enough when people act like they’re the ultimate authority on coolness, but there’s something much more obnoxious about them when you know they’re spoiled and sheltered to boot. Sure, a lot of it is just resentment from those of us who have to work and who can’t afford coke and AA and nightly parties. But it’s always easier to hate the more privileged than us – and the hipster stereotype is definitely one of privilege.

  32. Kai Smart Says:

    I love that Coilhouse is talking about this, since you guys are my enclave of sincerity on the internet- everything is presented so refreshingly; as Tertiary said very succinctly “It’s a place to see awesome shit, presented by people saying “OMG! Check out this awesome thing that i found!” with genuine enthusiasm.”

    I think, actually, that Hipster-dom has been identified very well in the comments above. I agree with the definition being: the fear of rejection for honest love turns all love ironic. I think Mer said it best:
    “if you’re not sincere, you can’t be hurt. ”
    Which breaks my heart, but I also understand. It doesn’t explain my multitude of friends who SERIOUSLY and WHOLEHEARTEDLY LOVE things that most would consider Ironic Loves: my brother, age 26 with a beard and a trucker hat loves Hall and Oates; my friend Tika, age 24, has a bowl cut & loves Pearl Jam; My friend Kevin, age 31, adores Yes and thinks goatees are awesome because they look “so professional”, and on and on and on…….
    How do you separate the ironic love from the serious love? At some point the two meld. And really, who cares if it’s seen as an ironic love when it fuels a million dance parties where no one scoffs if you put on Fleetwood Mac, or the Ghostbuster’s theme, or Huey Lewis & the News?!?!
    I’ve been to those dance parties. All of my friends and I would be seen as “hipsters” to the outside eye, BUT there is no scoffing.

    NO SCOFFING

    I’m more compelled to comment on the over-use of the term nowadays. We are constantly bombarded by the term from every angle, and what really gets me is how this term is leveled at ANYONE* these days. Apparently it refers to every member of every youth subculture, artistic movement, style, income bracket, social class…..I don’t know, it’s become such a catch-all term for ANYONE that DARE express themselves under the age of 40 these days (and some even over 40) that I have started calling myself a hipster. I mean, I’m over it. We can’t have actual subbacultcha anymore, we just all get called hipsters and dismissed. OVER IT.

    Re: Richard’s comment. I’ve always been all about RADICAL EARNESTNESS. YES. I’m the one dancing at the show when no one else is. I feel it’s my duty to suck up my shyness and make it a little easier for the truly uncomfortable folks to express themselves (cause if one person does it first it’s always easier…). Having always been “the dorky one” has prepared me for public embarrassment of this type. I have always ALSO probably had MORE FUN.

    *One of my friends described popular culture’s definition of the term “hipster” as “Anyone under 50 who owns things…”

  33. Damien Says:

    Thank you, for this. And I agree with Rick, up there: Love what you love, appreciate Irony, when it happens, do what makes you genuinely happy, and don’t strive to hard to enshrine irony as some pinnacle of Undiluted Experience.

    It’s just a thing.

    http://attractiveeightieswomen.com/institches/04hipsters.mp3
    http://attractiveeightieswomen.com/lyrics.html#hipsters

  34. Adam Lamas Says:

    A beautiful treatise on the phenomenon, Mer. Like a naturalist on the Discovery channel, you have opened my eyes to a new way of looking at this cultural phenomenon. I think we can safely say I am not a hipster… and yet I do own several celebrity butt plugs (butt plugs sculpted to look like celebrities). You have made me more aware of just how complicated a thing a hipster can be. You have also awakened me to the fact that if you dig deep enough, we are all hipsters in one way or another.

    That said… I still see the hipster as the embodiment of all that I despise about our generation. We are a culture eating itself. Reveling in the warmth of the memories of the warmth of the glow of our real mommy and daddy: the television set. We bond over our veneration of the images we were fed as children, forgetting that the vast majority of it were nothing but ads for some toy that the Reagan Era brainwashed us to covet!

    If I am a hipster, then I am a self loathing one. And one day I will burn anything in my meager arsenal of pop-culture paraphernalia that could be considered “hip” in a bonfire of the hipster vanities and then wage an out right war upon the hipster, rounding them up into camps where they will be stripped of their cloak of irony and forced to bear witness to the fearful heart that beats within them.

    But first I gotta pick up my “Threes Company” t-shirt from the cleaners.

  35. Dj Dead Billy Says:

    To all of Gen X and the early millennials:

    Shut the fuck up.

    Why do you care if someone wears clothes they shouldn’t be wearing? Why do you care if that 18 year old guy is bitching about NEU!’s 2nd album? Who gives a shit that the girl over there knows everything she ever learned about subculture directly from wikipedia? Who the hell died and made you the arbiter of taste? Why do you get to decide who’s real and who’s not?

    Hipsters are the generation gap. Sorry it’s not as “cool” as all the other prefabricated youth movements (i’m lookin’ at you, punk/goth/grunge/rave)

    Face it, the old days sucked and our lives are the painful reminders of it. Don’t enshrine it as something that was “better than now” simply because you’re finally in your 30′s. These kids are going to deal with all the same shit we did. They’re going to battle with insecurity, worry about finding jobs, struggle to maintain romantic relationships, watch helplessly as they lose friends to drug addiction…

    Look, us “weirdos” and “freaks” won. We now live in the world were almost everything we desperately wanted when we were in our early teens is available on almost every street corner. Music is everywhere. People that would have looked bizarre in the early 90′s are now the middle management in corporate work environments.

    Everything is being sold back to the kids who never knew what it was like to live in a world without starbucks coffee, the internet, or personal taste/style. The way they’ve turned out is no surprise, and no matter how much you berate the little fuckers with hateful “cooler than thou” words, there’s nothing you can do about it. These kids are just a product of the environment that WE have helped shape. WE are responsible for there idiot behaviour.

    Hipster is synonymous with poseur. A word that was leveled against every young member of any subculture ever. If you think your tastes make you better than any of these douche-nozzle cardboard cut out teens and early 20somethings, you’ve missed the fucking point entirely. If you’re made uncomfortable by what these kids think about you, or the shit you’re into, why the hell did you attempt to find your own identity to begin with?

    While we can all philosophize about what’s wrong with these kids, or what makes someone a hipster or blahblahblah, it’s pointless. They are kids who don’t know as much about culture as we do, and no matter what you think, you’re no better than them. We’re just different.

    So please, 30somethings…..The old world we came from is fucking DEAD. Stop sniffing it’s corpse and telling me it smells like roses.

  36. Tequila Says:

    @DJ Dead Billy..Interesting rant but this part is dead wrong.

    “…Hipsters are the generation gap. Sorry it’s not as “cool” as all the other prefabricated youth movements (i’m lookin’ at you, punk/goth/grunge/rave)…”

    Hipsters are not a youth movement. They aren’t even a subculture. There are just as many Hipsters in their 30′s as there are in the teen set. If anything the under 24 Hipsters are the 2nd wave in a way. Those that young are following what they’ve seen the older set doing.

    Yet unlike grunge, punk, etc. they don’t have a music genre unto themselves. They’ve latched onto ALL those previous genres and even everything from indie pop to electro.

    No one is responsible for their idiot behavior. That’s all on them. That’s like saying the early 90′s grunge scene is responsible for the boy band bullshit that spawned near the end of that decade. At most it’s responsible for No Doubt gaining popularity ;)

    You’re right that Hipster is synonymous with poseur. But unlike many who started as poseurs, they grew out of that and began to be the core of their chosen subculture. Many even helped grow and evolve it. Hipsters are PROUD of being poseurs and don’t contribute a damned thing to ANY scene they are in. Well maybe cheap beer sales and making thrift shops the new boutiques of style, but beyond that…zero.

    These aren’t just teens or barely 20 somethings. Those kids were still in friggin grade school when most hipsters I remember started infecting local indie gigs. Plus most complaining about them are STILL in their 20′s.

    Hipsters are like a slow growing virus. It’s starts as a minor annoyance like a cough, then before you know it your muscles are liquefying, brain hemorrhaging, and that once great club is douche bag central.

    It’s not about the old days. Nostalgia has nothing to do with this. It’s about taking something of value and giving nothing back in return.

  37. Tequila Says:

    @Adam Lamas…”We bond over our veneration of the images we were fed as children, forgetting that the vast majority of it were nothing but ads for some toy that the Reagan Era brainwashed us to covet!”

    You gotta admit though ThunderCats & He-Man were pretty awesome.

  38. Adam Lamas Says:

    @ Tequila – You should hear my Lion-O impression. 2nd only to my Snarf.

  39. Tertiary Says:

    @DJDead Billy, firstly, what tequila said.

    Secondly, you are correct.
    I would have, in the past, called out anyone who was a poseur, had I recognized them as such. But you seem to be saying that I would have done so to EVERYONE, regardless of their genuineness. And that’s not the case.

    Also, way to totally belittle them while defending them from our evil, evil criticism. Kind of undermines your message that we ‘made them’ and should thus treat them decent when you call them a bunch of cardboard cutout douche-nozzles.

  40. Dj Dead Billy Says:

    @ Tequila-

    Why would you assume these kids should change themselves, when it would only prove to discredit their identites in order to validate your judgements of their “poserdom”? This line of thought betrays our generation’s unwarranted sense of self importance. You say all they do is buy cheap beer, and get all their clothes from thrift stores. Well, that’s pretty much the MO of the “legitimate” subcultures like the punks and alterna-teens of the 90′s, so i’m not buying it. You also go on to say they “take something of value and give nothing back in return”. Well, you’re the one who’s placing a value on it to begin with. If they don’t find that “something” valuable enough to nourish, then that’s their choice and you’re just going to have to get over it. If you’re really worried about this, realize they’ll just get bored and find something else to latch onto, then you’ll have your “valuable” scene back again.

    it’s fine if you don’t consider hipsters to be a traditional subculture. i’m not here to get bogged down in semantics….but since when did having omnivorous musical taste have something to do with being/not being a member of a subculture?? (Don’t answer, it’s rhetorical.)

    Look, when we used our DIY ethics to start counter cultural clothing companies and record labels, WE became the new arbiters of taste. “Hipsters” are merely a reaction to modern consumerism and the ways our generation sold out (and/or) bought in to spectator society. they’re buying what they were fed, and we fed them everything we could. books, comics, magazines, music, art, skateboards, advertising, clothing styles, cartoons, all the rebellious shit we could stuff down their throats….yet now we complain that they think (sub)culture is just another commoditized product to be thrown away or replaced! what an outrageous and monumental surprise! :0

    —————————-

    @Tertiary- “I would have, in the past, called out anyone who was a poseur, had I recognized them as such.But you seem to be saying that I would have done so to EVERYONE, regardless of their genuineness. And that’s not the case.”

    Well, you’re misinterpreting what I said. It was not a personal attack against you (fucking obviously, as i don’t even know you) so I implore you not to waste time seeing it as such. It’s an attack on a mentality that has infiltrated our collective movements, so bear with me.

    I don’t see why so much value is being placed on being “genuine”, when most of the social youth movements have dealt almost exclusively in subversion, sarcasm, irony, and feigned indifference. (consider Siouxsie Sioux; a jewish woman wearing a swastika armband.How insincere can you get?) If these kids pays no mind to your harsh criticism and judgements, that’s pretty “genuine”, right?

    Nonetheless, this type of “shame the poser” mentality is the problem itself. when it comes down to it, our subjective concepts of taste are no better than anyone else’s, no matter how many of the “right people” agree with us, so climb off the high horse.

    taste has become the meaningless by-product of our lives of luxury. the endless amount of free time we have to languidly spend critiquing art/music/style only exists because of inhumanely brutal oppression and slavery on a global level. it certainly makes me feel good that the world is being raped so that we can have time to talk about the cultural ramifications of lady fucking gaga. 0_0

    “Also, way to totally belittle them while defending them from our evil, evil criticism. Kind of undermines your message that we ‘made them’ and should thus treat them decent when you call them a bunch of “cardboard cutout douche-nozzles.”

    I don’t consider your criticism “evil”, however, I certainly find it off balanced and heavy handed. While I don’t champion the rise of these kids, or their passive consumerist mentality; I’m not going to sit back and cheer as they’re bad mouthed because of their tastes (or lack thereof). i find no point in shit talking their differences amongst my peer group in order to make ourselves feel superior either (as it generally results in boisterous self congratulatory back patting, finger pointing, and absolutely zero constructive action)

    —————————-

    When critiquing this latest wave of youth, one must keep in mind the social factors that heavily contributed to it’s existence to begin with. I believe that their outlooks are a logical progression of our own, because of what we decided to (do/not do) (with/to) our subculture(s). Coupled with the rise of the internet, and the death of real life community; this created an endless cyber-void yearning to be constantly filled with genuine expressions of culture, individuality, taste…which ultimately, we turned into products.

    As all of our previously coveted niche-information became widely available, it inevitably became just another another piece of lifestyle advertising to be ignored. Can you blame them for throwing the baby out with the bathwater in a world full of targeted marketing static?

    When it comes down to it, the reason these kids don’t give a fuck about your judgements is this: to them, you’re a bunch of aging pretentious dicks who are butthurt that they’re not following your rules on how to behave/dress/consume. (Sound familiar?) Because of this, they’re not giving you the status you so desperately think that you deserve…and of course you’re pissed! They know we’re the old model and treat us as such. Ha. Ha.

    I simply want everyone to realize that WE became the “cool kids”…and just what did we do with our new found influence and social status??

    the same things the cool kids did to us in highschool.

    Congratulations everyone, our hypocrisy has rendered us irrelevant.

    —————————-

    Since I won’t have the internet for a few weeks, there’s no point in replying to anything I’ve said. Apologies to those that merely want to have intellectual pissing contests, as I (sadly) don’t have time for them. If you disagree, that is fine. I hope you find as much contentment in our differences as i have.

  41. V. Blame Says:

    @Dj Dead Billy (though I understand you won’t necessarily see this) Did you miss the part where the post’s author self-identified as at least part hipster, and then many of the response posters followed suit? What is under examination here is not “today’s youth” but rather a shared culture that we’ve all participated in, and have fully earned the right to criticize without being hypocritical.

    Your points are valid; criticizing a culture whose values one doesn’t share is an empty, judgmental exercise. But you’ve built up a pretty big straw man. We’re judging ourselves here, and our own values. We are pointing fingers, but half of them are pointed squarely back at us.

  42. Tertiary Says:

    @DJDeadBilly: A, those first two paragraphs after the dashes post addressing me directly? Fucking spot on, and well done.

    The next bit totally misses what seemed like the main point that Tequila was making; that hipsters aren’t ‘those kids’. Most, in fact, seem to be in their late twenties or early thirties. I happen to teach 18-21 year olds at a very large state university, and there aren’t that many hipsters in that age group. There’s more in the art school, of course, but art students are just the worst generally anyway. Talk about being poseurs. Ugh. (What’s the worst part about going to art school? Art students! I know, I was one!)

    The last bit is a pretty classy internet argument tactic.

    To address your comments directed my way.
    Ad hominem attacks are frequently the standard way that people who don’t know each other engage on forums in the internet. I’ll grant you that Coilhouse is not the internet at large. But taking an aggressive, expletive riddled stance on an issue generally doesn’t make the people you’re discussing something with feel like you want to be their friend, even if you have no ill intent. Maybe that’s just how you roll. We don’t know each other, and therefor I have no way of knowing what’s just DJ Dead Billy, and what’s intended to be more than that.

    And I stand by my point about being genuine, and the earlier statement of Radical Earnestness. Sarcasm, irony, and subversion are not ‘fake’ in themselves. They are social tools, and can be, in fact, a way of pointing toward truth. Pointing out the truth with these tools is sort of their purpose. In my opinion.

    Like all tools, they can be misapplied, and used to deflect attention away from truth, but the most potent satire and sarcasm always points towards the true. Consider Bill Hicks, for example. There was a man engaged in the subversive use of irony and sarcasm, hell bent on helping people find the truth. He wasn’t much for feigning disaffectedness, I’ll grant you that much. But that’s what I’m talking about when I say genuine.
    Not fake. Not trying to be somebody other than yourself.
    That thing that happens when you stop trying to please others (or hide from them) by wearing uniforms and sorting into boxes.

    And you’re correct that a lot of youth culture IS uniforms and box sorting, because kids are busy trying to figure out where they fit in, and who they are. But, uh, as stated several times above, we’re not talking about 17 year olds.

  43. Chris L Says:

    Mer, I love you. This was a really smart and vulnerable post. I haven’t had much time to comment on (or even read) Coilhouse in a long time, but I’m glad I took the time to go through this whole post, and its comments. I should really be in bed, so apologies if this comes out as a bit incoherant.

    I guess I’ll start by recognizing that DJ Billy really changed the tone of the discussion – it’s good to have someone call people on their bullshit now and again, even if the bullshit isn’t all bullshit (as Tequila and Tertiary have proven in response). A little self-awareness of one’s self-awareness never hurts. (Ugh. Why is it that any discussion of “hipsters” always results in endless post-modern headache loops? Especially now that Adbusters has helped trumpet the introduction of the “Altermodern”?)

    Anyway. I went to art school. I was in the animation program, though, so we were always a lot geekier than the visual arts kids in general, and less cool. We didn’t have enough time for it. Having said that, my visual arts friends and I would sometimes fret about being scenesters (as hipsters were called at the time, in our neck of the woods) while secretly wanting to be cool enough to be called scenesters. That was a few years ago. I have since resigned myself to the fact that, on some level, someone could probably call me a hipster. I don’t really care any more, and I always give myself a little mental slap on the wrist whenever I start ascribing the label to others. Most of the time, once I get to know them (if I get the opportunity), they’re pretty fun people. Maybe I am just lucky to run in circles where “hipsters” are sincere enough to not be annoying?

    I can’t help but find some similarity in your own concern about whether or not you are a hipster with my own thoughts on fashion. Given the role that fashion has in the world at large for helping to determine the signal that one broadcasts about their identity, it’s impossible for me to ignore it. But I have a torn relationship with it: on the one hand, I don’t think that anyone should be judged by the way they look, but I recognize that many people (including myself!) do just that. As such, I fret and worry over how to dress or carry myself in a way that broadcasts that sentiment. This, combined with my strong conviction that there are more important things than clothing, and that a few sturdy garments are more than enough (in the context of waste, climate change, sweatshop labour, and so on)… has left me in a largely untenable position. How to dress in a way that I enjoy, while simultaneously signalling my belief that fashion shouldn’t be more than a superficial consideration, with full awareness that my dress will be misinterpreted? Deliberately being “afashionable” is the same as being apolitical: it’s too often mistaken for apathy. Oh well. Sorry if that digression was a bit much… or complete nonsense.

    Anyway, a couple other bits:
    Someone’s already linked Cat and Girl (and a good one, at that), but any discussion of Hipsters always reminds me of this comic:
    http://catandgirl.com/?p=559

    My housemates and I have played Robot Unicorn Attack obsessively for well over a week (we have a high score board on our fridge). What does this mean? http://games.adultswim.com/robot-unicorn-attack-twitchy-online-game.html It’s really fun. But also hard to imagine people NOT appreciating it in an ironic way.

    Thanks a lot for the post, Mer. Bed time now.

  44. Chris L Says:

    Something else occurred to me after I turned off my computer… so sorry for the double-post, if this winds up being one after moderation. Maybe this is self-indulgent, though, since Mr. Dj is in a wilderness (metaphorical or not) without internet. (Okay, reading it back, it’s definitely a little self-indulgent.)

    If any of the alternative/counter-cultures you’ve described had actually won, instead of just being absorbed, digested, and commodified by capitalism… wouldn’t things be different? Or better? Obviously you’re well aware of all this, your posts indicate as much, and in more eloquent terms, but how is it any alt. culture’s fault (or “our” fault?) that teams of cool hunters figured out how to neuter rebellion and sell it back to the mainstream? If the bulk of the blame (inasmuch as any complex cultural evolution can be blamed on one or two factors, large and umbrella-like though they may be) falls on the internet and rampant consumerism, where do self-conscious culturistas fit in, except as catalysts?

    I can’t help but feel like if DIY (from punk onwards, say) had actually made a genuine impact, consumer capitalism would’ve been a smouldering wreckage decades ago. Instead, it took the mainstreaming of a radically disruptive technology (internet) and out-of-control finance industry shenanigans… and consumerism is still alive. At least, for a little bit longer. We’ll see how much longer this recession lasts, and how long it takes for “Fabbers” to get off the ground.

    Though really, I don’t know why I’m even talking in these terms, since I can’t help but feel like the hipsters you’ve described are different from the ones most of the other commenters and myself are picturing. We aren’t talking about cynical high-schoolers… most of us are looking at ourselves and parts of own peer group. It’s not about blame or the victory of one culture over another. More than anything else, I think we’re trying to trace the contours of an evolution of yet another culture and to figure out our place within that process.

    And for what it’s worth, for all the disdain that gets heaped upon such an amorphous label, hipsters are still a minority when stacked against the (equally amorphous) mainstream. In terms of numbers alone, they/we still qualify as an “alternative” culture of sorts. Except in Portland. I hear that place is crawling with’em.

  45. Mer Says:

    I’m reading a lot of this discussion from the road. Shit’s gone completely crazy, so I haven’t (and won’t) be able to weigh in more deeply than this quick note, for now. But I think the discussion in this thread is amazing, and far more interesting than my initial post. Incredible new perspectives. For transparency’s sake, I should mention that DJ Dead Billy is a close friend of mine. Billy, I love ya. And I love everyone else here for engaging and giving you such thorough and thoughtful rebuttals, because when you go into chaotic neutral Internet Mode, you can be a jagged little pill to swallow. ;) They could just as easily have written you off, but they didn’t. In a funny twist, I met both you and Tertiary through a mutual love of SGM and Nils Frkdahl (poster child of Radical Earnestness). Fuck yeah. We all need to go out for beers someday.

    I have so much respect for this community, and a little more respect for myself now, knowing that these weird inverted meta-anxieties of mine are something plenty of good people grapple with. Onward and upward, comrades. It’s gonna be all right.

  46. Tertiary Says:

    Onward and upward indeed.

    I’ll happy lift a glass sometime, should I ever be so lucky to be in the Shire, or the next time you Rock & Rollers head my way (hopefully soon!).

    And Chris L… I’ll try not to let my Portland friends know their town is full of Hipsters. :-)

  47. John G Says:

    I randomly met Meredith (“met” = I didn’t know it was her, I was just chatting with some stranger about Coilhouse) at the recent Last Gasp Publishing 40th anniversary party here in San Francisco. And do you know what that event was noticeably lacking? Hipsters! Oh, there were plenty of beatniks, hippies, punks, goths, nerds, geeks, freaks, kitsch lovers, and artists packed from wall to wall. But there were blessedly few snarky, spotlight-on-me-please, culture vulture hipsters. That’s because Last Gasp isn’t new or trendy, so despite the gallery displays including artists like Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia, the arbiters of cool mostly decided to skip this particular event.

    Hipsters are hated because they do not commit themselves. End of story. They congratulate themselves on their rare tastes, but as soon as the “rare” becomes the “common” (i.e., popular with uncool audiences) they abandon the very cultural expressions they previously claimed to love. Hence there were no hipsters — but there were plenty of genuinely creative freaks of ALL ages — at the Last Gasp gallery event. Hipsterism isn’t a generation gap. It’s a disease that renders the victim incapable of living outside a self-centered circle made of mirrors and sycophantic pseudo-friends.

    Oh, and one quick note for DJ Dead Billy: If you really think the fact that “people [who] would have looked bizarre in the early [1990s] are now the middle management in corporate work environments” means that we “won,” I think you must have been fighting a different battle than I — or every other radical/punk/non-hipster I have ever known — have been fighting. The fight against mediocrity and mundane pop culture is NOT a fight for any particular aesthetic to be accepted by the mainstream. It’s a fight to increase the emotional and/or intellectual depth of the common discourse. Sure, some girl with blue hair and piercings can now get a job at Starbucks (or even some Madison Avenue ad agency), but turn on any mainstream television network and you’ll see that the common discourse is just as insulting (or, if we consider Fox News, even more so) than it ever was.

    If hipsterism means we “won,” I’d hate to see what would have happened if we “lost”….

    JG

  48. Nadya Says:

    @John G – Hey, John! Actually, it was not me, but Mer. We chatted briefly while I was standing at the front, with a copy of Issue 04 on the table, right? You had just arrived, I was leaving. What an amazing night. So many people packed in one place. Really wish Mer & Zo had been with me. What an amazing accomplishment for Last Gasp, their 40th anniversary. I met Ron Turner for a brief minute and he just radiated this incredible wisdom and warmth. Nice to see you here!

  49. AnnA Omega Says:

    Having read the previous posts and many of the comments – I just wanted to voice my opinion. What I enjoy most about coilhouse is the undeniable authentic love I sense from the writers weirdeties they blog about.

    Coilhouse is great because it invokes the subcultures of the past, surveys the manifestations of those aesthetics now, and yet doesn’t exist in a void. It knows about hipsters and contemplates its relationship to them. It also doesn’t shy away from posting the occasional faddy youtube video.

    Here, dead alternative culture has clawed its way out of the grave, waving from the netherworld.

  50. The Tech Gonzo Diary » Hipsters, techno-hipsters, being hip and Gibson’s characters Says:

    [...] but they’ve disabled embedding. Bloody Hipsters. Instead, I’ll run with the same clip Theremina ran in her post on the Hipstergeddon — it’s also quite [...]