Thursday, April 30, 2009 11:05 AM
The term “hipster” has become a mark of derision. It’s mostly used in the context of “get out of my way, you damn hipsters,” or “that place is filled with stupid hipsters.” Writing on a personal blog A Fantasy of Flight, former 826 Valencia intern Zoe Ruiz explains why she’s not going to call people hipsters anymore:
At the point in time that I began to use the term hipsters I was very much dissatisfied with myself, with my life, and with anyone I met. I am not now dissatisfied with myself (most of the time). Hipster has become a word that carries a sense of dissatisfaction and a bit of anger. I have no use for a word that carries such a mood.
Better to leave the Hipster Olympics to other people:
(Thanks, The Rumpus.)
Source: A Fantasy of Flight
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 9:02 AM
The large Hasidic Jewish population of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has been clashing with hipsters since an onslaught of 20-somethings began invading their neighborhood in the ’90s. Today the two groups are fighting it out over bike lanes. At a community board meeting on September 8, the New York Post reports that Hasidic representatives proposed the elimination of bike lanes on the grounds that the lanes cause traffic problems and congestion. One Hasidic representative, Simon Weisser, admitted to the Post that the hipsters’ scantily clad attire was also a major problem. “It bothers me,” said Weisser, “and it bothers a lot of people.”
The bike lanes are the latest front in the hipster vs. Hasidic cultural clash over fashion, modesty, and neighborhood identity. New York Magazine points to an article from the Brooklyn Paper about a fight over a billboard for the remade TV show 90210 that was deemed distasteful because it featured people in swimsuits. Back in 2004, Harper’s magazine printed a more spiritual salvo in the fight against the hipsters, when Hasidic Jews distributed a prayer called, “For the Protection of Our City Williamsburg From the Plague of Artists.” The prayer read in part:
Please, our Father God of Mercy, have mercy upon our generation that is weak, and remove this difficult test from these people, these immoral antagonists that by their doing will multiply, God forbid, the excruciating tests and the sight of the impurity and immorality that is growing in the world.
Image by Sookie, licensened under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008 1:31 PM
That culturally ubiquitous slice of youth culture known as hipsters now finds itself under the microscope of the always provocative Adbusters. The magazine’s latest issue—and, to some extent, its overall editorial mission—is predicated on the alleged cultural malaise of the past 50 years, beginning with the rise of postwar consumer culture as an inevitable byproduct of Western ingenuity. “Practical cleverness beats the crap out of spiritual wisdom on the battlefield and in the marketplace, as the West has made clear over the last 500 years,” the preface declares. “But cleverness without wisdom sooner or later destroys life.”
Douglas Haddow’s lead essay, "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization," takes it from there, positing hipsters as avatars of the narcissism and spiritual emptiness Adbusters laments, and as the probable harbingers of civilization’s decline. “We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum," Haddow writes. "So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality, and is leaving a generation pointlessly obsessing over fashion, faux individuality, cultural capital and the commodities of style.”
As much as the cantankerous square in me wants to see hedonistic youngsters taken down a peg, I think this essay might be giving hipsters a bit too much credit, overestimating both their cultural impact and longevity while longing nostalgically for a chimeral sense of past “cool” whose own authenticity is itself suspect. “An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather than creating it,” Haddow claims. But is this sort of inversion really so unprecedented? Are hipsters the first generation to practice it? And isn’t it more accurate to say that all youth everywhere, not just hipsters, end up doing both the creating and the consuming of culture, with the advertising and entertainment industries serving as mediators?
Yes, the commodification of cool is obnoxious, but it’s not novel and it’s not an agent of the apocalypse. Casting oneself and one’s peers as the “last generation, a culmination of all previous things”—as Haddow does, in his essay’s dour conclusion—displays the same narcissism and myopia as the culture he’s skewering. Hipsters are really nothing more than the latest manifestation of the disaffected, nihilistic youth population that mutates into a new form with each generation. They’re an obnoxious but essentially innocuous pocket of youth culture whose era is already waning, especially now that hipsterdom has been thoroughly assimilated into mainstream culture, branded, and codified into a household word. The hipster fad is now so ubiquitous as to be almost meaningless: everyone and no one is a hipster.
Besides, I’m immediately suspicious of any author who posits the “end” of anything. Hipsters represent the end of Western civilization? Really? Alarmist generalizations are guaranteed to sell magazines and generate angry emails to the editor—in fact, the inevitable debate will probably be more interesting than the article that inspired it. But ultimately, I suspect hipsters are simply kids in a phase they’ll eventually grow out of, just like the Gen-Xers, punks, hippies, beatniks, and flappers before them.
Image by Joseph Mohan.
Friday, June 13, 2008 4:20 PM
Every aesthetic movement has its rivalries, its schisms, its heated battles over who’s keeping it real and who’s already sold out. Hip-hop is, famously, no exception: East Coast vs. West Coast, Tupac vs. Biggie, old school vs. new school—we’re all too familiar with these contentions. But now some of the old-school contingent are hating on a new segment of their new-school progeny: hipster rappers (hipster-hop?).
Hipster rap, as loosely defined by the Chicago Reader, consists of the most recent crop of MCs and DJs who flout conventional hip-hop fashions, eschewing baggy clothes and gold chains for tight jeans, big sunglasses, the occasional keffiyeh, and other trappings of the hipster lifestyle. Mainstream rappers like Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, along with smaller up-and-coming acts like Kid Sister and the Cool Kids, come under fire from the old-school hip-hop website Unkut, and Jersey City rapper Mazzi has recorded diss tracks criticizing, by name, the rappers he sees as poseurs.
The Reader argues that such criticisms don’t hold much water in a genre that has always reinvented itself, borrowing and remixing until the question of authenticity is at best a slippery one. It’s also superficial: much of the derision directed toward hipster rap barely extends beyond clothes and other accoutrements, while the actual substance of the music never really enters the discussion. Furthermore, hip-hop’s notorious homophobia still lingers; much of the backlash takes the form of overt gay panic as rappers call each other fags for copping the metrosexual appearances of hipster fashion.
Race also complicates matters: the latest crop of hipster rap—or new rap, or independent hip-hop, or whatever we’re calling it—is just as likely to be heard at a party full of white kids slamming back Sparks on the Lower East Side as it is in the black community. The Reader notes, however, that the listener base is increasingly diverse, citing multiple firsthand accounts of shows and parties around Chicago where the audience defies racial and socioeconomic categorization—a compelling rebuttal to those still hung up on racial, social, or artistic distinctions.
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