Re: All the Rebels Are Fey by Stephen Marche

Posted on July 19, 2012

I just read Stephen Marche 's article criticizing hipster culture and found it obnoxious. Full disclosure: I might fit his criteria for being a hipster...

  • 20-something going on 30
  • from upper-middle-class family (an interesting side-note is that by some definitions they may now be a lower-middle-class family)
  • moved into the city as a young adult
  • likes 'independent' movies and music
  • shops at co-ops
  • tries to succeed at some sort of artistic endeavor
  • fancies himself a rebel within a system
  • drinks high-end coffee
  • is attracted to the 'hipster' neighborhoods in cities
  • loved Moonrise Kingdom (but hated The Royal Tenenbaums)
  • wears big glasses
  • has a mustache

But so what? Seriously. Every culture is hyper-marketed these days. Every culture has its uniform - and if you aren't wearing a uniform that's a uniform too (you're a nudist, huh?). Every culture has a neighborhood epicenter. The number of "cultural markets" is endless and extends far beyond hipsters: small-town 'simple' America, black urban youth, expecting mothers, the bourgeoisie, fresh immigrants, Christians, Muslims, etc. All cultures and sub-cultures are bombarded by manufactured caricatures of real culture: Lil' Wayne, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart, etc. To focus on these calculated caricatures is to do a grave disservice to the truly organic culture that is hard to spot or understand from the 'outside'. While the distance between cultures is shrinking, culture is fundamentally opaque and esoteric to due its subjective nature.

In the end why does it matter so much that long diatribes need to be written on the subject? Why do you care whether hipster culture (or any other culture for that matter) has integrity? Who do you think you are that you can pronounce judgment on the integrity of a culture, or to pronounce Wes Anderson as a medium figurehead of the culture? Instead, judge the integrity of the social structures produced by the culture. Are those structures making the world a better place? Are they hurting anything? Is there community and vitality? In so-called hipster culture I would say unequivocally yes. There's lots of innovation, compassion, and great work being accomplished.

Most likely the actual culture, the stuff you can't see unless you're immersed in it, is doing just fine. Most likely you're just distracted by the much louder commoditization and monetization of the culture that is produced by the capitalist machine. I might even argue that such commodities aren't even culture at all - they're just empty artifacts. Your criticisms aren't so much about the people in the culture as they are the hype surrounding it. So get over it, stop name-calling and disparaging things because you personally don't find them gratifying, and get on contributing to your own culture.

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