Saturday, March 21, 2009

ATX Redux V: The Hiccup with Hipsters

If you want to get to the core stereotype of any group of people, the sure source is the lightbulb joke. It never fails. No matter how terrible or benign a stereotype is you'll find it well represented here. I'll give you an example, and as a disclaimer: I'm largely Irish so it's okay for me to say this.

"How many Irishmen does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"


"10, one to hold the lightbulb and 9 to drink until the room spins."

From our lessons above we can take from this that Irishmen are reputed to be drunks. Having been to Ireland I can say that this is in large part true, but in a fun kind of country wide tailgate party for team Ireland that never ends because there's no game coming.

I bring this up solely to tell you this joke as an illustration of yet another group of people. Hipsters. I'll give you the joke first.

"How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"


(Scoff) "You don't know?" said in an incredulous voice.

This is, at its essence, the hipster. In my standard roving urban anthropologist fashion I have been observing more in the way of Jane Goodall than partying with the hipster. The wikipedia definition has this as part :The term is sometimes used in a derogatory manner, referring to someone who moves from trend to trend while claiming to be outside of mainstream culture. I have made some notes as well.

1) Hipsters don't recognize themselves as hipsters, they only recognize other hipsters as hipsters, sort of like the dog that thinks it's human but still recognizes other dogs.

2) Hipsters are looking for the coolest 'uncool' thing, so there is more or less a small variety of uniforms available handily at thrift stores everywhere. The idea is that you want to be as cool as possible and live much of your life to this end while scoffing at those who are not and those who are also trying to look cool. You are supposed to look like you aren't trying, to this end there are a lot of carefully arranged mismatched clothes, bad hair and mustaches, etc.

3) Mainstream is not cool. The coolest things have the word 'indie' in front of them. Indie music, indie films, these are the things hipsters hoard to, apparently indie meaning independent is an irony lost on them, but only because they are trying so hard to look like an independent thinker which they accomplish be copying the other independent thinkers they know.

4) One of the most common things to exit a hipsters mouth, "God, this sucks, there are hipsters everywhere." (see note 1)

5) Although they are 'not mainstream,' if you are unaware of things inside their mainstream (i.e., indie movies, 'non-fashion' or indie music), you are immediately looked at sideways and are subject to scoffing condescension as: if you aren't cool, you must be mainstream.

6) Only other people can say if you are a hipster, you would never know of you were one. I could be a hipster (unlikely with respect to music but I like film a lot), you could be a hipster, you'll only know for sure if people you recognize as hipsters scoff at you and you overhear them calling you a hipster.

Those are my basic notes on the subculture. Some of you may have realized that the title of the blog was an allusion to an old Star Trek episode, 'the trouble with tribbles.' Tribbles were cute fluffy little breeders that were soon filling the starship enterprise with their adorable spawn which threatened the entire ship with smothering due to their numerous fuzzy couplings. Well, if you replace the Starship Enterprise with 6th street in Austin and Tribbles with Hipsters, you basically have it.

The streets are filled with people, all thinking their own group is cool and that everyone else is hipsters.

Why the hatred of hipsters? Well, I can only guess that the hate is due to hipsters in essence being, Super-Posers. Posers are people who are trying to be things they're not (see Vanilla Ice), picture Holden Caufield's smoldering fury at phonies, that's basically the principle. Except Hipsters are like an entire culture of posers who had nothing to pose as because they identified it all as uncool and then created an entire culture of their own, completely filled with effort and pretense, all fake. While posers wanted to be something some part of them identified with, hipsters just don't want to be anything else.

I don't mind hipsters anymore than any other fake people, I've got some friends I think are probably hipsters. Despite all the animosity they stir up tacitly with their existence, although no open hatred, they're just trying to figure it all out too. And they are sort of adorable in their own way, but I'm still glad they don't breed like tribbles, there's a population problem people.

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