I get being a hipster. I mean, sometime in the late ‘80s, when I was a wee teen looking for my place within the realm of pop culture, I was probably a hipster (even though the word, in its current incarnation, didn’t exist back then). You know, listening to obscure music nobody heard about, going to art house theaters, hanging out with the cool kids, wearing clothes from Goodwill. Then I abandoned all pretension and turned to punk/ a more gothic aesthetic, but that’s for another post. In any case, I can see why (majorly white) people can embrace the idea of hipsterdom. It is ironic, but it is also a phenomenon bred out of the suffocating idea that nothing we do will have any impact. That trying to change the system is pointless and futile and we might as well just smoke cigarettes, drink cheap beer and search for the next band nobody heard of. It is not useful, but it is somehow in line with the erosion of workers’ unions (and the struggle for rights), the raise of hyper capitalism, the totalitarian creep into every day life. It’s the path of least resistance when faced with the fact that there is little place for us as individuals. So, we might as well seat by the sidewalk, pointing fingers and laughing while we do nothing (because, really, why bother even trying to do anything?). Irony, yes; but also abandonment. In more than one sense, hipsters share the detachment with their existentialist predecessors. They lack their philosophical/ ideological depth, but the two “movements” do have much in common.
I suspect that most people grow out of hipsterdom once they are faced with the pains of being a grown up. Eventually, they realize that people outside their Williansburg (for New Yorkers), or Jordaan (for the Amsterdammers) or Palermo Soho (for the Argentinian) circles do not get the jokes, do not understand the attraction to obscure music nobody heard of and certainly do not get the “irony” behind stuff like racism or cultural appropriation. So most people, I expect, just grow up.
But what happens in those rare cases when they don’t? Those, those are the people who blatantly hurt feelings and call it “ironic” or “sarcastic”. Those are the ones who reach a position of power in one of the biggest media outlets and use that power to publish rape jokes and rape apologies, justify racism and ableism and when readers complain, they laugh it off and tell their readership that they should just chill. When hipsters treat the rest of the world, from a powerful platform that reaches millions, with the same disdain they used to treat people who never heard of their band du jour, they are no longer hipsters. Then they are sociopaths. Only that now, they run your favorite website.
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