Splitsider.com recently published an interesting article called “The Rise and Fall of Hipster Bashing” under the blog category of “Tired Jokes.” As I read it, I thought multiple things. First, that of course hipster bashing is a tired joke form, and Second, that acknowledging the staled hipster jokes is kind of unoriginal itself (right?). And Third, that I am totally guilty of still making these exhausted jokes.
Hipsters have turned into a kind of stereotype, and jokes at their expense have become a little too easy. Most hipster jokes are as stereotyped as any homophobic, racist, or sexist joke out there by any unoriginal comedian or dude at your office (or anything from a Jeff Dunham stand-up set), except no one feels bad for hipsters, or thinks that hipster jokes “cross the line” because hipsters are usually white, privileged, and delusional (see: deserving of ridicule). But I’m not trying to defend them, because they are the worst (am I right, you guys? (High fives)). And I realize the unintentional irony attached to this sentiment coming from me, from someone who apparently appears very hipster to certain people.
There are a thousand different websites, blogs, books, and youtube videos you can look up to see hipster characteristics, or what they love/hate, but I’m just going to post splitsider’s list of 15 “most prevalent clichés”:
1. Hipsters are rich, usually from trust funds, though they decide to appear poor
2. Hipsters only do things ironically and embrace all things ironic
3. Hipsters judge others with self-adorned intellectual superiority
5. Hipsters have obscure taste in music/books/film/art and general “I liked blank before it was mainstream/cool”
6. Hipsters drink PBR or another cheap beer depending on region
7. Hipsters don’t have jobs, unless it’s as an artist, which is considered to not be a real job
8. Hipsters are lazy, dirty, and apathetic
9. Hipsters are posers who try hard to appear to not be trying hard
10. Hipsters’ style consists of: skinny jeans, scarves, flannel, glasses and/or sunglasses, non-baseballed hats, tattoos, American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, thrift stores, bangs for women and a moustache or beard for men
11. Hipsters smoke American Spirits or Parliaments depending on region
12. Hipsters ride fixed geared bicycles
13. Hipsters eat only vegan food or organic non-vegan food
14. Hipsters live in hipster neighborhoods; if in LA they’ll be on the Eastside (Silverlake, Echo Park, Los Feliz), if in New York City they’ll be in Brooklyn (most often Williamsburg)
15. Hipsters hate hipsters and believe they are not one
You may have noticed that #4 is missing. I don’t know what is up with that, either.
I’m a high school English teacher and apparently I had a class with one of my student’s older cousins during my first year of college. This student told me her cousin said I defined hipster. My first year of college, I still had a bad mop top haircut left over from high school and wore Pink Floyd and Dunder Mifflin T-shirts very non-ironically. I was less hipster then than I am now—I didn’t even know what a hipster was then, so I was skeptical. But I asked some other friends of mine if they thought of me when they thought of “hipster.” Of the few that I polled, they all said yes. I was in shock. I felt betrayed, not only by my “friends’” opinions of me, but by myself for letting me slip into hipsterdom. Check hipster cliché number 15, because I was accidentally living by it.
But really it was the only hipster cliché I was living by. And I don’t know if I’m a hipster or not because of that, and I don’t hate the idea of being thought of a hipster anymore, because I just like what I like and do what I do, which means rule 15 probably doesn’t apply to me anymore. I guess what I am saying is, I may be a hipster to some folks in Springfield, MO, but I am not good at being a hipster. And I can admit when I am not good at something—basketball, memorizing names, or maintaining a relationship with a girl I really like, for example.
Just for fun, let me try to disprove any attachment I have to these 15 (ahem, 14) clichés. First of all, I’m not rich, and do not try to look poor. I am unmarried, have a salary, and rent a house with roommates, so I’m making decent money for a 22 year old, but I’m not a rich man (fa la la la la la la la la).
I like irony, who doesn’t? But I don’t only embrace the ironic, and I non-ironically like a lot of things that most hipsters might fake like ironically—the 80s band The Outfield, for example, or Pokemon.
I don’t judge anyone for pretending to be intellectually elite—clearly they suck.
I don’t like anything obscure for the sake of it being obscure. My favorite band is Led Zeppelin. Probably the 3rd least obscure band ever, right behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Are They Might Be Giants obscure? They have like 15 albums, and some Grammys. Are John Hodgman or David Sedaris obscure authors? Are Arrested Development or Louie obscure TV shows? Honestly, I pretty much discover everything through people cooler than myself.
I don’t like cheap beer.
I’m a teacher, not an “artist,” not unemployed.
I’m not lazy, or dirty, and I’m only apathetic about things that don’t matter, like your friend’s new baby, or what Republicans are angry about now.
I’m not a poser trying hard to not appear to be trying hard, if anything I am a poser by not trying hard, and appearing like I am.
I do wear a lot of plaid, and I wear clothes that fit me. This may be where much of the “Tyler’s a hipster” notion is coming from, but in my defense, I am just trying to look good when I put on clothes, and “hipster clothes” often look best on skinny white people, and I am skinny white people. If I looked best dressed as a cowboy, a thug, or naked, I’d be any of those things. I do have a beard and mustache, but it is mostly to look older than my students (and, OK, in a sad attempt to attract hipster girls).
Don’t ride a fixed gear bike. I have, and it was fun, like most bikes. But, frankly, it hurt my crotch.
Veganism disgusts me; name an animal, I’ll eat it.
I don’t live in a hipster neighborhood. I live in Springfield, MO, in a neighborhood called “Beverly Hills,” where the population is my house of young 20-somethings, old people, parents with children, and a few turds to break into unlocked cars.
I say all of this to say while I don’t really consider myself a hipster (but if I am, then that’s fine, whatever), I do feel like I’m a part of some hipster culture, or at least as close as my town can get. And because I am sort of “with it,” I felt like I could intelligently dish out the hipster jokes and bashes in a way that was smart and lively, but was still probably old hat to most people from 2009. I have written multiple satirical news articles about hipsters, I have jokes in my stand-up sets about hipsters, and I was hipster Abraham Lincoln for Halloween just a few months ago. And as hard as I tried to be clever, I’m fairly certain I am guilty of telling already-tired jokes. Maybe that is the missing 4th cliché? That hipsters tell unimaginative jokes about their own kind in order to seem above “hipsterness?” That exact thing is pretty hip these days. And if that is the case, then I am 1/15 hipster (or something, don’t worry about the actual math right now). And so are a lot (lot lot lot) of people.
Insult comedy, mocking comedy, or satire in general works best when the source is genuinely knowledgeable, or even immersed in what is being joked about. Just look at Christopher Guest films like Spinal Tap or A Mighty Wind—Guest, McKean, and Shearer are real musicians who are really capable of playing metal and folk. Darrell Hammond’s Bill Clinton impression was so popular and memorable because, in spite of all the jokes and rips, Hammond studied and admired Clinton. Do you want to see a white comedian making fun of black people? Or a Christian comedian making fun of Muslims? Hopefully not, I think that sort of thing would make most of us uncomfortable. It’s funnier when people are making fun of their own population and culture—that is when a member of a group is likely to say something new, interesting, personal (not just hateful) and really, really funny.
To quote the splitsider article:
“[Hipsters] Like clowns, with puffy pants traded for tight ones, they do deserve to be laughed at, but the jokes simply need to get better. The viewer needs to claim offense as a matter of it being disrespectful — not to hipsters but to good comedy.”
So, if I am a hipster, I am going to do my part and try to comedically tear into hipster culture from the inside—in a way that is fresh, and worth listening to. Hipsters want to like cool things before they are already cool; I want to come up with funny jokes before they are already funny.