Maria Bustillos, bylined at The AWL:
If it were really such a contemptible thing to be a hipster, you’d think that nobody would want to live in Echo Park or Williamsburg or Shoreditch or the Haut Marais; you’d think nobody would want to be caught dead wearing skinny trousers or the colored Ray-Bans or listening to WHY?. And yet people in search of the like-minded flock to those places, to those things. So why this “self-loathing propensity,” the doubtless real and widespread thing of which Lethem speaks?
It isn’t really self-loathing at all. People don’t hate hipsters, and hipsters don’t hate themselves. What people hate so much is the faux-hipsters: they hate poseurs. And because it’s such an irritating thing to be having to tell the real from the fake (exactly as in the matter of overpriced European handbags), the easiest way out is simply to deny any involvement in the whole business. That is why nobody, not even someone who fervently embraces hipster culture, wants to call himself a hipster.
Persuasive, but the positive spin on the present demonized state of the “hipster” seems rather shoehorned for the sake of Bustillos’ logic.
Isn’t it too late to develop an eye discerning enough to spot the difference between a poseur and a hipster? And even so, is it worth expending the mental energy to develop such a keen eye? Sadly, it’s easier to remain pessimistic.
It’s easy to blame the poseur (or the scenester) for the fall of the Hipster from iconoclastic greatness. It’s not like they’re soulless androids created by Evil Republicans to create a counter-countercultural cancer from within the hermetically-sealed ranks of an affluent-urban subsculture of educated progressives … poseurs are real people too. And thus, complex human beings who are deeply confused about their own identity.
Still, a part of me is conscious of the general attitude that conservatives had toward the beatniks in the 50s/60s, and the hippies in 60s/70s. There’s a comorbidity to the rise and fall of countercultural subcultures that cannot be ignored. Beyond the historicism that helps define them, the lines that separate these countercultural movements seem blurry.
These days (at least in my experience), hippies and beatniks are fondly referenced for their caterwauls against social oppression, social injustice, war, anti-individualism, and so on. To me, the crucifixion of a movement’s zeitgeist paradoxically sets the stage for its resurrection, sometimes within the following decade.