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June 12th, 2007

12:05 am

So Time Out, New York, which is too ubiquitous to get a link, has a cover story about how hipsters need to go. I think the subhead is something like "A modest proposal for the sake of New York cool" or some bullshit like that. I haven't read it, but it's part of a meme that's been making the rounds hereabouts (I think I was forwarded a similar story from fucking Gawker for Christ's sake) so I already know what it says, and a lot about the whinging piece of shit who wrote it.

What bugs Cranky McNormalpants, the author of the Time Out/Gawker/whatever piece about hipsters is their irony. Their ironic hairdos, their ironic clothes, their ironic music and their ironic iron-ons. In aggregate: their irony-fisted ruling over the rules of cools. Or something. Cranky McNormalpants thinks this because (s)he is operating on the basis of some pretty flawed assumptions, which we'll get to through exploring what exactly hipsters are doing with all that irony.

I would say that irony is a pretty widely misunderstood concept, but from my mouth (or screen or keyboard, or whatever) that might come off as ironic understatement. Bartleby.com and Ethan Hawke agree that irony is meaning something other than what you say, but like all literary concepts the definition of irony doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. One of the important things about irony is that you can't mean the direct opposite of what you say. Without nuance irony is just sarcasm, which is fine, as far as it goes, but they aren't to be conflated. Of course, this sort of thing eludes most people, so when people who aren't terribly bright (like hipsters) are into irony they need to form a community of people who get the joke, because nobody is going to pick it up on their own.

So really, a lot of work goes into being a hipster. Unlike being cool, however, there's little or no risk involved in hipsterdom once you actually put that work in. Once you've shown yourself to be abject enough to want in, you're in. All you have to do is do your best to make yourself love the mediocrity and abnegation. To refute actually being cool in favor of pretending that you don't care about the fact that you and everyone you know isn't cool, and probably wouldn't be if they went to the trouble (but what's the point of being white these days if you actually take risks). Nevertheless, it is definitely a club, and the fact that they are pointedly excluded from it is what people like Cranky McNormalpants object to. When I get not-in-the-club shit from hipsters, I take it with a grain of salt. After all, my problem is having bothered to take the risk in order to be genuinely cool. From where I stand (and looking down upon people's thinning crowns doesn't hurt this perspective; oh no it doesn't) it doesn't seem like that big a deal. The investment in this dismissive attitude that the spate of anti-hipster screeds implies puts the utter uncoolness of their authors into stark and undeniable relief.

Which is important, because, remember, if the hipsters go, these people aren't going to (as they seem to assume) magically become cool, and there isn't some repository of cool waiting to be tapped once the last ironic mustache is shaved off of whatever greasy fuck it's attached to. Instead, the hipsterdom we love to hate will be replaced with something much much worse: people so mind-numbingly dull that they couldn't make it as hipsters. The internal life of the average hipster may be an annoying mix of self-aggrandizement and infantile need, but at least it is an internal life. In their absence we'll get the suits and fratty clowns that ran all the fags out of the meat packing district, transforming it virtually overnight into the worst place in NYC to be after dark.

So spare a kind thought for the hipster, and visit Cat and Girl(whose author is almost certainly a hipster, but clearly totally awesome).