B2 High-Intermediate US 1188 Folder Collection
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Here's an idea: You're probably a hipster. Hipsters catch a really bad rap. The word
hipster conjures some smug guy or gal; Ray-Bans; scarves; a bike that's hard to ride; waistcoats;
and pickled, local, small-batch everything. [We can pickle that.]
And, the cultural backlash to hipsterdom is huge, so huge in fact it's hard to somebody
who self-identifies as a hipster; however, with nerds, it's a much different story. (And
I want to pause her to say that for simplicity's sake, I'm conflating "geek" and "nerd," and
I realize there's a difference, but for now I'm going to use them interchangeably, so
don't get mad.) Unlike hipsters, there are tons of people who self-identify as nerds:
math nerds, music nerds, video game nerds, philosophy nerds, nerds, nerds, nerds, nerds,
nerds. [Get those nerds! Nerds! NERDS!] We talk about nerd cred and nerding out. Many
of us are nerd fighters, and there's even nerdcore music, and sure, there's still a
bad nerd rap, but generally the cultural tide seems to favor nerds over hipsters, which
is a little bit of a false dichotomy, right? Because if there's anything people like Richard
Ayoade, Kari Byron, Chris Hardwick, and Felicia Day have taught us, it's that you can be hip
and nerdy, but this doesn't stop us [from] drawing a cultural line between a group of
people who might wear this t-shirt and a group of people who might wear this t-shirt, meaning
while in theory they might be super-different, in practice it's a little bit more complicated,
which it usually is. (Stupid practice! Thinks it's so complicated!)
Both groups are defined not only by what they enjoy—like anime and Mumford & Sons—but
also how they enjoy it. Simon Pegg says that, "Being a geek is all about being honest about
what you enjoy, and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play
it cool about how much you like something." And we all probably agree that hipsters exude
some smugness or arrogance. They enjoy things ironically and not effusively. In other words,
hipsters look or behave in ways that they shouldn't. You are not a 1920's oil baron.
Why the handlebar mustache? You wear red flannel and have a large beard, yet you've never touched
an axe. Also, your shoes cost five hundred dollars, and you have a back tattoo of a Jackson
Pollock painting. Hipsters adopt the styles and affects of many
cultures. Cultures which aren't "theirs," cultures they don't actually belong to, mostly
because it would be hard to be an Appalachian coal miner from 1860. Other subcultures enjoy
what they enjoy and that is the end of the story. But is it?
Our tastes are complicated. They are earnest, aspirational, include guilty pleasures, things
we should like but don't and are largely an effect of our socio-economic geopolitical
supercalifragitive backgrounds. So, when someone's tastes express something
that they "can't" or "shouldn't" enjoy, the hipsterness alarm sounds. (The hipsterness
alarm sounds like this, by the way.) A lumberjack looking guy who mixes drinks and listens to
country music and rap but also plays D&D is such an extreme pastiche that he causes people
to hulk out! But, what's wrong with that? I mean, you don't get mad at your mom when
she shops at L.L.Bean, goes to Starbucks, and listens to the Grateful Dead. We see mom's
choices as natural, and we see hipster choices as performative; they are pretending or worse
yet mocking. What's happened though is that because of our global-media-whatever or are
internet-interconnected-whatsit, people have started to realize that every cultural artifact
from Carhartt pants and trucker hats to fedoras has cultural capital.
Cultural capital, coined by French anthropologist and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu describes
the social worth of a particular object, style of dress, or manner of speech, you-name-it,
to a particular class or subculture of people. Bourdieu theorized cultural capital as a way
to gain status. One could study, inherit, or purchase their way to having huge amounts
of cultural capital and, therefore, status. Status, though, is just really complicated.
For instance, for punks, high status might be indicated by the number of studs on their
leather jacket, but for other subcultures, that indicates extremely low status.
The process of recognizing cultural capital in objects and affects and then sticking with
them until they are assimilated, that is the modus hipsterandi.
This is why people draw that angry, spiteful line between hipsters and other subcultures.
Subcultures like nerds have to work for their cred to attain cultural capital within that
group. Hipsters just cherry pick the stuff they think is neat. People see hipsters as
devaluing cultural fashions by cashing in on their capital without embodying their meaning
and by combining cultural capital from entirely different subcultures. They're sort of like
the subcultural version of Girl Talk. And maybe the purity of those cultural expressions
is diluted a little bit when mish-mashed into hipsterdom, but is it really that different
from the cultural reappropriation of things like Levis, chain wallets, or, uh, kilts?
What do you guys think? Nerd? Punk? Mom? Is there a little hipster inside all of us? Let
us know in the comments and please subscribe, ironically or earnestly, doesn't matter to
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Are You A Hipster? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

1188 Folder Collection
James published on June 26, 2015
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