Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Somewhere, deep in the world of the people whose job it is to publicize concerts, there was once a conversation about how to make hipsters actually smile.
Market Research Dude: We have a problem.
Publicity Chick: We promote Indie bands, we have lots of problems.
Market Research Dude: No. This is something we’re never encountered in all of music history. It’s the hipsters…
Publicity Chick: Haha, of course it is (pours glass of scotch, on the rocks).
Market Research Dude: We give them free performances from the bands they pretend to like, free stuff – towels, keychains, Starbucks™ double shot espresso energy drinks – and we allow them to continue thinking their clothing is fashionable. But no matter what we do, they just won’t smile! Now the bands don’t want to perform in Williamsburg anymore because they say it’s (makes air quotes) “too awkward.”
Publicity Chick: Hmm, yes you’re right, this is critical. We need to find something that will fill their hipster hearts with joy. Perhaps something that reminds them of childhood – you know, before the mockery and ridicule set in; something big and fun and as colorful as all their converse shoes combined…
Market Research Dude: I’ve got it – beach balls. Several over-sized beach balls. Then they can engage in a mass volleyball game while grooving to tunes (in low voice to Publicity Chick) and we all know how much kids these days love to multitask (nudges Publicity Chick with elbow). If that doesn’t put smiles on those pasty white faces nothing will!
Publicity Chick: Brilliant. And did you hear? volleyball is the new kickball.
Initially, the plan appeared to work. When a beach ball is first introduced into a crowd of hipsters, there is sometimes cheering and even an attempt at participation as restless fans lunge for the opportunity to touch the beach ball. This is especially true when the balls are presented to hipsters waiting in line (for example, before the MGMT show at McCarren Park Pool when the doors did not open for approximately 1.5 hours after the advertised time). But after approximately 2 minutes of beach ball circulation during a show, hipsters lose all interest in the beach balls, becoming potential targets for rogue balls, which are heavier than one might think.
So despite music promoters’ efforts to liven the spirits of the forlorn hipsters, the beach ball idea turned out to be nothing but a severe annoyance.
At one McCarren pool party, an angry hipster chick standing next to me even went so far as to catch a beach ball and deflate it, attracting boos from a few surrounding hipsters with higher beach ball tolerance levels. This is profound because for a hipster to risk being ridiculed by her peers, and to disregard it when it occurs, there must be an incredibly strong motivating force, which beach ball anxiety appears to produce.
One explanation for this anomalous behavior is that the hipster may have conducted a rudimentary cost-benefit analysis, placing the cost of being ridiculed for deflating a beach ball at a lower magnitude than the benefits gained from avoiding the embarrassment that would ensue should she be struck on the head by a rogue ball.
Also irritating to hipsters is that whenever one of them purposely hits a beach ball into the press area or photo pit at a show, the oblivious photogs and PR apprentices throw them right back. This is done with patronizing graciousness, as if to say “you couldn’t possibly be enjoying the show like I am from back there, so you will probably want to play with this inflatable plastic ball.”
Photo by Jamie Killien.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Smiling is considered a natural, often involuntary response to certain stimulating factors in the environment. But recently, scientists have observed a phenomenon in a small subset of American teenagers and post-graduate Liberal Arts majors residing in urban areas. It seems that when these anomalous individuals, whom researchers refer to as the “hipster cohort,” are presented with experimental stimulus considered “pleasant,” “joyus” and “delightful” by the control group (individuals of the same age group located in Grainfield, Kansas), this group will remain completely stoic, offering no facial indication that the stimulus is favorable in any way.
Explanations for this behavior are heavily debated. One possibility is that hipsters, having had all of their needs consistently met and exceeded by indulgent suburban parents, have nothing with which to contrast happiness. Therefore, the hipster’s baseline level of contentment is much higher than that of the average human being.
Hipsters do occasionally smile, but the act is almost always coupled with the act of swiping a major credit card through a reader when making a purchase, especially at faux-vintage clothing stores located in Brooklyn.
To some, especially self-righteous Canadian anarchists, this behavior is looked upon with extreme disdain. In the most recent issue of Adbusters magazine, Douglass Haddow cited this hipster phenomenon as evidence that hipsters are solely responsible for the decline of America Civilization (See article here).
“Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion,” Haddow writes.
But I don’t think the blame should fall completely on the hipster. Being part of the first generation to face the onslaught of advertisements through technologically advanced mediums, hipsters have simply done what has been asked of them by the capitalist machines past generations have failed to prevent and thus, have effectively created. The fleeting smile in response to capitalistic exchanges – and little else – is something to be expected. Moreover, the modern hipster has come to expect enjoyment from buying things like the people who typically criticize them expect fulfillment from sexual intercourse. (note: while the expectations built around sexual intercourse often exceed the actual pleasure received, the pleasure a hipster experiences from buying random crap is real and can consistently produce a euphoria that lasts hours. This act also requires smoking a cigarette immediately after exiting a location where a purchase was made.)
Additionally, researchers have concluded that the loss of facial motor function and inappropriate emotional response is merely the hipster’s way of adapting to a world in which real anguish is not commonly experienced. This is also why, the worst possible thing for a hipster to encounter is to find out that access to her constant stream of monetary parental support has been cut off until she gets a “real” job to actually earn money to feed her compulsions. This imposition, however, is too ironic for hipsters to handle for the following reason: The only way for hipsters to break out of the patterns that characterize them as such, is to join the very organizations that contributed to their awkward state in the first place: the advertising industries, the corporations, Hollywood – which are the only industries that are still functioning despite the decrepit state of the economy (besides the war profiteering industry).
Perhaps, the satisfaction a hipster gets from shopping at second-hand stores comes from the subconscious knowledge that in buying these products, they are failing to contribute to sweatshop labor and global warming, thereby chipping a minute amount of income away from Corporate America, the Dr. Frankenstein of the hipster cohort. (Note: sadly, these effects are canceled out when anyone shops at Urban Outfitters and American Apparel – 50 items must be purchased at the Salvation Army in order to karmically redeem one item purchased at Urban Outfitters.)
Photo by Christophe Legris for Stuff Hipsters Don’t Like ©2008.