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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Creativity and Hipsters

A game I will flat-out refuse to play. Image blatantly stolen from Google.

All right, here's something that bothers me (and bear with me, because it takes some explanation. I've been thinking about this for like a week, so it's all complicated): oddity for the sake of being odd. It's shammy, scummy, annoying and pointless.

The whole "hipster" scene that has kind of blown up over the past couple of years (see the book Stuff White People Like -first off it's hilarious, second about 1/2 the entries apply to hipsterism) drives me nuts. Now, don't get me wrong -I love quirks. I love people with quirks. I know plenty of very quirky people. But the difference between being quirky and being annoying is that these quirky people don't make their quirks the sole facet of their personality.

If you're turning yourself into a parody of a human being by your ironic fashion sense/opinions/eating habits/"creative" projects, then I want nothing to do with you. Fully developed people (or even developing people) should have more to talk about than how ironic they are, and how everything today is so ersatz compared to 40, 50 years ago and they're just soooo glad they can (ironically) appreciate getting out of the consumerist mainstream.

And hey, that's fine -I'm all for getting out of the mainstream, to an extent. The hipster movement, to me, is no different than being goth/emo/dressing like a pirate every day. All you're doing is rejecting one set of beliefs for another conformist, consumerist, uninteresting set of beliefs. And these people (us vs. them mentality going strong today, just keep coming along with the writing please) insist that they're so "random" and so "different" from everyone else.

All I have to say in response to that is that if I went around campus with a digital camera and took a picture of every hipster here (which would take at least 4 months) and put them all up, you wouldn't be able to pick yourself out from the rest of them.

At what point does that strike anyone as being creative? If your idea of creativity comes from wearing 40 year old overalls with one pant leg rolled up to your knee, not shaving or getting a haircut and brushing your teeth during class, I'm saddened by that. Carrying a Moleskine notebook around doesn't make you look creative. (Disclaimer: I carry a Moleskine notebook around, but I actually happen to be a creative writing major and I use it multiple times a day, so take everything I say with a tiny grain of salt).

My issue here with the whole idea of being a hipster as somehow directly equivalent to being a creative force is that there is no creativity involved in it. There is the creation of a set of quirks and a thematic element of sticking it to the man (which, as we all know, is super duper original and hasn't been going on since the first cave man declared himself an authority over his brothers). That is not a personality or a way of life, that is a fashion trend like any other.

I don't mind weird people. Most of my friends are weird (and I say this as a compliment, friends who read this. I say this with love in my heart for your weirdness). What I mind is people who let a few odd traits become their only traits.

I have, like I said, weird friends. But these are friends with whom I can sit and have a conversation about anything. There's no pretense in talking with these people -there's no sense of needing to maintain some kind of status quo socially. We just get some coffee and hang out. Whenever I see/overhear hipsters talking, or talk to them myself, there's this underlying (or overwhelming) sense that everything has to be super-strange, disconnected, ultra-literary or ironic in some way. I love having literary discussions, but not when they're pretentious and motivated by a desire to be smarter than everybody else/seem smarter than everybody else/show off my knowledge. I want to discuss literature because literature is worth discussing, not because I have an ironic statement to make about it.

Oddities are awesome, but they need to be kept in check. People let their personality quirks take them over and suddenly they're not really a person anymore. Just a caricature of one. That bothers me.

And creativity is damaged by that. A lot of these people seem to think (based on the writing/drawing I see them do) that they can successfully write/draw ironically, all the time. You can't. You have to be living a full life (notice I don't say a good, moral or normal life, but a FULL one) in order to get creativity out there. Hipsters seem, to me, like they just have big circle-jerks all the time over how ironic and nonconformist they are -and there is, initially, good stuff that comes out of being ironic and nonconforming (I won't say anything about what comes out of a circle-jerk, because that's gross and inappropriate)...but when you take it to a point of not doing anything except trying to be a nonconformist, ironic person, you lose everything that made you an interesting writer or creator.

I'm also not saying, in this, that everyone should be more like me or adhere to some ideal of what I find normal/cool/right, whatever. I'm sure there are plenty of hipsters out there who write beautiful prose and poetry that is not always focused on being ironic, just as I'm sure there's some frat boy on campus somewhere who has a secret file on his computer for his stories. You can't judge someone on how they look -I know that. But you can totally judge someone once you've been interacting with them for a while, and the people I'm coming into contact with are every single stereotype you can think of when you think "hipster." It's just bugging me.

This has little to do with reading or writing except incidentally, but a lot to do with the idea of creative expression. I am all about it. If you feel the need to dress solely in vintage clothes as a personal expression, go for it. But unless you have a personality apart from those clothes, I'm not going to remember you in two weeks as anything other than another "quirky" hipster.

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