Monday, November 01, 2010

Hipsterism and Childhood

Fiction Advocate responds to Mark Greif's New York piece with a post about hipsters and their obsession with childhood:

[The] observation – that much of what is “hip” in art today is overly concerned with the stuff of childhood – has been running through my posts on this blog for a while. There was the skepticism I showed for people like Neil Gaiman (Coraline) and Dave Eggers, again, with Spike Jonze (Where the While Things Are) who translate kids’ stories into big movies that are supposed to appeal to adults. . . . Lately it’s been hip for adults to make and consume art that’s essentially for children. I don’t know if the hipster is dead, as Greif says, but I hope this part of hipsterism is dead.

I'm working on a longer response to the Greif essay, but I think this illustrates why hipsters are so hard to define. There is certainly a strain of hipsterism that is concerned with parodying/glorifying things from childhood (think feathered headdresses), but the way in which various groups that we label "hipsters" have been concerned with childhood has changed substantially in the last decade. It's difficult to pinpoint a unified vision.

Meanwhile, within American culture in general, there is an obsession with youth that has grown in the last decade. Youth has been over-inflated for a long time, but the last ten years have seen its value balloon. We've seen the quarter-life crisis, the mainstreaming of twee, the rise of YA books for adults, and the casual office. The once stark line between adults and children has been blurred significantly. We can no longer rely on adults to dress and behave differently from children.

I don't have a larger point to make here, but the obsession with childhood isn't unique to hipsterism. If anything, it seems to be the dominant culture bleeding into subculture.


Brian Hurley said...

Bring on the longer response! If nothing else, parts of Greif's essay could stand to be "translated" into plain speech for normal people.

Matt said...

I thought Greif's essay was clear enough, but as you said yesterday, it doesn't deliver the clever argument necessary to hold up its clever premise. That, to me, is the main problem. Its glibness and its failure to be anything but glib are what keep it from succeeding.