Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

Hipsterism for Non-Hipsters

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If you asked someone today who comprises the current counter culture is, more often than not they’d say hipsterism. Hipsterism is generally associated with indie music, non-mainstream fashion ranging from Lady Gaga to homeless person, alternative lifestyles, and independent or progressive political views. Christian Lorentzen of Time Out New York argues that “hipsterism fetishizes the authentic elements of all of the fringe movements of the postwar era- beat, hippie, punk, even grunge, and draws on the cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity and regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity.” To find a hegemonic incorporation of hipsterism we need only look to Netflix.

Shows like New Girl with Zooey Deschanel and Portlandia with Fred Armisen are examples of hipsterism in mainstream television. in “Rockin’ Hegemony” Storey argues that once big business realized rock was profitable it began the downward spiral of the counter culture. “The problem was this: in order to make records musicians, however alternative, have to engage with capitalism in the form of the private ownership of the industry. If you want to continue making records you have to continue making profits. Your audience is no longer the community, but the marketplace.” (Storey, 92). New Girl and Portlandia are involved here because they are the early stages of incorporation of hipsterism into mainstream media.

Portlandia and New Girl are shows about hipsters rather than shows about things hipsters deem important, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t being incorporated into mass media. Accrding to Storey, “like all popular culture initiatives under capitalism, it [rock and roll] faced three possible futures: marginalization, disappearance, or incorporation into the system’s profit-making concerns.” (Storey, 92). Portlandia and New Girl are the first step to the commodification and subsequent exploitation of hipsters for the purposes of capitalist profit.

As I said before, Portlandia and New Girl are not shows for hipsters; rather, they are shows about hipsters for the mainstream populace. “In Portlandia they don’t drive cars, they personally source their food and the mayor sits on a Swiss Ball, so either no one makes fun of no one, or they all make fun of eachother” ( New Girl treats hipsterism in a similar way: Jess (Zooey Deschanel) is a goofy, childlike person with no real direction in her life. The audience is asked implicitly to laugh at her but not necessarily to identify with her. In this way New Girl and Portlandia are an incorporation of hipsterism into the hegemonic mainstream.



One thought on “Hipsterism for Non-Hipsters

  1. I was interested in your post, both because I think hipsterism is hugely present on campus, and also I’m a huge “New Girl” fan. But I’m curious–do you think Portlandia and New Girl are incorporating hipsterism into the hegemonic mainstream, or encapsulating the hegemony of hipsterism itself? And further, IS hipsterism a hegemony? I think that hipsters themselves subscribe to the values and objectives of being “hipster” but other subcultures don’t necessarily support them at all, which goes slightly against Storey’s explanation of hegemony. Also, I would argue that hipsterism isn’t really “naturalized” it’s very much an attitude and culture which goes against all norms…nobody thinks of a hipster as normal, per say. That being said, they have certainly negotiated power that popular culture has accepted (as seen in New Girl and Portlandia). If a hipster came up to me and said “I hate Top 40 Hits on iTunes” I would be like…”yeah, of course…you’re a hipster”. In that sense, they ARE normalized. Nobody fights against hipsters, that’s just what they are. Hipsters like Portlandia. I just don’t think they are a dominant class.

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