Friday, April 25, 2008

that's me - ugh

Feeling extraordinarily lazy this morning, so I’m just going to post this question from “Ask the AV Club” verbatim and, furthermore, provide no commentary, as it’s pretty fucking obvious why it’s of interest:

What exactly is a hipster? Do these people actually exist, or are they merely grist for angry message-boarders looking for phantom "hipster douchebags"? Does the modern hipster have roots in the 1950s beatnik types described by Norman Mailer and others, or is it a peculiarly modern institution? I ask because a friend of mine from outside the U.S. heard the term and asked about it, and I began to wonder if I knew myself beyond some kind of pejorative stereotype.

Patrick Galligan

HDB Noel Murray breaks it down:

Patrick, you're basically right about the origins, though slightly off on the time frame. The term ostensibly dates to the '30s, derived from "hep," used in jazz circles to describe someone up on the latest sounds and styles. "Hep cat" evolved into "hipster" in the '40s, then "hippie" in the '60s, each time gaining a slightly different connotation, although the essence of the meaning has always been the same: a hipster, traditionally, is someone on the cutting edge when it comes to his or her taste in popular culture. (And the "popular" part of that phrase is key, since hipsters aren't necessarily highbrows.)

As for how it became a pejorative term, well, that's partly a function of the democratization of the media in the Internet age. Blogs and message boards have given those who've long been disappointed by the movies and music that they've been told to like a forum where they can vent at the trendsetters. But the use of "hipster" as an insult is also a function of the nature of hipsterdom itself. In an attempt to stay au courant, the modern hipster has moved beyond the traditional hipster model, to the extent that it's hard to know now whether the "hipsters" are the ones listening to The Arcade Fire and The Hold Steady, or the ones rejecting those bands and re-embracing Journey. One thing you can be sure of, though: 90 percent of the time, people who use the word "hipster" are probably hipsters themselves.

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