Photograph by KIYOUNG KIM
2NE1: Even you, Mr. Cool Kid
I was talking to a coworker of mine the other day. You can safely assume he (or she) qualifies as a real hipster. I can’t remember exactly how we started talking about it, but the conversation somehow turned to K-pop, which isn’t something I would normally talk about at work. I actually think I made a K-pop joke about something, which might or might not have been funny, considering I don’t know all that much about K-pop. Before we got too deep into the conversation, my coworker said something like, “Ugh, I can’t stand K-pop. It has the worst fanbase.” I don’t understand that correlation. How can you decide you don’t like K-pop based only on your perception of K-pop fans? Is there some kind of weird, hipster reverse “sins of the father” dogma going on here and I didn’t get the memo?
This is totally a hipster thing, but it’s not solely a hipster thing, because it comes from an all-too-human sense of tribalism. If you do a little bit of asking around, you can easily find people who will leap at the opportunity to cast aspersions on fans of Star Wars, Starbucks, or the (formerly Oakland) Raiders. As humans, we naturally fabricate superstitious connections or divisions between ourselves and others based on arbitrary categories of information.
At one point in time, these were probably much more literal criteria, like “People Who Live in the Hills and Eat Mostly Plants,” as opposed to “People Who Live by the Sea and Eat Mostly Fish But Also Have Tans.” Fast forward a couple of thousand years, and we have become a lot more inventive in our ways of sorting people into otherwise meaningless groups based on things as random as a preference for one caffeine vendor over another, or dressing like impoverished Juggalos during NFL tailgate parties.
The particularly hipster twist on this fact pattern admits of two elements. First, hipsters define their sense of identity, both collectively and on an individual basis, largely in terms of being “not” affiliated with people, things, or ideas. Much like so-called “burning mouth syndrome” (the most obviously named idiopathic medical condition in existence, which I promise you is a real thing), hipsterism is primarily a diagnosis of exclusion. Second, the categories from which hipsters strive to exclude themselves are almost all things that mainstream people consider fabulously trivial. The average hipster would be absolutely devastated by insinuations he was a secret BTS fan, and merely nonplussed by suggestions he might be a communist or a libertarian.
Normally, I champion hipster stuff, but I can’t really defend this one. It’s not so much the need to distance oneself from a particular pop cultural phenomenon that bothers me. I’m all in favor of being an inveterate snob. It’s not even the need to prioritize seemingly meaningless personal entertainment preferences over more substantial stuff. I think the world would maybe be a better place if we all cared more about bacon and less about foreign policy. It’s the collateral damage of writing off a group of people that bugs me. Hate The Big Bang Theory all you want, but hate it because it’s a terrible show, not because you want to prove you’re better than the people who watch it. This is one of the few hipster trends I can’t get behind.