It’s called Dream Logic for a reason.
What has had a greater effect on defining what it means to be a 21st-century American hipster: movies and TV, music, or something else entirely?
That’s a bit like asking, ‘Who is smarter, a particle physicist or a US Supreme Court justice?’ You could go back and forth endlessly and never formulate an accurate answer, because the criterion of distinction isn’t a certain quantum of “smartness,” it’s the possession of (usually a tremendous amount of) particular knowledge. For sure, smartness enters into the equation, because both of them boast the ability to absorb and make use of a vast body of highly specialized information, which in turn requires a substantial degree of cleverness. Thus, the question is fundamentally flawed because it makes the wrong inquiry.
Moreover, the question would be doomed from the start because of unfair stereotyping. In our society, not all knowledge is perceived equally, which is rather unfortunate. You might imagine someone with a functionally encyclopedic knowledge of breakfast cereal. Picture a person capable of waxing poetic on everything from trivia about the origin of Cap’n Crunch (invented by a woman from New Hampshire based on her grandmother’s recipe for butter and brown sugar over rice) to the socioeconomic and physical importance of a balanced breakfast. The brainpower necessary to carry around and “use” (i.e. find a reason to work it into any conversation, however inconvenient) this wealth of information is patently obvious, yet there’s no such thing as a Nobel Prize for trivia.
I think that’s a grave injustice, and not solely because I fancy myself a shoo-in for such an award if the prize-giving committee ever got around to awarding it. Privileging one body of knowledge over another smacks of elitism, and it sends the unsavory message that acquiring knowledge for its own sake is a waste of time.
But, you might be wondering, what does all this have to do with the formative influences on modern hipster psychology? Similar to the “who’s smarter” argument, asking if hipster style is more defined by audio, visual, or some other media asks the wrong question, because it assumes the truth of a major premise, to wit, that hipster behaviors are shaped by outside forces. In reality, it may be the other way around.
You can think of this in terms of economics. No self-respecting producer would develop a movie designed to appeal to hipsters if there were no hipsters to watch the movie. In actuality, the only way the movie producer knows how to solicit hipsters is by looking at hipsters, figuring out what they want to watch, and then giving them what they want. I mean, yeah, could somebody spend $100 million dollars making some crazy hipster movie thinking someday, somebody will like it, maybe? Of course, but it wouldn’t be a good decision. That kind of logic only works in Field of Dreams and movies very loosely based in some small part on Field of Dreams.
When you boil the question down to its essence, you have to realize that hipsters aren’t cultural products, they are cultural producers. It is not that more and more people are clamping on to some sort of hipster identity based on what they see, hear, and read. Instead, the world has gradually become more and more hipster-shaped in recent years, and we shouldn’t confuse cause with effect.