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Do hipsters believe in accountability?

Two answers to a convoluted inquiry

It was a simpler, nastier time.
It was a simpler, nastier time.

Dear Hipster:

One thing that seems to be typical of twenty-first-century hipsters is a somewhat permissive, laissez-faire attitude towards, well, just about anything, really, from dress to habits to jobs and anything else. I think it has something to do with elevating the idea of individuals being their own “authentic” selves as more important than anything else, which is a very 21st-century attitude. Given that, there are plenty of places you can go for judgment if you let your proverbial “freak flag” fly, but most hipsters, and anyone influenced by hipster values, are probably going to be OK with whatever your thing is. Now, I am all for not being too judgey, but I have to wonder if taking it too far with the idea of “come as you are” is a little bit like giving up on having any standards at all. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a question of “morality,” but does the general lack of uptightness you get from hipsters lead to a reduced sense of, for lack of a better word, accountability for personal choices?

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— T. Mac, North Park

This is an extraordinarily convoluted inquiry, but I think I get it. In the big picture, I think there’s some truth in the idea that popular culture has become more tolerant of people who are somehow outside of mainstream culture, in large part because, as you correctly note, being your own person is an end in itself, without giving any regard to the person who you actually are. But that’s not to say that personal accountability is on a downward slide. Let me challenge both an underlying assumption and your express premise here by stating (1) don’t be fooled into thinking hipsters aren’t capable of being judgmental bastards even though they are generally tolerant of alternative lifestyles; and (2) if anything, the world is getting more prudish by the day.

As to point numero uno, the zone of hipsterness encompasses a lot of outsiders... so much so that it’s hard to see anyone hip who isn’t somehow an “alternative” to the mainstream. There’s plenty of leeway in hipsterland for hardcore vegans to coexist peacefully alongside diehard carnivores who won’t eat a sandwich unless it contains at least one kind of prosciutto made from a non-porcine animal. But heaven forbid either of them likes the wrong kind of popular music! Even when being alternative is normalized, there’s always a way to get it wrong.

Point numero dos requires a little more historical context. In a lot of ways, the world is actually a lot tamer today than it was twenty-five or thirty years ago. Do you remember Tales from the Crypt? That was some seriously disgusting, occasionally lewd, and unflinchingly trashy TV. To its credit, it knew exactly what it was, and it appeared to have absolutely no shame about that whatsoever; but you don’t see TV that harsh anymore. Sure, you see harsh themes of murder and stuff, but it’s more artfully dolled up and less in-your-face horrible. Similarly, people who were around back then might remember the term “heroin chic” from 1990s fashion, because, you know, looking like a romanticized version of a heroin addict was totally cool. Can you imagine the term “heroin chic” catching on in 2021? Yeah, me neither. Although it seems contradictory at first, our culture may be becoming more tolerant but also, in many ways, perpetually politer and less edgy.

— DJ Stevens

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It was a simpler, nastier time.
It was a simpler, nastier time.

Dear Hipster:

One thing that seems to be typical of twenty-first-century hipsters is a somewhat permissive, laissez-faire attitude towards, well, just about anything, really, from dress to habits to jobs and anything else. I think it has something to do with elevating the idea of individuals being their own “authentic” selves as more important than anything else, which is a very 21st-century attitude. Given that, there are plenty of places you can go for judgment if you let your proverbial “freak flag” fly, but most hipsters, and anyone influenced by hipster values, are probably going to be OK with whatever your thing is. Now, I am all for not being too judgey, but I have to wonder if taking it too far with the idea of “come as you are” is a little bit like giving up on having any standards at all. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a question of “morality,” but does the general lack of uptightness you get from hipsters lead to a reduced sense of, for lack of a better word, accountability for personal choices?

Sponsored
Sponsored

— T. Mac, North Park

This is an extraordinarily convoluted inquiry, but I think I get it. In the big picture, I think there’s some truth in the idea that popular culture has become more tolerant of people who are somehow outside of mainstream culture, in large part because, as you correctly note, being your own person is an end in itself, without giving any regard to the person who you actually are. But that’s not to say that personal accountability is on a downward slide. Let me challenge both an underlying assumption and your express premise here by stating (1) don’t be fooled into thinking hipsters aren’t capable of being judgmental bastards even though they are generally tolerant of alternative lifestyles; and (2) if anything, the world is getting more prudish by the day.

As to point numero uno, the zone of hipsterness encompasses a lot of outsiders... so much so that it’s hard to see anyone hip who isn’t somehow an “alternative” to the mainstream. There’s plenty of leeway in hipsterland for hardcore vegans to coexist peacefully alongside diehard carnivores who won’t eat a sandwich unless it contains at least one kind of prosciutto made from a non-porcine animal. But heaven forbid either of them likes the wrong kind of popular music! Even when being alternative is normalized, there’s always a way to get it wrong.

Point numero dos requires a little more historical context. In a lot of ways, the world is actually a lot tamer today than it was twenty-five or thirty years ago. Do you remember Tales from the Crypt? That was some seriously disgusting, occasionally lewd, and unflinchingly trashy TV. To its credit, it knew exactly what it was, and it appeared to have absolutely no shame about that whatsoever; but you don’t see TV that harsh anymore. Sure, you see harsh themes of murder and stuff, but it’s more artfully dolled up and less in-your-face horrible. Similarly, people who were around back then might remember the term “heroin chic” from 1990s fashion, because, you know, looking like a romanticized version of a heroin addict was totally cool. Can you imagine the term “heroin chic” catching on in 2021? Yeah, me neither. Although it seems contradictory at first, our culture may be becoming more tolerant but also, in many ways, perpetually politer and less edgy.

— DJ Stevens

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