Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Racism is Vintage and Vintage is in (And other Hipsterisms) UPDATED 2/15


Today I am writing a true confession. A confession about something that festers and boils in the pit of my soul. For those of you who know me personally, you know that I am constantly screaming about my hatred of Hipsters, and Hipster culture. If you are a hipster, whether confessed or closeted, this post concerns you, and rather than turn away, I encourage you to read on. If you are not a hipster, awesome, but please keep reading because maybe you can lay down some truth on your hipster friends, because we all know you have at least one.


Hipsters represent everything that is irritating about American youth culture, and what is wrong with our culture as a whole. We live in a world where white people are beginning to feel their power and influence wane. We are beginning to see American defined as something other than blonde hair, blue eyes, American pie, and the white picket fence. And that scares the shit out of white people.

"It's cool, man. It's just a joke! I love black people. I fucked a black girl once."

America is becoming a lot browner, a lot more multicultural in general, and white people are having a crisis of culture because their identity is not necessarily the status quo anymore. This crisis of culture has sent the white youth grasping for something. Why? Because the idea of guaranteed prosperity, privilege and success, that was promised to them, isn't working out. Suddenly non-white people are getting access to powers and privileges that in the past had been reserved only for upper middle class whites. Now, they aren't just competing with other white people, they are competing with everyone and the odds are stacked against them. Now, being white isn't ENOUGH of a guarantee to earn them what they believe they deserve or to get them to where they want to go.

**And just to keep some heads from exploding, I am not speaking about all white people, I am talking about HIPSTERS specifically, and I will get to non-white hipsters later.

"I look SO cultured right now. This headdress makes me look interesting and original."

What is the definition of a 'Hipster?' 

"A contemporary subculture of young, recently settled urban middle class adults and older teenagers that appeared in the late 1990s. The subculture is associated with independent music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibilityApple productsliberal or independent political views, alternative spirituality or atheism/agnosticism and alternative lifestyles."

"I live in a upper class neighborhood, but I dress like I'm homeless because it expresses who I am."

What is a Hipster Really?

A hipster is a middle to upper middle class, generally of white (European/Scandinavian/Caucasian) descent. Hipsters are generally suburban or urban teenagers, twenty or thirty-somethings who lack a personal cultural identity. When asked what their heritage is they respond with, "I'm like German or Polish or something like that..." They are also associated with PBR, vinyl records, fixed gear bikes, and a hodge-podge of 'thrift store' style clothing which often upon closer inspection is actually just as expensive designer brands. 

Orange: Unwarranted self importance

One of the biggest aspects of Hipster culture is their liking of 'indie' music, magazines, movies, and websites. They use the word 'mainstream' to define anything that is too popular among their peers, and therefor not 'cool.' While highly educated and financially able to live a life of comfort, most hipsters forgo the classic symbols of their middle class upbringing and instead appropriate the symbols of lower class people. Hipsters are also defined by their liking of non-white cultural motifs such as aspects of Native American and African tribal culture as well as nostalgic motifs such as 60's or 70's style clothing.

"Lol, the Holocaust, HILARIOUS! It's fine though, I went to a Bar Mitzvah when I was like 12."

Hipsterism, despite being defined by "progressive" political and religious ideas, is actually a culture of exclusion. If you like the wrong bands, or the wrong movies, or the wrong bits and pieces of popular culture, you are not welcome in their circles. Don't believe me? Tell a group of hipsters that you didn't think Twilight was that bad, or that you love tabloid magazines, or that you bought a SUV instead of a fixed gear bike, and see if you get invited to the next party. Try telling a hipster that you find his use of the N-word offensive or that he doesn't in fact know anything about 'ghetto' culture. Then watch him and all of his friends pounce on you saying something to the effect of, "I am just subverting what, is like, our preconceived notions about racial slurs. I mean why can't I say the word 'nigger' if I hear black people saying it all the time? REVERSE RACISM!" 

"I'm not racist, I'm just being really subversive. If you're mad it's because you don't get it!"

But the only real thing you need to know about hipsters, is that they are, as a culture, defined by their lack of cultural understanding, their inability to see how offensive appropriation is and their willful ignorance about cultural ownership really is. They are defined by their inability to engage in a real discussion when someone of a minority race takes issue with their behavior. They believe that being a modern progressive is enough to absolve them from having to take responsibility for their actions. They don't want to be told they are wrong. They don't want to be told that they can't have something that belongs to another race or culture. They feel entitled to pick and chose the elements they like from Native culture, like headdresses, or Mexican culture with Dia De Los Muertos images or drums from various African cultures, as a way to express their own 'individuality,' and then throw away anything they don't want or anything that doesn't support their narrow world view. 

They want to take the African drum and say it is apart of their culture, but they don't want to confront the poverty many African nations face or the struggle African immigrants face when coming to the US. Or the genocide happening in the Congo. That is all too messy. They just want the drum. But, they don't want to buy an authentic drum from an African craftsman. They want to buy the drum from Urban Outfitters because that doesn't require them to actually confront the culture they are appropriating or force them to feel any guilt about what they are doing. 

What does a Hipster Look Like?

There is a huge variety of hipsters, so here are some examples. Below is a very helpful guide for those who are not familiar with the general breakdown of Hipsterism.  It is a little dated, but it still works.

I think the 2006 and the 2008 versions are still around....

* Now, I think I should say this now, before fashionistas around the world start calling for my head. Let's be clear, just like Dave Chappelle said about ho's at the club, you can't assume someone is a certain way just because of the way they dress. So no, not everyone who likes to dress like a hipster, is a hipster. Hipsterism is a way of thinking and behaving, not necessarily a style, but they generally go hand-in-hand.

So, What's Wrong with Being a Hipster Anyway?

"Instagram that ish..."

Nothing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a hipster. We live in America (well I do), and if you want to be a hipster, you have 100% freedom to do just that. You are free to dress, and act any way you want. But, understand that having the freedom to do or say something, does not give you immunity from criticism. And when you walk around saying and doing things that offend others, especially minorities, you are going to hear about it, and it might not be pretty. 

What is So Offensive About Hipster Culture?

Besides the undeserved and unwarranted sense of self-superiority? Well, hipster culture is very much defined by its cultural appropriation. What is cultural appropriation?

"The burrito truck in that Mexican neighborhood is really good, it would be a lot better if they'd just speak English."

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture.[1][2] It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and artreligionlanguage, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, can take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held.

"It's funny because I'm not ACTUALLY an Islamic Fundamentalist, I'm really a rich white girl."

Now, America is essentially a nation of appropriation, that is part of our 'melting pot' culture. But hipsters take America's general lack of sense about cultural ownership, and turn it into a fashion statement, and a commodity to be bought and sold. They turn it into 'cool' and 'uncool' based on what is trendy. And to the white girl from Chicago, those adorable Navajo print bags she bought from Urban Outfitters are just 'things,' not a part of someone's cultural identity.

"Pocahontas is my favorite Disney movie! Actually it's the Little Mermaid, but I SAW Pocahontas..."

And when you toss that head-dress you bought from a gift shop on the ground after a long day wearing it at Pitchfork Music Fest, you are just demonstrating how white culture finds other cultures disposable. When they are done appropriating, they just toss everything aside, get out of their 'costume' and back into the clothing that allows them to walk back into their grandmothers house. 

To the white guy who walks around in a shirt that says 'Thug Life' it is just a shirt that makes him seem like he knows about street culture, while never understanding what that life really means. The white boy, whose parents worry every time he travels from the suburbs to the city has no idea what life on the streets is really about. He has never even met a person from a lower status than his own that wasn't serving him dinner. When he sees a black man on the street, he crosses to the other side, or clutches his iPhone a little bit tighter. He does all of that while wearing a "thug life' t-shirt and the irony isn't lost on him. It is that willful ignorance that offends people.

"Hey guys, I have to quit thuggin by noon, I have a brunch with my trust fund manager."

A lot of times, Hipsters will vigorously defend their appropriation with comments like "I'm 1/18th Cherokee," or, "I have black friends!" What they are really saying is, "it doesn't matter what I'm doing because this head-dress, or this shirt, is apart of my culture too" In actuality, that couldn't be further from the truth. They believe having even the slightest connection to the culture they are appropriating, gives them the right to bastardize it for a fad or for profit.

"I don't know how much Irish blood I actually have, but I have red hair and I like Guinness, so...."

What About Non-White Hipsters?

Non-white hipsters are guilty of the same things. But a black hipster is going to be able to get away with a 'Thug Life' shirt in a way a white hipster never will. A native hipster can wear a head-dress, and chances are, they are going to have the cultural understanding to back up their fashion choice. A Chinese kid can get away with getting a Chinese symbol tattoo, whereas the same tattoo looks ridiculous on a white kid. See where I'm going with this?

Many people of minority races have their own culture that is deeply rooted in their everyday life. They are often too busy carrying out the rituals and expressions of their own culture to have any desire to start adopting the rituals and expressions of other cultures. That is, of course, not true across the board, but I think it's a fair generalization. However, that does not excuse hipsters from minority communities from being equally as insensitive as hipsters everywhere. But to be fair, I searched google high and low and was unable to find any image of a minority hipster being nearly as offensive as the pictures you see in this post.

"Hehe, hey man. Do these glasses make me look Japanese? Let me show you my Kung Fu!"

Minorities generally have a defined sense of what their culture is, because historically, white people have isolated non-white people into their respective racial/cultural boxes. The minorities have their side of town and white people have theirs. And every now and again, a white person wants to come take a tour on the other side of town. Maybe they will go to little Mexico, or maybe they want to go to Chinatown, or maybe the Ghetto, or maybe to the Reservation. They will stay for a while take whatever looks good then leave. When they bring their treasures back to show the other white folks, they will claim that they have discovered something for the first time. However, they will eventually get tired of their trinket and it will end up in the landfill with the rest of the plastic headdresses, and Harlem Shake videos, and Hollywood Korean film remakes, and African drums, and Buddha necklaces, La Calavera Catrina tattoos and Lil Wayne Halloween costumes.

Ok. That is perhaps a bit of hyperbole and not true for the vast majority of people. But I hope you can see the point I am trying to make. Nobody, no matter their race, likes to feel like their culture is being misunderstood, bastardized, or stolen, or appropriated, or exploited. When people feel that way, it is not up the the person objecting to get over it, it is up to the appropriator to readjust their thinking and behavior.

This isn't to say that people of different races can't enjoy the pieces of each others cultures. In fact, we should be actively celebrating each other's heritage. But it is impossible to understand another culture if you don't actually engage with those people on an honest and authentic level. Just having the 'thing' you want from Urban Outfitters, or H&M or the boutique thrift store, or the New Age market without understanding what it is or where it comes from is not showing appreciation. You're just buying something mass produced for a low enough price that you don't need to care about it. And that thing, might have importance to someone who does know what it is or where it comes from.

"Cinco De Mayo? It's just like the Mexican St. Patricks Day."

So What's Your Point?

This is not a post to demonize white people in general, and I hope people don't see it that way. But I do feel like this subject needs more discussion. And it all leaves me with more questions than answers. I just want to know if it is willful ignorance of people, who just like nice things, and don't care where it comes from, what its meaning is or who it offends? Or is it this cultural crisis I mentioned earlier? Is the youth/20 something culture failing to become that post-racial generation we all believed we would be, or am I just getting old? And, if we make enough noise about their appropriation, do you think the hipsters will hear us over their vinyl records and their African drums and think about what they are doing? 

Or is apathy cool? 

Is racism 'ironically' cool too?

Racism is vintage, and vintage is in.

"It took me forever to dye my skin. But I wanted to be really authentic with my costume this year." 

(Pictures are not mine. Google) 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Santa Fe Indian Market

Today I went to the Santa Fe Indian Market. It was super fun. Tomorrow is the last day, so make sure that you check it out before its over. Here are a few pictures from the day. I will be going out again tomorrow and will upload more.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Don't Believe The Hype

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Hello! As I said in my earlier post, I recently moved back to New Mexico and I haven't had much time to write my review for The Dark Knight Rises. But I am here today to finally do it. Truthfully, after the events in Colorado, I wasn't sure how soon was too soon to write a review for the deliciously violent movie that was at the center of the tragedy. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. As much as I love violence in films, there is no place for such violent acts in our real life communities.

There is a fierce debate about this film going on in groups of friends, at water-coolers and at dinner tables all across the world. The question looms large. Did this movie live up to the hype, or not? Some were understandably underwhelmed by the third installment of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, while others are convinced it will win best picture at the Oscars.

The second installment, The Dark Knight, was arguably one of the best films of the last decade. It is impossible for any Batman villain to ever live up to Heath Ledger's Joker. There is no way to match the intensity, and sheer psychotic violence that The Dark Knight sustained from start to finish. There was a sense of fun, and wonder to the first and second film that wasn't present in The Dark Knight Rises. Perhaps it is the finality of it all. The sense that things are ending can often leave the audience feeling less invested in new characters. And this film had a lot of new characters.

Certainly we are all invested in Bruce Wayne (Bale), Alfred (Caine), Lucius Fox (Freeman), and Commissioner Gordon (Oldman), but we care less for Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), and Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). But, this gets at the heart of the controversy surrounding this film. I think the audience was a bit confused with the direction this film took. We spent much less time with the characters we care about, and too much time trying to develop back stories for supporting characters. Perhaps people were disappointed that the film seemed to be casting the hero as a side player. We expected Batman to go down in a blaze of glory, but that's not what happened. It was not with a bang, but with a fizzle.

But in my opinion, these problems seem minor when compared with all of the things there are to love about this film. Firstly, I am a huge fan of long action movies, even if they are bad. I'm not the person in the theater itching for it to be over. So I thought the length of the film was one of its biggest advantages. I thought there was a wonderful flow to the film, and despite being nearly 3 hours long, it was remarkably fluid and never felt tedious. I have to commend the editors. Films like this demand invisible editing, but even with this straight-forward narrative, the editing really stood out.

But on the other hand, I feel like Nolan really backed himself into a corner when he decided, and then told the world this would be his last Batman. It forced him to spend a lot of time tying up loose ends while still trying to keep the story new and compelling. If he hadn't mentioned before the release of the film that this would be the last one, and had let the ending of The Dark Knight Rises be a bit more ambiguous, that might have been more successful.

The biggest draw for this film, is obviously the star studded cast. Christian Bale has always had a special place in my heart. I think he is one of the best actors of this generation, if a bit crazy. One comment I heard repeated over and over again was, "damn, Christian Bale looks old." I don't know if that's the work of an amazing make-up artist, or if it really has been seven years since Batman Begins (and twelve years since American Psycho). But, just like so many Hollywood leading men, Bale just gets better with age.

Christian Bale is a strong directors dream and his partnership with Nolan is one of the great Hollywood success stories. And it's not just because Bale is an incredible actor and Nolan an accomplished director. It's because together, they bring out each others strengths. When you watch these films, you begin to realize that Bale needs the structure Nolan's narratives provide, and Nolan needs a bit of that manic energy Bale is so famous for.

As great at Bale is, we cannot discount the other amazing actors rounding out this cast. Gary Oldman is easily one of my top-five favorite British actors of all time and I am glad the story utilized him as much as it did. As Commissioner Gordon, he does seem older, and more jaded, (which I didn't think was possible). But the film jumps ahead 8 years after the Joker incidents and the film takes on this ominous tone of stale anarchy. And the decay shows in Oldman's performance.

The biggest strength of this film, is that the people, and the world they live in, though fantastic, is very much rooted in reality. Though many try to diminish Batman as just a bored rich guy with a sociopathic need to enforce his will, Nolan and Bale work hard to make Bruce Wayne and Batman a sympathetic and broken character. He is certainly that, and I believe it.

Another stroke of genius was casting Tom Hardy as Bane. He is impressive in so many ways, especially considering the physicality of the role. When I say physicality, I don't just mean his beefy body, or his impressive fight scenes. Bane wears a mask, and anytime a character wears a mask, it requires a high level of kinetic awareness. The masks design itself purposefully seeks to hide his expressions by concealing his mouth. While we see his eyes, it's remarkable how hard it is to read someone's emotions when you can't see the lower half of their face. But it all adds to Bane's menacing presence.

While some of the characters, like Commissioner Gordon and Bane seemed right at home in Gotham, others were woefully out of place. As much as I love Anne Hathaway and as classy as she is, I did not find her performance all that inspiring. Let's be honest, Catwoman was a completely superfluous character, an after-thought at best. She adds nothing to the story except for a little T & A*, and Hathaway has never been a T & A kind of actress. While she fills out the cat suit quite nicely, and she's a bit more dynamic, and down to earth than that twitchy Halley Barry disaster, I still think her inclusion was cheap, and only sought to create some romantic tension in a film that didn't need it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with his dorky charm and trendy fashion choices have made him an indie-favorite for a while now and I am sure any criticism of him will make many of you stop reading right now. But I take issue with Levitt as Officer Blake, I wasn't quite sold on the character or on his acting. The character alone was painfully cliche, and the only thing that made it bearable was the revelation at the end that he's the lauded side-kick Robin. But Levitt as an actor either over-acts or is a blank piece of paper. If he isn't trying to convince us he's a great actor, he staring blankly into the distance and there is very little in between. I also don't feel like he's actually acting, he just seems to be playing himself in a police uniform, and he's wishy-washy. All that being said, I still do like Levitt, and I like his movies.

I don't necessarily think that the film would have been better off with out Catwoman and Officer Blake, or even with out Hathaway and Levitt, they are both fine choices. But the problem is that the characters felt out of place and were forced to physically explain their back story. When a character needs to justify their presence in the story with dialogue, that's a bad sign. And you have both Selinia (Catwoman) and Blake, standing in front of Bruce Wayne telling him who they are and where they come from and why they are around, in excruciating detail. That for me, is lack of character and story integrity. Characters should always look, and feel apart of the films landscape, and should not feel like puzzle pieces being shoved into the wrong spot.

The other, more familiar supporting characters really contribute the depth of this film. They provide the emotional backbone of the story and do so in fewer scenes than any other character. They  legitimize the theme of the film, and make up for a lot of the failures of the new additions. Alfred, Lucius and Gordon look old, tired, and drained from Bruce's exploits. They are driven by their love for him, and by the commitments they made, but they no longer see an idealistic young man, they see a man growing old, isolated and physically weak. They feel helpless to change Bruce's path and while some feel compelled to stay the course, others desert him, but all are doing what they can to save him.  It was one aspect of the film that relied on nuance, and great acting instead of obvious cliches. And that is where the heart of the film lies.

And, as I do at the end of each of my reviews, I will speak a bit about the artistic aspect of this film. And after exhaustive thought, and internal debate, I've come to the conclusion that it was good. Not great, but good. It's nothing new, but it's well executed. The cinematography was acceptable, if a little uninspired, and the costumes were ok, with the exception of Bane's costume which was exceptional. Other than that, there isn't much to say. It is what you expect, and nothing more.

This film is Batman, from start to finish. This is the type of Batman I love, and I relate to. I like that he is an imperfect person, I like that his world is dark and violent, and a not-so-vailed social critique. I think too many people went in with inflated expectations. And no matter how great this film truly is, it will never satisfy the asshole fan boys. But Nolan did the best he could, despite being a bit tired of the material. And it's still an action packed superhero movie, with blood and violence. And at the end, Batman saves the day. And that's why we love him.

A- : It could have been better, but it's Batman, it's Christopher Nolan, you are going to see it, you are going to love it, and everything there is to dislike about this film comes down to nit-picking.

* Tits and Ass
Pictures off of Google