Sunday, March 6, 2016

The 10 Commandments Of Hipsterdom (How To Succeed In Your Friendly Neighborhood Subculture)


Everybody loves a good subculture, whether it's angry female singer-songwriters, junk-slinging grunge muppets, stick-thin alternative troubadours, or vampire- and zombie-fueled pulp storytellers...phenomenons that feed on our need to believe that yes, anybody can get a foot in the door, if they only believe. Look, ma, I can do it, too: I can become just like them. Isn't that cool? Everybody's invited to the party.

But that's not how it really least, if you're serious about some kind of creative art career. At some point, like it or not, you'll encounter that shadowy clique who really calls the shots in any art scene, any local subculture...the Art Mafia. The Cognoscenti. The Hipster Cartel. The In Crowd. The Oracle. They go by various names, but their purpose is always the same: co-opt and twist what they can't control absolutely, while sucking all the oxygen out of the so-called local scene for themselves, with the drawbridge always carefully raised up to keep the newcomers away. And, of course, perpetuating themselves forever.

(Perpetuity is a big thing for any Hipster, as I once learned -- the hard way -- when talking with a fellow open mike night denizen: "How often have you played here?" He replied, in that tone of demanding immediate, automatic deference: "Oh, I've been playing music in this area for decades..." How'd I react? Let's put it this way: I didn't feel the urge to curtsy.)

Given all these challenges (as well as the odds of actually succeeding), maybe you should cut to the chase and forget the whole career performance bit -- so you can become one of those shadowy Hipster decision-makers who destroys others with the simple whooshing of thumbs up, or thumbs down. If that's your interest, you've come to the right place! Now you can get a crash course in the fine art of HIpsterdom without leaving your home. Look at the fringe benefits: access to a fast crowd, getting seen in all the right places, intimidating others into accepting your natural-born greatness (and pick up the tab for it) without having to think (if ever) for a long time...what's not to like about that? So how do you get your hands on these goodies, then?

Here's what you need to do, based on my firsthand observations of how your friendly neighborhood subculture works:

1. Art and culture is a zero-sum game, so play it to win, at any cost. From day one, the moment you dedicate yourself to the Hipster Lifestyle, focus every effort on getting to the top, however your area defines it. Don't worry about how many people you shit on or step on, because getting there matters, more than creativity or ideas or vision or all that other crap that the groundlings keep jabbering about. You get the gig or acclaim that someone else doesn't; nothing else matters. That's justification enough. What's good enough for others is never good enough for you, so proceed accordingly.

2. People are commodities; women are accessories. Success in any subculture depends on cultivating relationships with the in-crowd. Choose all your friends on this basis: "What can they do for me? How can this person make me look good?" And no self-respecting hipster is complete without an equally gritty-looking woman stapled to his long as she realizes, she's not there as his equal. She's there to make him look good.

3. Master the art of creative shapeshifting. Read your reviews religiously, and tailor your art or music or writing around them. So Pitchfork finds your latest masterpiece isn't whiny or self-referential enough? Then crank up the Narcissism Quotient for your next album or EP. Study what's selling in your field, and if you see something that's worth milking, don't hesitate to jump on it. Imagine what the world could do with a hiphop-/Americana-flavored remix of "I Am The (Zombie Vampire) Walrus (Forever)," for instance. You get the idea.

4. Namedrop, namedrop, and namedrop some more. Becoming a successful Hipster means learning how to keep the riffraff out. This requires learning Hipsterspeak that only you and the Chosen People in your Narcissistic Tribe understand. One, you don't need the extra competition, and two, you'll periodically need to evoke a better-known person's name to elevate yourself. Not sure how to go about it?

Watch something like those nauseating Matt Pinfield cartoons on VH1 Classic, and notice how he weaves himself into the action -- such as when he and his latest interview subject, Bono (U2), bond over a bad case of Montezuma's Revenue together (I kid you not) -- without upstaging the star. They'll appreciate the free advertising you give them, and you'll catch a little of their reflected glow. Everybody wins.

5. Always stay clinically detached from the action. Parse your emotions. Don't admit to having any feelings, especially for others. That's a waste of your time. (For further reference, study Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers -- either the original or the remake will do fine.) Caring deeply about something isn't
 to your advantage...because somebody else might get the upper hand on you. You're an aloof, cool and nonchalant member of the Hipster Narcissist Cartel. Your job goes on 24 hours a day, so act the part.

6. Crank out the same thing, in slightly differently variations, but never deviate from your self-imposed formula. Examples of this phenomenon are legion: Shepherd Fairey's reheated '40s-style posters, Keith Haring's squiggly figure, Damien Hirst's jeweled skulls -- the key is to find something that clicks with people, and repeating it...again. And again. And again. And again. But don't change the blueprint too much. That only confuses people. You'll appreciate this logic when you stare from the verandah of the overpriced condo that all your hackwork bought, sipping your $7 latte, as you remind yourself: "Now this is the life."

7. Never tell the same story more than once. Why's that, you ask? First, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. That's your get-out clause: practice saying it over and over, until you start believing it yourself. As most smart politicians know, you're less likely to get caught in a lie if you always throw out a different narrative to cover it up. You're not joining a police lineup, so what's the point in keeping your story straight? Leave that to the plebes.

8. Follow the in-crowd's tastes zealously, even if you don't buy into them yourself. To master this skill, you may have to channel those childhood moments when Dear Old Mom or Dad forced you to eat your Cream-O'-Wheat. You may have the same reaction to craft beer or vegetarian fare, but you can't risk deviating from your newfound fake friends' acquired matter how wacky or skewed they seem. Remember, make one misstep, and you'll not only lose might get voted out of the tribe. Then it's back to the gas station, keeping the coffee pot warm for minimum wage. Who wants that fate? Not you.

9. Develop an older/younger brother/sister-style relationship with a handful of select non-Hipsters. This approach serves two purposes. First, you can come across as "a man (or woman) of the people" without ever really committing to those ideals. Second, if you get them to believe that image, you'll soon have an army of plebes advertising your work, without you ever spending a dime. Don't forget to keep stringing them along. You want them to keep on thinking they'll somehow find a way to join the club, even though that'll never happen.

10. Self-preservation is everything. Never tell anybody to their face what you think of them. Unpleasant as it sounds, you'll often have to trash somebody's work or reputation to stay in the zero-sum game. Think of it as the cost of doing business. Such work is best done from a distance, however, like posting an anonymous blog entry -- or spreading rumors via social media -- because a true Hipster always strives to keep his fingerprints off the murder weapon. The more you refine this technique, the less likely that someone will ever get the drop on you. As John Lennon once said: "But first you must learn how to smile as you kill/If you want to live like the folks on the hill."

And remember: everyone around you is expendable. Everyone. --The Reckoner

Social rules have no negation
Kiss ass, kiss ass
What else are you good for
You think you're "unique," you think you're alone
You never learned how to think on your own
Your only basis for existence
is to gain group acceptance
Kiss ass, kiss ass
Kiss ass to your peer group

Form your "opinions," repeat what is said
Make your own "choices," go where you're led
Think your own "thoughts," eat what you're fed
Strength in numbers, not in your head
Kiss ass, kiss ass
Kiss ass to your peer group
--No Trend, "Kiss Ass To Your Peer Group"


  1. They say the first requisite to immortality is death. That's where I draw the line on trendiness

  2. Having had the dubious "pleasure" of the above company, I can only heartily concur -- thanks for writing. The Reckoner