I’m going to do something that Christy Wampole fears is impossible for my generation: I’m gonna make a point here. Like that looming iconic Jaded Hipster, the ‘Shake n Pour’ of half-baked modern cultural archetypes, I am simply “so over” the irony meme. I am “so over” hearing about my generation’s detachment, our apathy, our Williamsburg mustaches and fixed bikes and trucker hats, our terrifying amalgamation of indecipherable affects and fair trade fashion statements. I’m “over” Ms. Wampole and every other navel-gazing ragamuffin reassuring themselves that, no, we’re not unaware, out of the loop, not in on the joke, yes, it’s you who thinks they’re so cool, we’re the ones who get it, we’re far more clever than these hipster kids and their irony. We have our introspection, our web-exclusive editorials, our thought catalogs, our endless rehashing of the same points an already-late-to-the-party Adbusters article made four years ago.
I’m sure my style of writing bespeaks a vested interest in protecting the perceived irony empire. After all, I did reference ‘Shake n Pour’ in my second sentence, an incriminating double whammy of cultural reference that is specifically a kitschy, sarcastic one. There’s a smirk to my language, that head nod of cultivated linguistic quirk, towers of run-on sentences that are far too stylized to possibly be sincere. And I’ve used two hyperlinks so far! Even now, I’m guilty of the same ruse that advertising agencies, as Wampole highlights, use to pass their product line under the nose of a discerning consumer— I’m mocking myself, I’m undermining my own quirks, I’m being self-aware.
Isn’t very ironic.
A cultivated self-awareness is one where I’m aware of my own flaws because I am actually paying attention. I don’t need to write fretful essays about my novelty gift purchases to recognize my flaws, my shortcomings, my fear of vulnerability and habitual insincerity. And I don’t need to reduce it down to some all-encompassing, 90s Nicktoons brat buzzword like ‘irony’. I don’t need the viral video of youth movements— the “look at this fucking hipster” patchwork quilt stereotype that reads like a handful of assumptions and an amalgamation of qualities representing every guy who dared to potentially be cooler than me— to serve as my contrast. For all these missives about how our generation lost itself to irony, it would appear as if our biggest problem is in our endless posturing against a nonexistent poser— fleeing our distorted shadows that recast everything we do as if it were a decontextualized gesture.
We’ve gotten to a point where we see this great unemotional being, this walking mannequin, in everybody old enough to smoke but not yet old enough to rent a car. Like horror movie heroines wondering if anybody else is still human, the Wampoles of our time pine after familiar cultural icons that are as patronizing as they are meaningless—
“Observe a 4-year-old child going through her daily life. You will not find the slightest bit of irony in her behavior. She has not, so to speak, taken on the veil of irony.”
True. You can also observe that she doesn’t understand conservation of mass, and that she still thinks everybody can see and know the same things she does. This is because she is four years old, and probably not a good model for someone with an understanding of themselves and the world around them.
There is an issue of insincerity in our generation. A fear of being genuine, of being earnest, of being serious. It’s not some generational performance anxiety born out of post-modernity— we’re just a bunch of fucked up kids living in a honestly intimidatingly shitty world. Everyone likes to cite how we’re post-9/11— there’s that crippling self-critique, the fear of cliché, at work again— but look at what the sincere outpouring of Americanism and sentiment netted us. Look at how we were repaid for our breathless sixth grade essays about Being Proud, for the simplistic jingoism of our Geocities World Trade Center tributes, for our heartfelt letters to our troops abroad. It’s not that we don’t care anymore. It’s that our culture isn’t giving us a lot to care about beyond our own iPhones, our local indie concerts, our backyard gardens, ourselves.
The image of the hipster, a half-assed scrawling of triangles, trucker hats, and trying-too-hard, exists to try and make us feel like we have someone we’re measuring ourselves against. It’s another reason why we’re so damn guarded— we’re being told everyone around us only cares about Instagram and chasing a fake nostalgia high. Our generation does have a lot of problems. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own aesthetics, our own language, our own ways to interact with and communicate to each other. It’s masked in a detached voice, but it’s there, it’s hiding, waiting for someone who picks up on it, so we can drop the guise and be vulnerable to each other. To earnestly discuss why we like the silly things we like. We know they’re silly. It’s not ironic, we like them because they’re stupid, they’re terrible, they’re bad. It’s not ironic. It’s just fun.
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