I want you to picture Regina George as one of your classmates. She sits in the middle of the classroom, with her fluffy pink sweater, tight miniskirt, and strappy heels. The R pendant on her silver necklace sparkles in the sunlight, and her long blond hair is combed to perfection. As she takes a pen out of her Prada backpack, you roll your eyes and think, “God, that girl is so... plastic.” I mean, the girl probably even listens to Katy Perry, and you know for sure that she shops at an actual mall – ugh, a public venue for consumerism? Disgusting. And for the love of Andy Warhol, where on earth is her sense of individuality? You adjust your horn-rimmed glasses and roll up the sleeves of your grandpa's old sweater, and as you gaze upon poor Regina, you can’t help but pity her for being so mainstream.
I remember sitting in my kindergarten classroom, staring at a worksheet in front of me. Each problem on the worksheet was a list of four items; to complete the worksheet, we had to go through each list, find the thing that didn’t match up with the others, and circle it. At age five, I was already learning to isolate things that didn’t fit in with others. In circling them, I was acknowledging how they stood out.
Throughout our elementary and middle school careers, we were taught over and over again the same lessons: you are special. It’s okay to be yourself. Don’t let the haters stop you from doin’ your thang. Movies, television, literature, parents, teachers – all of these forces came together to ingrain in our minds that we can succeed at anything. All we have to do is be ourselves.
Modern hipsterism is, by nature, a completely flawed concept. The foundation of hipsterism lies in a reversal of cool-uncool. Furthermore, hipsterism is a rejection of what is mainstream and culturally expected; therefore, the core of hipsterism lies entirely in irony. Because hipsterism is ironic, it is therefore impossible, because there is no set point at which irony is complete.
Let’s go back to Regina – she’s spent her entire life wearing girly clothing, and her wardrobe is set according to rules for each day of the week. On Wednesdays, Regina wears pink. Everyone expects her to wear pink. But one Wednesday, Regina doesn’t wear pink; instead, Regina wears a Forever 21 black T-shirt dress and has a scalene triangle tattooed on the inside of her left forearm. As she sips a kale smoothie, she proclaims, “I am a hipster.” The opposite of what is expected has occurred; this apparently incongruous moment is therefore an example of situational irony.
But by this point, hipsterism has already been established as a trend. Regina is sitting in a classroom surrounded by fellow hipsters; she therefore cannot be a true hipster, as hipster is considered mainstream. What would be even more ironic would be for Regina to wear her typical pink outfit and proclaim “I am a hipster,” because, in being the only one thought of as being mainstream, she actually is, in fact, the only hipster in the room, because she has rejected what has become the social norm.
The cycle of irony is never ending; hipsterism is completely paradoxical in its utter absurdity. If it’s hipster not to be a hipster, then it’s not hipster to be a hipster. Hipsterism can perpetuate itself forever, as the quest to become a true hipster is possibly the most Sisyphean task known to mankind. The origin of the hipsterism of Generation Y has been lost. “Be yourself” has been replaced with “be unique.” To be an individual, an individual now has to construct an identity entirely separate from everyone else’s, rather than simply acknowledge the fact that he or she is an individual. Nonconformity is unachievable, as it is impossible not to conform to something. Thus countless youths are set out on a mission to become something that is completely impossible – to be a hipster – when, in fact, the only constant element of hipsterism is this:
The hipster does not exist.
Images: qfxblog.files.wordpress.com, hipster.com
Meg Chu is a freshman WLP major from New York. She was born on the day the Metropolitan Museum of Art closed its Origins of Impressionism exhibit, and she enjoys wearing a variation of black and dark grey. In her spare time, she likes running, reading, eating tofu, and complaining about things on the Internet.