If you’ve read the Hipster Handbook (and if you like your irony served super-pure with a twist of meta, you should), you know that hipsters come in a multitude of flavors and styles. But one thing that nearly all share is an outsized need for emotional support combined with with an awkward, often unwanted, but entirely irrepressible — even amongst the dour, the gloomy, the cynical — romanticism about feelings.
As with most things hipster, it’s all in the music. Feist and St. Vincent and Bright Eyes (despite some backlash) and Sufjan Stevens and the Arcade Fire and so on and so forth, down the Pitchfork/Stereogum line (or Punk Planet, I suppose, at least before it folded), provide obvious access to outpourings of thought and feeling, great geysers of experience both packaged in and shrouded by pop formulas, unearthly electronics, and orchestral arrangements. No one obsesses over thrift-store LPs or puts together a 165GB music collection unless he or she is deeply addicted to the stuff, hooked on being moved.
Now, one might point toward something like Dashboard Confessional as evidence that heart-on-your sleeve sentiments are looked down upon amongst the mop-haired hordes, but if anything, the widespread derogation of Chris Carrabba’s boyish yelps tells us the opposite. Carrabba is typically left for the less-discerning tween crowd, those young and likely outcast souls that once flipped through the pages of The Fader and thought its ads looked cool while at the same time intuitively sensing something fake about Avril Lavigne, but had neither the guidance nor the personal drive to seek out sources that would show them, say, Yeasayer or Xiu Xiu.
The hipster ethos, meanwhile, has forsworn the direct embrace of Carrabba-style gushing; it’s too obvious. But it’s the obviousness the hipster can’t stand, not the sentiment itself. In fact, the sentiment cuts straight to the bone, and that’s why it must be sneered at (except when performed by Natalie Portman, who is to hipster what a Joker is to poker, or possibly Batman). Hipsterism is perpetually, even violently, skeptical of itself (does this make Andrew Sullivan a hipster pundit?), and thus cannot merely walk up to the front door of that which it seeks and ask to come in.
Thus, when James wonders:
So why this inability to get over ourselves and get over people we’ve been emotionally intimate with? Human nature or immature mega-wank? Or a misplaced guilt fix?
The answer is addiction — and like all addictions, few who suffer from it will admit a problem. Perhaps some sort of city-funded programs are in order in parts of Brooklyn and Chicago (U St., you’re next). We have 12 step programs aimed at helping urban hoods. Why not for hipsters?