Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hipster reality check: Tumblr

Tumblr is interesting in that it represents such a masive copyright violation. Why is that interesting? It's interesting because Tumblr makes it so ridiculously easy to take and use images. You simply reblog an image you find from someone else who stole it in the first place and who is, in any case, anonymous. You can start a blog on Tumblr and instantly have cost free access to millions of images. If you start a blog on a subject, say being a "hipster", then you can pull images that you think go with your concept to your hearts content.

At the same time, Tumblr also measures response. If no one else agrees with you about which images go with your concept or if no one else thinks your concept is interesting, then no one visist your blog and it doesn't register. So if we visit the top blogs on hipsters on Tumblr we get a good read of what most people think hipsters are like. It won't be perfect because Tumblr doesn't give us a representative sample of the public. On the other hand, it will give us a far more representative example than reading people from New York who think they are cool will.

In any case, we're interested in people who care and most people asked what they think of hipsters will say, "What's a hipster?" Tumblr, on the other hand, will give us a good sample of what people who care quite a bit think. Tumblr is a giant sifter that organizes images according to their cultural resonance.

And looking at the most popular hipster sites on Tumblr, say this one, or this one, or this one, or this one (warning all these sites have lots and lots of pictures), after reading what New York cultural critics have to say about hipsters is quite a jolt. New York cultural critics, for example, say that a lot of hipsters wear trucker caps and chain wallets. Well, people who think they are hipsters don't.

So let's come up with a new term. Let's call the people that New York cultural critics hate "New York Hipsters" and everyone else simply "hipster". Everyone hates New York Hipsters, so who cares about them. Besides, they only live in New York, an increasingly unimportant and rather provincial place. (One weird exception, if anyone matches the image of the hated New York Hipsters, it is Lena Dunham and yet the New York culture critics love her.)

Anyway, if we trust Tumblr, the most common emblem of hipsterdom is cut off denim shorts. Short shorts because hipsters are girls, teenage girls.

And she is a rather familiar type. She likes clothes a lot but doesn't have huge amounts of money to spend on them. She likes bright, sunny colours. She is aware of the fact that she is a fetish object for millions and is surprisingly comfortable with that but she isn't going to cater to your tastes so you can forget about these sites if your interest is pornographic.

She likes puppies and flowers and cute stuff generally. She likes her best girlfriends a lot and likes to take pictures of herself with them. She does not like posting pictures of her face or of her breasts. She does like to show lots of skin, and no great surprise because, being sixteen, she has beautiful skin, but she will show her legs, her back and her stomach.

She is emotionally vulnerable and she wants you to know that she is. Her blog is full of cute and inspirational sayings and they all tell you that she can be hurt. In fact, she flaunts this emotional vulnerability at you the way most men and boys wish she'd flaunt her breasts.

The flip side of her emotional vulnerability is her recklessness. She is reckless with precisely the things that make her vulnerable. She flaunts that emotional vulnerability. And she links it very closely to sex. She posts a lot of shots of herself in shorts or a skirt that are clearly meant to make you think about that rather special part of her that is underneath.

And that last is important because she does not think like a man with a thing for teen p____. She links that part of her body with her emotional vulnerability more than with sexual response. She doesn't think of it as the place where most of her sexual arousal buttons are but rather as where her vulnerabilities are most intense.

And that is very, very far from New York Hipster.

No comments:

Post a Comment