HIPSTER MOVIES 101
by Pete Wassell
I know. How many times do we have to read a diatribe, a manifesto on the state of the Hipster? “It’s been done!” they say… Well, I haven’t done it. So I’m gonna do it now.
What is a Hipster? That term has always been a bit cloudy to me. I’m confident I can spot one walking down the street, but that’s lame to identify an entire faction of the population based solely on tight jeans and ironic/iconic t-shirts. I mean, just recently I started wearing tight jeans, and I own a few iconic/ironic t-shirts, but I wouldn’t identify with the Hipster crowd. I have good friends who are Hipsters, no doubt, but they shall remain nameless. I still haven’t come to it, though–what is a Hipster? Let me give you my definition.
Age: 23-30. I feel like Hipster is evolving, and that it’s really a name for many people in my generation. I think the younger kids, 18-22, have different names for themselves, and actually refer to people in my generation as Hipsters, in jest. More on that some other time.
Tight Jeans: Sorry this has to be on there. I don’t think Hipster without thinking tight jeans.
Carabineer/keys: It’s so convenient!
Attitude: doesn’t care about what you think, though at times can be sensitive.
Music: Anything and everything. This is the best quality in Hipsters. They dig all the sounds: Dub step, bluegrass, folk, and metal; hip hop, dance, trance, punk. They listen to, and like it all.
Relationships: full of drama, heartache, love, and loss
Now that I’ve very condescendingly described a few key elements to being a Hipster, I think I can get on with this article’s thesis: recent films that embody the Hipster ideal.
Written and Directed by newcomer Evan Glodell. Also partially shot on a camera he engineered himself, Bellflower is the Hipster incarnate. If I had to pick one movie that I thought lived up to the dreams, aspirations, and fantasies of the Hipster condition, Bellflower would be at the top. The main character, Woodrow, is slightly introverted, but not shy. In the meantime, Woodrow and his buddy, Aiden, are building a flamethrower which lends itself to the frantic nature of their ADHD personalities. They drink too much, and Woodrow finds himself in love with Milly, a loud, opinionated Hipster heart-breaker who goes through men like popcorn. And that’s the story. All playing over the backdrop of Woodrow and Aiden spending their days fantasizing about cruising through a post-apocalyptic wasteland a la Mad Max, in their souped-up muscle car with the word “Medusa” emblazoned on each door panel. This film is a meditation on masculinity, love, and friendship, and one that I cherish. But it has a very specific audience which tells me it will end up very much stuck in the time when it was made.
#2: Blue Valentine
Hipsters love Ryan Gosling…and Michelle Williams, which makes Blue Valentine a perfect Hipster flick. Gosling and Williams star as Dean and Cindy (great names!), two young, emotionally fragile, yet headstrong, independent lovers who navigate the minefield of love, loss, anger, betrayal, and rejection. Another film that I love, Blue Valentine is that perfect little gem that cuts back and forth through time, telling you simultaneously the story of how Dean and Cindy fell in love, and how they fell out of love. The performances by Gosling and Williams are stellar, as is their chemistry. Being able to play the young lovers, then so seamlessly move into late 20s/early 30s, lower middleclass mother and father hipster family is breathtaking. I mean Hipster family in the most serious and respectful way as well. Dean loves his daughter, though he doesn’t aspire to be anything more than what he is. Michelle Williams feels oppressed by all the new responsibility, lack of discipline, and lack of help on the part of Dean. At one point in her life she knew Dean would be something amazing, but could only watch as he slipped into middle age, balding, fat, and completely content with his lot. This is the nature of the Hipster image to me. Hipster women are full of life, energy; they want to be with a great artist who is always moving, always fun, always on the cutting edge. The problem is that most men aren’t that; especially Hipster men who must deal with more insecurity, and a bigger crisis of masculinity than any generation of men before. Blue Valentine hits on all these points without portraying the characters as whiny or self-indulgent. It examines these character traits, but doesn’t decide that they are the only aspects of these people, just as what I wrote above doesn’t describe Hipsters completely in and out. It’s more of an assessment of motivation, not necessarily a mold in which to fit. Blue Valentine is a great film directed with control and skill by Derek Cianfrance. I highly recommend it, Hipster or not.
#3: (500) Days of Summer
“You like the Smiths?” said Joseph Gordon Levitt to Zooey Deschanel in the elevator. Lame. I don’t like this movie, all right! This is an example of a Hipster film that is so condescending, and so offensive to the audience, I can’t believe anyone who actually fancies themselves a Hipster would like this film. I think only people who want to be hipsters like it because they think they have to. I like Joseph Gordon Levitt, and I think Zooey Deschanel is really pretty, but this movie is a hollow shell full of two-dimensional caricatures of stereotypes. The story is about Tom (Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Deschanel). Summer doesn’t believe in love, but Tom does, and he falls for her…hard. Tom is an aspiring architect who currently writes greeting cards to pay the rent. He dresses in all the right Hipster fashion including sweater vests, jackets, and thin Italian ties. Long story short, Zooey Deschanel breaks Tom’s heart, but using that hurt to fuel his ambition, Tom finds himself turning inward and discovers an inner strength and creative drive that finally lands him that first gig as an architect! But wait! Zooey Deschanel pops back up in the end, with some rather un-settling, if not surprising news. I won’t tell you her revelation, in case you’re really dying to see this movie. Let’s just say there’s nothing too nuanced about it. (500) Days of Summer is what an old guy thinks Hipsters want to see. I sure as hell got duped.
So what have we learned? Hipster movies love to analyze and study the competing definitions of masculinity, mulling them around, and swapping established gender roles. This generation is one in the middle of a very large transition, one that will re-establish what it means to be a man, and a woman, in love and lust, while also espousing the virtues of nostalgia for un-remembered time periods, tight jeans, carabineers, and tight band t-shirts.
When I started writing this piece, I wrote as an observer, an outsider looking in, because no way was I a hipster. I conclude this article, sitting in my desk chair, wearing tight red skinny jeans, with an iconic/ironic t-shirt gussied up with tri-color robot men shooting old timey laser guns. I too find myself pondering what it means to be a man in this era. I respect and love women, and yet must contend with my urge to hunt and gather. I never aim to intimidate, I’m sensitive and honestly want a relationship with a woman I can talk to and open to. If that makes me a Hipster, then so be it.
In the end, there are many worse things you could be called other than Hipster, and the movies are great!