News & Politics

The UCLA Hipster Panel Discussion: A Field Report


Last night, a discussion panel regarding hipsters entitled Look at This F*cking Panel: A Sociological Investigation of the Hipster took place at UCLA’s Ackerman Grand Ballroom. We dispatched author, blogger, and Friend of Runnin’ Scared, Tess Lynch, to document and report upon the panel’s findings. She filed her report early this morning:

I sat down in the press section of “Look at This F*cking Panel: A Sociological Investigation of the Hipster” and prepared for what I assumed would be a room — and then, a stage — packed with hipsters.

Los Angeles has career hipsters, casual hipsters, moonlighting hipsters, tangential hipsters; and yet the auditorium’s occupants were only dabbling. A panda hat here, a Pucci scarf there. This was the first indication that the hipster is not a predictable beast. In fact, the hipster as we once knew it may actually be extinct.

Most panel members denied, citing various reasons, that they were hipsters at all.

Alexi Wasser, after some thought, felt she might identify as a yuppie, because she would like to make money. Moderator Christian Lorentzen, senior New York Observer editor, author of the infamous Time Out: New York piece “Why the Hipster Must Die” and contributor to the post-hipster n+1 anthology What Was the Hipster? — as he authored an essay entitled “I Was Wrong” suggesting that the mainstream perception of hipsterism is a fraud, and apologizes for inaccurately imagining that the future might hold a civil war between hipsters good and evil — prefaced things by saying that, like pornography, you can’t define a hipster, you just know one when you see one.

My eyes lighted on VICE co-founder and Street Carnage entrepreneur Gavin McInnes, who because he’d already sat down, I can only confirm was shirtless and not necessarily pantless.

I assumed that McInnes — who once ate a bowl of corn flakes drenched in his own urine — would identify strongly as a hipster, because hipsters do shit like that.

He spoke of how hipsters are youthful, their culture of music and fashion all propelling them towards sex: the old hipster who remains “still on the scene,” is nothing anyone aspires to be, and himself falling outside the eighteen-to-twenty-five demographic, Gavin no longer felt like a hipster.

Who were the hipsters on the panel, then, you ask? Not Christopher Glazek, assistant editor at n+1, nor Mary Corey, former commune inhabitant and UCLA history professor, nor even Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich, co-authors of Stuff Hipsters Hate: they were there as hipster documentarians.

This may be why the hipsters we categorized so easily a few years ago are different now, ideologically more so than superficially: the noosphere catches up with trends so quickly that what we think hipsters represent actually precedes their representing anything much at all. “Hipsterism” has become so broad, so all-encompassing, that it’s impossible to classify a hipster as ironic or apathetic; in fact, it’s harder to identify a hipster at all. When an audience member asked the panel to offer up a list of hipster icons, all he got were Jeremy Scott, a pause, and [Hipster Runoff blogger] Carles (“He’s not real!” screamed Gavin, ironically, or not-ironically).

Tao Lin, author of Richard Yates and Shoplifting from American Apparel, whose aggressive personal brand is a strong flavor, would seem to be the ultimate hipster. Yet, against the stereotype of hipster jadedness, his comments were sincere and literal. “I could talk about magazines,” he suggested, deflecting a question about his relationship to the hipster community because he thought it was too broad. “I want to use words accurately.” Mark Hunter, otherwise known as (hipster photographer) The Cobra Snake, advised fledgling hipsters that “it’s cool to be creative.” Earnestly. What is a hipster if not an ironic scenester living out the lyrics of “Common People”? Maybe those we call hipsters are really just an Urban Outfitters marketing demographic, and the next social trend: The New Sincerity.

The panel was all over the place. It was very vague. At one point Gavin McInnes flew off-stage because he was frustrated at what he felt was “like having a conversation with a hundred people.” He came back on. I asked around and while everyone seemed to know that he was paid $500 for appearing, nobody could tell me why. I asked Christian Lorentzen if he figured it was because McInnes was the Hipster King, or was it an ironic statement on hating money, or what? I don’t know, said Christian, that sounds right.

Tess Lynch is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Salon, This Recording, The Awl, Urlesque, Bravo Fan, Metacritique, Funny or Die and during commercial breaks. She is, to the best of our knowledge, not a hipster.

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