Poe’s Law describes the idea that without being given specific indication, it is difficult to tell the difference between someone stating something as genuine versus them stating it as an exaggerated parody of said genuineness. Its source speaks to the argument for Creationism online, in that it is claimed to be impossible to parody a Creationist in a way that at least one person will not read it and perceive it to be genuine. While not entirely straightforward, this concept isn’t too hard of one to grasp.
However, when we conflate this with the notion of irony, and specifically, hipster irony, it becomes far more difficult to rationalize.
As a brief aside, I’ll readily admit that I am for all intents and purposes some sort of a hipster. I say this not because it helps in understanding my “unique insight” or anything bullshity like that, but simply to iterate that this is not one of those whiney “hipsters suck!!!” pieces that currently populate the internet and further stretch the definition of what the term even describes. If you were an alien species attempting to learn what a “hipster” was and chose to use the bulk of the internet (think Reddit) as your source material, you’d think it was anyone who wore hats, had sex, or liked things. That’s not what I’m doing.
What I’m doing is trying to figure out exactly what the fuck a “hipster-themed” party thrown by and for actual hipsters is technically doing. Because this is exactly what I was invited to a few months ago: the opening party for an annual art festival put on by the Fine Arts department of my urban, liberal university. A department no doubt populated by creative hipster types, and a party and festival equally catered to a similar crowd. More so, there is of course an awareness of said hipster-affiliation for all involved parties. So what the fuck?
I’ve seen online and heard of “hipster-themed parties” before. As in, groups of frat dudes and sorority sisters raiding the nearby American Apparel, donning goofy headbands and striped knee-high socks – the penultimate hipster costume that is, “like, so five years ago,” (it is.) – and drinking Pabst while listening to MGMT, Vampire Weekend, and other Coachella bands that mainstreamers think are “hipster” even though their very knowledge of them means they’re not at all “hipster.” I get that. When I was thirteen, I dressed up as a “thug” for Halloween and spoke in a sort of Black voice all night. The hipster party thing is the same sort of idea, without that whole awkward racist bit. But what does it mean when hipsters – more or less defined by their insistence on irony – throw such a party? Let’s break it down.
By referring to the party as a hipster party, whilst knowing it is in fact a hipster party, there’s a level of meta-awareness going on: “we’re hipsters, so let’s parody ourselves by throwing this party.” But the party said to “dress like a hipster.” Does this mean to dress like ourselves? Thus rendering our regular dress some sort of themed costume? But the way you dress is no doubt already a cultural costume. So, then, this is a costume of a costume. We know that two negatives make a positive, so do two costumes make a non-costume? And, if we’re consciously “dressing up like hipsters,” does that not imply our regular dress isn’t hipster and therefore render us not actually hipsters, because we’re only looking like hipsters for the sake of the theme? If so, then the fundamental ironic and meta nature of the party is negated, as we’re then just a bunch of regular folk attending a hipster party. Which might mean this entire discussion has been pointless. Didn’t we already know that, though?
If there’s one thing we know for sure, however, is that it’s fucking dumb. The entire mantra of the hipster is that one does not claim to be a hipster (I know, I broke that rule already) and by throwing such a party, it’s effectively outing everyone involved as being the sorts of self-aware hipsters who want to parody themselves publicly. Which is so what a fucking hipster would do. But maybe that’s just another meta level of the entire goddamn thing.
All I’m saying is, can’t we all just throw a good ol’ fashioned Cowboys and Indians party instead? Y’know, where we all wear culturally-insensitive head-dresses and call each other Chief Feather Dick and stuff? I’m way more comfortable with that.
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