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Hipster Cat in a Hat

Hipster Cat in a Hat

by Brandon Edmonds, image by We Are Awesome / 11.05.2010

American indie scamp, Harmony Korine, wrote Kids – a movie still worth seeing for a budding Rosario Dawson and the real-feeling drift of burnt out summer days – and since directed a handful of other films, each with occasional moments of skuzzy beauty, including his new one Trash Humpers (involving pensioners simulating sex with rubbish bins). At the Toronto film festival recently, according to Salon.com, Korine responded to a 20-something hipster, in a jaunty retro trilby, who’d asked what Humpers was supposed to mean, by firing back, “what’s your hat supposed to mean?”. It’s a quip that takes us deep into the difference between my generation, Generation X, and yours… Generation Wonky Hair.

The trailer for Trash Humpers.

For us, questioning was fashionable. We had grunge and rriot girrl. For you, fashion is beyond question – looking critically is less critical than “the way you look”. Not even American Imperialism (and those telling Twin Towers) can get you away from the (media)mirror. In which you only ever see a consumer who needs to be better and be someone. I grew up listening to Pavement and the Pixies. You listen to everyone who ever made music ever, at least once, on shuffle. I had Keanu Reeves. You have Ashton Kutchner. I had Winona Ryder. You have Lindsay Lohan. I had a walkman. You have you know. I had Seinfeld. You have Dane Cook. I cried when Kurt Cobain died. You could give a shit. I remember when REM were good. You could give a shit. I had graffiti. You have Facebook. I saw TV shows, you watch as re-made movies. Alannis Morrisette sang about it badly, imagine life without it, you’re drowning in it, please god make it stop: Irony.

What isn’t pregnant with irony to you? Nothing is what it is. Multiple meanings are the unstable co-ordinates of your waking life, your half-life, your second-life, your life-life. I remember the excitement of Windows 95. That strange emotive whirr and ping of the connecting box. It sounded like the future. You would rather lose an arm than go back to dial-up. We had OJ, who got away with murder. You have George Bush Jnr. We had a Presidential stain on a dress. You have a horny Hotel Heiress on tape. We had fanzines and Xerox copies. You have the iPad. We had coffee and dogs. You have coffee and blogs. We mourned the “death of originality”. You have Justin Bieber. We had BMX. You have yoga. We had junk bonds. You have bank bailouts. We had the rich. You have the super-wealthy. We had couture. You have knock-offs. We had Mandela. You got JZ. We had Atari. You win.

When Korine, who’s 37, asked the impudent 20-something hipster what his hat meant, he was engaging in something quite endangered, if not lost: wit. Wit isn’t the same thing as snark. Snark fuels flame wars. Snark is one dimensional and mean-spirited. It’s ugly. Wit is enlivening and spirited, it encourages engagement, thrives on response, whereas snark wants to triumph, to conquer debate, to be the last one standing on the battlefield of broken truths. Wit was Cobain on the cover of Rolling Stone with a T-shirt scrawled with the line “corporate magazines still suck”. Snark is writing in the comment thread at the end of this article that blowing his head off was the best thing he ever did!

Wit is more likely when people still believe in alternative ways of organizing the world, beyond market domination, beyond corporate capitulation. Wit needs a lightness of being. A buoyant quickness unburdened by doubt. That is why Cobain hit home for Generation X as hard as the John Lennon killing did for Baby Boomers. It was living (dead) proof that the guy we thought believed enough for all of us, a guy hard-wired with integrity, didn’t even have enough of the stuff to bring up his own daughter. It was heartbreaking.

The closest you’ve come, Generation Wonky Hair, to a generational martyr is Heath Ledger. The Joker. His witty performance as an hysterical, cross-dressing, facially scarred, materially indifferent (he sets a colossal pile of cash alight) terrorist is the most powerful image of yourselves you’ve ever been given. The Joker is free. Terrifyingly free and his freedom is radically dangerous to all the powers that be. He listens to nobody. He is loyal to nothing. He is the Ground Zero of your subjectivity. Heath Ledger’s performance is an invitation to imagine yourselves from the beginning, outside of History, outside of all the shit you’ve inherited: the broken planet, the empty ideals, the faded glories. The Joker is your chance to do and be something original – entirely self-determined. That it takes ultra-violence and a massive personality disorder to be someone these days, is less your fault than theirs, than mine, my generation, and the idiots before us. Everyone else. Start blaming us more. Get angry. Leave your hair alone and look around. It’s a mess, yes, but it’s your mess. The joke isn’t funny anymore, and it doesn’t have to be on you.

Opening Image © and courtesy We Are Awesome.

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  1. Remember... says:

    ….The Craft?
    It was great, all the girls in the eigth grade started cutting themselves and listening to Marilyn Manson.

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  2. judy says:

    Blowing his head off was the best thing he ever did…

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  3. Doctor L. says:

    This was dope. Would you say Fight Club falls into Gen X or Gen WH? That a personality disorder is required in order to be free. . .speaks a lot about Chuck Paulahniuk’s work and how it circles back to Brett Easton Ellis, who’s recently resurfaced as a popular literary figure. The most interesting development to me, is that with post-irony comes the realization that a lot of people lied and continue to do so, perhaps without being aware of it, theres a discarding of preconcieved belief and ideology, and the eventual realization that our agency in society is mainly premised on consuming: what and how we spend. Follow this thread and the next development is to realize that life is arbitrary and meaningless, that it is governed mostly by opposing abstractions put in place to acquire particular ends and not metaphysical truth. And this of course leads way back to existentialism, radical freedom and the idea of setting an individual meaning for ones life precisely because life has no meaning otherwise. It isnt a new philosophy, but its possibly, in my view, the only one self-focused, self-aware, angsty, and ardently agent enough to fit, effectively, in a way that might improve society: it converts the despair and boredom arriving from the now true loss of universal ideals, into a creative energy, and pushes individual autonomy. But to get to this point requires alienation: not just boredom, but a high enough degree of self-absorbed distance, most of which is being felt by kids born in the 80s, and most of which, in society, is intepreted as a personality disorder. Which is the most ineresting thought in this piece.

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  4. sleaze says:

    Letss face we getting old mate. For another take on the absurdity of the gen x mid life crises check out this http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/weekinreview/09aoscott.html?pagewanted=1

    “How can a generation whose cultural trademark is a refusal to grow up have a midlife crisis?”
    We hate that we are now the older guy as ” Youth is wasted on the young,”

    Yes we criticized, yes we cared, but where did all this “wit” get us? – And look what it spawned, might as well laugh and, as those Gen X legends B52’s predicted, “Dance this mess around”!

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  5. Doctor L. says:

    My comment doesnt take into account a belief in god. People could maybe make the argument that this, not believing, combined with being born into excess, as well as the fluidity of things, results in some of the hang-ups of Gen WH. When you have everything you need, but no belief, anxiety can arise from simply asking: what do i do with life? Spending, buying and changing identities and being self-aware about it is whats keeping it all at bay at the moment, i think.

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  6. GenerationY says:

    Generation Y is growing to grow up with a microchip up its ass thinking war is peace and peace is war, and measuring progress by the advances the least accomplished folk in society can make in the least significant spheres of human achievement based on their most clearly observable gender, skin and sexual orientation differences in the name of putting all of these differences behind us. By the time it dies, Generation Y’s brain will be plugged into the internet, Matrix style, voluntarily. Generation Y won’t know truth from lies, good from evil, or much else beyond how fucking great the next alternative to the broken system is, cos this time its really going to work. Hopefully a big fucking asteroid will wipe it out and nature can start from square, and maybe learn from its mistakes. If all goes well, the new masters species will discover the only useful thing in the universe – humility.

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  7. Vida says:

    ‘ I grew up listening to Pavement and the Pixies. You listen to everyone who ever made music ever, at least once, on shuffle.’

    I am in awe, mr Edmonds…

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  8. Generation Shut Up says:

    How disappointing from Brandon Edmonds. For me, this is the blogsie equivalent of how all those folksy kids must have felt at Bob Dylan’s Judas concert.
    What would have been a ‘witty’ rejoinder to Korine’s (unfunny, childish) question? “The point of my hat is that it is *humping* my head”? Oh lolololololol.
    I’m very conflicted about you Gen X-ers, when you get like this. I read the book and loved it. I was little in the nineties, but Kurt Cobain, Violent Femmes, listening to people quote The Prophet, that was some very formative shit. But it was also incredibly earnest. Too earnest. And that is why all that’s left for us to do is (reverently) parody it. You took yourselves way too fucking seriously.
    Think about the most nineties music you can think of. Radiohead. Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Pearl Jam. Blind Melon. That song that goes “my name is luca”. Bjork. Massive Attack.
    That is the music that nineties people loved to listen to. And I love the nineties, really, I think about it all the time. But people who were in their twenties for the late eighties and nineties for some reason saw themselves as these “eternal children at heart”. They sit cross legged on the floor at any opportunity. They Dance Like Nobody is Watching. They are the ones who rescusitated the whole hugging everyone thing, which had been dormant for the eighties. Like they were the sixties but without actual, proper abandon and instead just shitloads of pukey introspection. You’ll be at a party and they’ll ask you some fucking loaded, intellectual question that is supposed to get you to really Think about your answer, or marvel at the wonder that is life/universe and how we are just children playing in its garden of mysteries. I mean look at those fucking poet shirts. They wore those completely straightfaced. Because the men were soulful, quiet and romantic. Live in Obs and be a vegetarian.

    The current sense of humour (we can call it Generation Wonky Hair for this context) is different because it assumes possession of Generation X’s, however, the reverse is not true. All you give us is tired, tedious and unimaginative quips about hairstyles. Come on Brandon, doesn’t this ring a bell? You’re cooler than that.

    This “you have this” and “we had that” is the whole point of why this is so irritating. GWH doesn’t divide culture up into a silly, embittered custody battle. But while we’re here, you say you “mourned the death of originaltiy”. You weren’t the first ones there, but you were feebly whingeing about it, and importantly so. It was great. But it’s intersting to note that it is recorded that the Ancient Egyptians complained of their own post-modern condition, feeling they couldn’t create anything original. I think the real thing is that Generation X took itself so seriously that it’s a bit offended anything came after it, displaced it. Maybe every generation feels that way.
    You know, we may have Justin Bieber, but here’s the thing: you have him too!
    Everything belongs to all of us, and that’s why irony becomes a medium of communication.

    Brandon Edmonds, I hate that you sound so old and angry here.


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  9. missy says:

    Generation X is about as existentially burned-out as Generation WH – the problem is, almost everyone grows up, and starts “suck-ing up, lay-ing down, to – the – man” (well now, I’ve got some advice for you, little buddy – there’s your ’90s reference). You have children, you realise you’re inescapably trapped in some system which you didn’t ask to be born into: you’ve got rent and bonds, you’ve got to eat, you’ve put your soul in aftercare…

    I’m a little sad to say, in all my experiencelessness as a young adult, that youth is transient. The most gorgeous illusion that wears off, that can’t seem to sustain itself against the duller biological impulses and self-preservation mechanisms in a setting hostile to creativity and independence. Take your ticket, march in line, get your loaf of bread, hope that there’s enough left when you can’t march anymore. All those youthful exclamations of those ’90s then-kids: what happened to them? Where the fuck are they? I’ll tel’ thee, moi son: the girls are dropping their already sagging tits into the mouths of their babies, and their men are out in the salt-mines, kissing their boss’s ass. Nirvana is a memory; a little nostalgia that you can drink to, but that you goddamn better well forget soon after.

    We’re all closet nihilists, biting our nails and waiting for the illusion to wear off. Oh, well – I’ve got my youth. Time to exercise my youngness in these decidedly functional, decidely unromantic, decidely bullshit times. Thank you mamas and papas! (sorry, that sounds a little lame and Marilyn Manson like)

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  10. You don't know me anyways says:

    It’s all evolution, we evolve, we move on and we improve. Adapt and survive. I’m too young for this shit. Time to put the iTunes on shuffle.

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  11. Mick says:

    How alarmingly eloquent is Gen Shut Up? Talented response.

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  12. brandon edmonds says:

    Easily the best response I’ve ever encountered on this site, Generation Shut Up! So thank you thank you. It’s my birthday this week, hence the lame generational fencing match, the journalistic equivalent of claiming drunkenness for poor writing. ‘Gen X took itself so seriously that it’s a bit offended anything came after it’ really hits home. We were/are obsessed with being ‘definitive’. This probably comes from being around too much ‘baby boomer’ compromise in order to get ahead. Generation WH has let the air out of this kind of passive-aggressive idealism. And a good thing too. Though being a ‘soulful, quiet & romantic’ man is surely better than the monster you get when you invert those terms…

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  13. Generation Shut Up says:

    Ah thanks Mick and Brandon. And of course, nobody wants to make out with an obnoxious, cynical husk. I did say that these things were formative, so (perhaps unfortunately) for me all that Pained Romance caught me square in the pip in terms of imprinting* and I’ve been trying to shake my weakness for smart, pretty, blinky Jesus boys for a while now.
    Happy birthday, Brandon. Go dance in the rain, I know you want to, but be sure to post it on YouTube afterwards.

    *oh dear, shameful Twilight reference

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  14. danni says:

    i am in love with generation shut up.

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  15. dylan says:

    you are generation shut up, you egomaniac.

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  16. danni says:

    ps: maybe i’m just a genGWH-er, but I don’t find kurt’s rolling stone cover witty at all. it just seems like the sort of contrived rebellion typical of the 90’s schtick:

    we sing about issues!
    we hate the man! we hate the system!
    we reject mainstream society!
    we are so misunderstood by the powers that be!
    we recognise that we are different, but we’re proud to be us! In all our fragile, wide-eyed, self-loathing individuality!

    (guitar solo)

    Kinda reminds me of this kinda hip song i heard on this blog, once.

    Same song, different decade?

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    i *only* want to make out with obnoxious cynical husks

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  19. Anonymous says:

    We have Justin Bieber. You had Hanson.

    Please, Generation X is nothing but a name. You guys sat around and did nothing until some heroin addict from a trailer park in the pacific north west came and stuck it to the man. And how did you show your support? By buying records sold to you by the big men at DGC.

    And you “mourned the death of originality.” Yeah, thank you very much Generation X for Austin Powers and a bell bottom revival.

    Face it, your generation is just as forgettable as ours.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    This is such bull. It’s almost like the whole ‘widening moral gyre’ from the second coming rant; it’s pointless. Go play with Westwood and her manifestos, and pretend there is no great culture anymore – while those who can find it will enjoy. Just don’t pretend you are doing anything great.
    How embarrassing, a comment like “gen shut up’s” would have made for a better post.

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  21. Melisa Clayton says:

    what is all the noise about, the wheel just turns..who cares about your generation, you are a frikkin mosquito, but it IS damn funny to comment on the differences we see…thank you b, keep calling it.

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