Thursday Morning Rant: A Short But Uninformed Study On Hipsters And Wes Anderson

The Royal Tenenbams, Wes Anderson, hipsters, hipster films, Luke Wilson, film characters, tennis in films
The Royal Tenenbams (2001)

According to my Wikipedia/Youtube research, the word “hipster” was coined in jazz circles of the 1930s and 1940s and was meant to describe a laidback person that knows what it’s all about. The first “hipsters” (or “hepsters”) were musicians who helped establish jazz as an authentic musical style and something more than a collection of danceable tunes. The term was then passed on to the Beatniks who transformed it into “hippies” on a Tuesday morning at Woodstock, when a rather bloated Janis Joplin told a groupie that was cutting the restroom line off by calling her a “damn hippie”. This unreported incident will pay the way to the word’s later derogatory use.

After being dragged across editorial desks and masticated on by social critics and commentators during the 1970s and 1980s, the word’s original form made a majestic comeback. The late 1990s saw the rise of a subculture of neo-bohemians hanging out in café gardens, looking funny and listening to obscure bands. Initially describing a middle-class group of liberal arts graduates with too much time on their hands that compensate their economic immobility by acquiring a false sense of ‘cool’, the term “hipster” has since become a cultural stereotype that is as superficial as the phenomenon which aimed to criticize. The nauseatingly promiscuous misuse of the word has given those dressed in simple shirts and jeans the right to pass labels and dismiss everyone with a beard, Ray Ban glasses, tattoos and love for lattes. The term is appealing in its applicability, conveniently coined to release you from critical thinking, and has been monetized through marketing trends and brand campaigns which rely on the checklist of cashable hipster traits.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson, hipsters, hipster films, Owen Wilson, film characters, Bill Murray
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

The fixation on appearances, along with the need to somehow tie these ramblings to a film-related issue, brings me to Wes Anderson. Called the film guru for a generation of hipsters, Anderson seems to live up to the title. His films are consciously made for a broad target group and never fail to deliver what is expected-quirkiness, unpretentious plots and a visual style so nauseatingly distinctive that borders with self-forgery. There is a refreshing playfulness and naiveté to the Tenenbaums, the washed-up marine explorer Steve Zissou, and the eccentric teenager Max Fischer, but after an hour of watching them running around being consistently awkward, the novelty wears off. These compilations of idiosyncrasies, rather than features, pander to our innate longing for childhood and teen years through some of director’s trademark leitmotifs: sense of comradery, first crushes, love of adventures and the an outsider’s point of view. Without a single sensible character to protest and go insane in a world so uniformly quirky, quirkiness becomes the new norm, and no longer that special. The sets deliberately look like mockups-doll houses that, through carefully composed shots, produce stunning imagery ruled by symmetry and transport you back into the times of building volcanoes for your science class. Wes Anderson pets your head and tells you it’s alright to hold on to your inner child. Although he does it in a way infused with humor and tolerance, he lingers on the surface and fails to give you the wise advice every child deserves.

Rushmore, Max Fischer, Jason Schwartzman, Wes Anderson, hipsters, hipster films, Luke Wilson, film characters, tennis in films
Rushmore (1998)

Adidas tracksuits, vintage sneakers, fur coats, tweed jackets, awkward postures and other eccentricities act as a rather thin veil that aims to conceal the fact that the characters are merely vignettes created for first impressions. The infatuation with appearances, coupled with some obvious product placement, is why anyone who has ever been called a hipster should ask themselves-is Wes Anderson part of the machinery, and a lucrative one at that, which perpetuates the myth of hipsterism?

Lidija Grozdanic
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