The Null Device
With American Apparel sacking its sexually inappropriate ur-visionary Dov Charney with extreme prejudice, and the recent fall from grace of hipster-porn photographer Terry Richardson, we could be witnessing the twilight of the assholes
(or as they call it in Germany, Arschlocherdämmerung
) and possibly the end of a vein of ostensibly-ironic hipster misogyny and douchebag chic:
But it’s interesting to think a little bit more deeply about that culture’s gender politics. The hipster aesthetic, such as it was, incorporated plenty of semi-ironic appropriation of the tropes of traditional masculinity: trucker hats, flannel shirts, PBR, beards/mustaches, and so on. I say semi-ironic because beneath the veneer of irony, there was always something deeply conservative and deeply unpleasant about it. Specifically, it was reflective of a wider shift in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s toward the reassertion of traditional alpha-male masculinity.
[t]here’s nothing transgressive about any of this. American Apparel’s aesthetic, for instance, was the most time-worn cliché in the world: using hot girls in various states of undress to sell clothes. Of course, American Apparel’s aesthetic was all about irony, or so it’d have you believe, but really, whether this was done with a sort of knowingly arched eyebrow and sly wink is kinda beside the point; saying “Hey, I know I’m being kinda sexist” doesn’t change the fact that you’re being kinda sexist. The fact that the half-naked girl being used to sell your clothes is in a deliberately flashed-out photo wearing silly glasses doesn’t change that she’s a half-naked girl being used to sell your clothes.
Of course, VICE Magazine, which has been intimately connected to this strand of hipster douchebag cool since day one, running American Apparel ads on its back page and keeping Richardson employed shooting their amateur-porn-styled fashion spreads, is still going strong, having recently received investment from both Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and Time Warner. It remains to be seen how close to the edge they keep skating in future.
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