Monday, August 1, 2011

Kara VanderBijl and the Anthropologie girl


While this piece may not be brilliantly written—some jokes succeed while others fall very flat—it is a better attempt at satirical cultural critique than most parodies of "hipster" culture that I've seen, for a very simple reason. "The Anthropologie girl" is a new concept to me, and indeed: I may not be the best judge of contemporary culture, having attempted (ever since leaving New York four years ago) to retreat into my private world consisting of idiosyncratic collages of various 20th century aesthetic movements, free from the influence of the 21st century (so I think). Yet still, it seems clear to me that Anthropologie represents the current instantiation of the opportunistic re-packaging and marketing of "alternative" youth culture as bourgeois commodity. This economic entity (the "re-marketer") has been around, of course, since the beginning of youth culture (some time between the World Wars?). It is always parasitic, and always destructive in that commercial appropriation and re-marketing of cultural symbols incites a backlash against and rejection of said symbols in favor of newer things. The neo-Hegelian nihilist (cf. previous posts on Hiller) would recognize here the dialectical form, and thus praise the process as a progression towards the definition of a certain cultural ideal. This view disregards the economic exploitation which flourishes in such a cultural schematic: namely, that the work of cultural innovation (be it musical, visual, technological), produced without pay by young individuals, is inevitably transformed into raw material for a cynical business endeavor (i.e Anthropologie).
This is all to say that VanderBijl's piece on "the Anthropologie girl" succeeds by parodying the imaginary world that is being sold as re-marketed culture, rather than targeting the original cultural from which Anthropologie appropriates. Most parodies of "hipster" culture (or worse still, "the hipster") succeed only in exposing the author's own parochial fantasies about what happens behind the closed doors of a loft in Brooklyn. The illusions and pretensions of young, alternative individuals may not be innocent or attractive—and more often than not they are already deeply influenced by marketing and mainstream media—yet this culture is not really worth being satirized when one considers the fact that its days are already numbered. VanderBijl's piece succeeds by selecting the right target.

[Addendum: I don't know very much about this This Recording website, but I worry about linking to it after looking at their list of "The Hundred Greatest Novels," of which you don't need to read anything more than the following: "6.  I, Claudius by Robert Graves"]

[Addendum 2: This is completely embarrassing and, in a way, a re-marketing of its own:]

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