WARNING: This post contains strong language.
As “the godfather of hipsterdom” I had some misgivings about Greg Gutfeld’s new book Not Cool. Hipster bashing always sounds like old people shaking their fists in the air and telling “the kids today” to get the hell off their lawn. Meanwhile, in twenty-something land, they’re too busy partying to even hear these rants. It’s like when goombah’s call someone a “pretty boy.” You know you’re calling him young and attractive, right? For the record, hipsters are “18 to 25-year-olds with a passionate interest in alternative pop culture predominantly music and fashion.” They are the latest evolution of cool which started with James Dean and Marlon Brando in the early 50s and has morphed through greasers, beatniks, hippies, metalheads, punks, new wavers, ravers, and rappers, and has become an amalgam of all these subcultures.
I happen to like this latest incarnation and it’s not just because I created them. They have used the Internet to cherry pick the best of cool history. They like punk and metal but they relish love songs and ballads with equal enthusiasm. In fact, they sample all of these songs and cram them together into new songs that they then share with their friends for free. Despite being called corporate pawns, they are relatively immune to marketing. They use skateboards and track bikes for transportation, their favorite beer is PBR, and they eat vegetarian food out of the back garden. Their clothes are second hand or affordably priced at American Apparel and their interest in shoes doesn’t go beyond the cheapest on the market (Chuck Taylors and Vans ERAs). What’s the problem here?
They’re called sanctimonious and holier-than-thou but what young person isn’t? They think they’re so cool because they are. Graffiti scrawled all over Williamsburg, Brooklyn says, “Hipsters go home” even though that is their home. That area was a crackwhore wasteland before the hipsters moved in. TIME OUT NY featured a giant hand flicking a hipster off the front cover but they aren’t going anywhere and they shouldn’t.
Gutfeld’s book spends less time hipster bashing and more attacking the very notion of cool. This is something I’ve written about myself. Cool culture is death culture. It’s cool to do heroin, which must mean it’s cool to O.D. because that is how most junkies end up. If you have cancer, useless natural medicine is in and effective chemotherapy is out. It’s cool to be pro-choice which means it’s cool to wipe out the black population. Euthanasia is cool. Preserving life is not. Old age isn’t cool. You’re supposed to “live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse.” As The Who told their fellow youngsters, “I hope I die before I get old.” Unless you’re in entertainment, making money is not cool. Profits are for squares and so is breeding. In other words, it’s uncool to thrive. This notion is fundamentally un-American and it’s hard to argue with Greg on that.
Not Cool takes on cool environmentalists like Yoko Ono who hate fracking so much, they turn a blind eye to the jobless teens in rural areas who are forced to go to war to pay the bills. It’s cool to turn your nose up at job creators like Exxon and the Koch brothers while ignoring liberal billionaires like George Soros and tax dodgers like Mark Zuckerberg. Many of Greg’s previous books read like a series of anecdotes but this one stays on message and hammers the point home with real world examples that are damn hard to refute. Gawker tried and failed.
Cool is what’s wrong with America but I can’t imagine a world without it. Youth culture without cool is life before teenagers and that was just young men working in factories and marrying their high school sweetheart. How can I agree with Gutfeld and love cool at the same time? I smoked a joint in my hot tub while listening to Mötörhead and after a few tokes, it hit me like Sid Vicious’ bass guitar into a Texan’s forehead: YOUTH. Hipsters are 18-25. They’re supposed to be stupid. They should be focused on music and fashion because ultimately, both are about sex. Fast music and the relentless pounding of rap and punk is about getting sweaty and thrashing around and fucking. Fashion is peacocking and it screams “fuck me” to desirables and “fuck you” to everyone else. This is God’s design. I used to spend hours in the mosh pit at shows. I tried it recently and almost died of exhaustion after thirty seconds. My wife and I still occasionally fornicate but if I tried to pull an all nighter like I used to, I’d have to go see my urologist. The problem isn’t youth culture. It’s youth culture applied to an adult world.
We’ve always shaken our fists at the kids today but we did it quietly at the tavern to our fellow old guys. Now we have 40-year-olds writing for a magazine about nightlife and bitching about how loud the other kids were. We were Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino. Now we’re wrinkled teenagers with blonde tips and bands on our shirts. I brought my 5-year-old to a baseball hat store the other day and he didn’t understand why the Batman, Thor, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four hats were only in adult sizes. I didn’t either. We used to leave politics to the elders but now we have kids making movies like Gasland because they saw some tap water light on fire and didn’t understand that adults have been doing that since there was tap water. Our president was elected not because he was the best man for the job but because young people (and women and minorities) thought he was cool. If we were back in the time when voting was a dad’s game, Obama would have lost. Today’s adults have placed video games in a place where they outsell all Hollywood movies combined. Here in New York, it’s perfectly normal for a 45-year-old to remain unmarried and 30-something women are left with dried up ovaries wondering what just happened. Both scenarios are cool and both mean the end of those particular bloodlines. 40,000 years of running from saber-toothed tigers, dodging the black plague, escaping slavery, and enduring the Industrial Revolution, all ended forever because a grown man wanted to live like a teenager. In France, they call it “La fin du race.” In America we call it cool.
This is why Greg Gutfeld is right and cool is still cool. The problem isn’t youth culture. It’s adults carrying it into American culture. Being young and dumb is fun when you’re young and dumb. When you’re old, it’s downright suicidal.