An article Adam Curtis wrote about Norman Mailer has fascinated me, and I wanted to ask if the ‘White Negroes’ that is, hipsters who appropriated Black culture and used it as their own to define their own distinctiveness, is now as Adam Curtis stated, the new normal in the popular culture of our age, and to ask like he asks, Who are the new “white negroes” of our age?
Today it is possible to argue that we have all become gay white negroes. We all listen to “edgy urban” music, spend our time in the gym, go shopping and groom ourselves, take lots of drugs, have sex and then spend the rest of the time talking to our friends about the impossibility of finding real love and connection in the world.
Far from an expression of rebellion it has become the conformity of our age. And if Mailer was right - that it was a sensibility originally born out of the existential fears of nuclear holocaust - then it lost its real radical purpose when the cold war ended.
Instead the white negro hipster has actually become one of the central conservative pillars of our time - because their real function is now simply to prop up an increasingly shaky system of credit and rolling consumption.
All statements about what “we all” do these days are tough to defend these days, even more so than in earlier generations. Tastes keep splintering, there are fewer and fewer things that everybody is familiar with. I can’t speak for the English but in America there are countless millions who don’t like edgy urban music or go to the gym or use drugs–the great majority, in the case of drug use. Even among hipsters, his description is hardly accurate. I’d consider my brother and his housemates and friends to be hipsters but they prefer bluegrass and folk music on banjo and fiddle to anything else.
There is certainly a point to be made about how some people have a tougher time now finding music that makes them look rebellious and edgy and angry. Stuff like eminem, some people really need to have it explained to them that if you’re listening to an artist who’s won multiple Grammys and whose music is sold by a major corporation, you are not sticking it to The Man.
Defining one’s identity or personality through music is something high school children do. It simply isn’t that important or informative to actual adults.
Also, my impression is that more than anything “hipsters” have become the people keeping “white culture” – whatever that means – alive. Beards, bikes, beer, beekeeping, bluegrass and folk music, flannel, suspenders, thick framed glasses, vinyl, gardening and raising chickens, community arts projects, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc. I can’t even remember the last time hipsters’ main influence was black culture. The 1980s?
That is, of course, if you even accept “hipsters” as a real thing, rather than just something you call people who take part in whatever new fads or fashions you dislike.
Norman Mailer didn’t just mean Music, he meant actual Black culture.
That’s because Adam Curtis was saying that it has become mainstream, hence the reason why Hipster culture is centered around the things you describe.
““edgy urban” music, spend our time in the gym, go shopping and groom ourselves, take lots of drugs, have sex and then spend the rest of the time talking to our friends about the impossibility of finding real love and connection in the world.”
This is a description of “black culture”?
Sounds like a mixture of ignorance, confusion, and hateful stereotypes.
I think you’re misinterpreting what he said, that’s a description of the hipsters viewpoint of black culture, not black culture itself.