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I'm a Contrarian (but if you are, then I'm not)

Friday June 11th 2010

by Paul Armstrong


It's an epidemic for my generation. Call it hipster. Call it "individualism" run amok. Call it agnostic angst. Whatever the label you put on it, I don't believe it's as simple as a perception of carelessness and anti-consumerism. I believe it has much more to do with trust and disappointment.


"Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They're the people who wear t-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you've never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don't care."

— Time Magazine (July 2009)

I like Coldplay. I hate BPR. I've never worn a cowboy hat. I care about a lot of things. Yet I'd consider myself in the genre of hipster. I tend to dislike those things which my peers praise. The more praise, the less likely I will like it. The simplistic explanation is that I don't want to appear common. Or even worse, subject to a marketing, consumer oriented culture. While that might be true of some people, that isn't fully me (I don't dislike marketing, or even things that are "best seller" products).


For me it's about trust (or more precisely, a lack of trust) — how I've developed a jaded and wary eye of culture and people in general. The fallen, sinful nature of man and so forth. It sounds extreme, I won't deny that, but it's at the root — the heart, of my views and beliefs about "mankind" as a whole — which then shapes my perception of the world and the people in it. I don't believe that everyone is born perfect, flawless or without blame. I don't believe that our motives are ever pure. I don't believe that we're unbiased, unscathed by perconceived notions of what makes us comfortable, or what makes us feel like we "fit in". People desire to feel apart of something, thus are easily persuaded to "like" something (even if they really don't) but


Marketers and commercials intend to sell me something, convince me of something — thus their motives are compromised (from an unbiased view to fully biased view). But I do not know the intentions of others (and by others, I mean large groups of people whom I do not know but make up a collective of polls, opnions and statistical views) — are they secretly selling me something, are their opinions worth trusting? It's more common for that great leader or great company or worthwhile cause or newest hot band or the best movie ever made to turn out to be not as great or wonderful as everyone was saying — through scandalous, less than moral situations, dull music, lousy writing, you name it. What I think happens is that your circle of influence (those you admire, associate with, etc) pressures you to lean toward accepting or not-accepting something that the most influencial person pushes. Sub-prime marketing. So it isn't that I'm purposefully doing the opposite of what is popular, but I don't believe that what is popular is really what it's all cracked up to be. Unless of course you say that it isn't popular — than maybe I'll like it.




Comments for "I'm a Contrarian (but if you are, then I'm not)"


Okay, without Internet shoutings...I felt like you were writing about me and my cynical stance toward the human race.

Some days the collective weight of mankind's sin (and sinfulness) is difficult to bear. One of my biggest struggles is bitterness which, on my best days, manifests itself through biting remarks and heavy doses of sarcasm (sometimes gentle sarcasm, but it's still sarcasm). At my worst, I wear an involuntary scowl on my face when I walk around. It's a pretty far cry from my Pollyanna-esque optimism pre-college, that's for sure.

I just want to say that my wife and I started watching LOST a month ago. Originally, when I would see "lost" posts from you - I kind of thought, what the hell? It just seemed odd to do a TV commentary. I completely understand now. We are nearly halfway through season six.

Also - I find it funny that the guy above is JUST LIKE YOU. You'd better change. At least one of you.

It's funny, Paul. I'm sort of approaching things from the other direction. I've always felt different from most people and had a natural draw toward things I perceived as having a value that mainstream culture could not grasp. I was an outsider and a cynic. Of late, however, I've intentionally acquired a taste for pop culture. I don't accept it blindly, but I've disabused myself of the assumption that popularity entails lack of meaning and value. I try to look into pop culture phenomena and find the reason why so many people like it. That way I can possibly understand and appreciate it as well. What follows is that I can understand and appreciate more people now than I could when I was cynical of everything that was popular. I feel like I'm in a similar place to where you are, but if I look back, the path here is different.

I think for me it goes back to this normal scenario for me; if I intend to order the T-Bone steak and someone else at my table orders it before me, I will change my intended order.

I think I still like plenty of popular things (House, LOST, Bones, Coldplay, Angles and Airwaves, movies that aren't Avatar but did well). I think my initial mindset is that of distrust of motives or information. Unless, like I said, I know the person well.

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