“Carles can blog about basically anything.”
-Carles, in the sidebar of Hipster Runoff
Hipster Runoff’s author, Carles, is a character. Whoever is behind that character has thus far remained a secret, though journalists are itching to find out who it really is. But regardless of that (old-fashioned? Anti-Barthesian?) yearning for a creator behind this giant project, Carles creates the voice of the blog.
The immediately obvious, hilarious, infuriating part of this character is the language, which is a carefree grammar-free mess of internet-speak circa 1998, misspellings, deliberate misquotes, and occasionally, faux-poetry (fauxetry?):
ugh. h8 fashion.
who am I supposed 2 b?
’sometimes feelin like life is just a circus, yall!’ -brit spearsie
-from a recent post on fashion
Though the immediate reaction is to recoil in horror at the apparent middle-school-girl-ness of the author here, after a few posts maybe you start to “get it”. Carles, as a product of either Generation X, the irony-laden, jaded young masses (perhaps epitomized by Douglas Coupland’s excellent, irony-laden, jaded novel of the same name) or Generation Y, we folks who were brought up entirely on the internet with more information at our fingertips than any previously, has only the expressive means that he has grown up with to express himself. To reappropriate Saussure, Carles’ langue is the unique grammar and structure of the internet, so all his expressed emotions, thoughts, and fears (parole) are filtered, often hilariously, through that skewing filter.
Maybe this is distinctly generational, but there comes a point when Carles’ absurd, negatively essentializing statement that he has only three emotions makes sense, given the material available to him. Internet users constantly collapse complex emotions into brutally less meaningful statements (any form of laughter or finding something funny becomes “lol”; anything done wrong becomes a “fail”; “two”, “to”, and “too” all become “2”).
I just realized something.
I only rlly have 3 emotions. I can only rlly feel 3 ways about something.
I can <3 some1/something.
I can h8 some1/something
I can miss some1/something.
While yall may not respect me cuz I’m not complex, yall need to realize that these simple emotions are the core feelings behind everything.
-from this post
The descriptions he provides for each supposed “emotion” are even less discriminating; each word takes on so many meanings that it starts to seem as if Carles is collapsing such emotions precisely to self-consciously organize language to his own means.
h8 = when u hate something/dislike something/are uncomfortable in a situation/feel inconvenienced/feel like something has wronged u/don’t like what something stands 4.
It sort of works. Taking Saussure’s (and others) contention that all thought is shaped by language to an extreme, Carles is doing the work for himself, consolidating his thoughts into the language he knows how to use to make sense of the world. More on this later.
First, though, notice how Carles destroys the myth of the “accidental” hipster. There is a pervasive attitude in most hipsters that is so vehemently opposed to being called hipsters, or belonging to that subculture, that they seem to be pretending that they just fell in accidentally. As if Pitchfork’s latest favorite band, plaid shirts, skinny headbands, black jeans, workers’ boots, and children’s sunglasses just all seemed “cool” to all the same people on the same day. Carles obsesses over what it is to be “alt”, and whether he’s fulfilling that expectation adequately. A recent post asks:
Is it ‘alt’ to go to the movies to see mainstream summer blockbusters? Feel like people who ‘go to the movies’ and ‘build their weekly schedules around television shows’ make me sad, because they represent how people don’t have any thing 2 do, so we just have 2 waste time watching things 2 keep us from thinking about how sad we all are on the inside.
He wants to place himself in a community so badly, have a place to fit in. He created the idea of the “AltBro” as sort of the ideal intersection of contemporary male masculinity with the “vulnerability” of alternative hipster culture, supposedly summed up by this photograph:
Says the caption:
This is AltBrodom in a single photograph.
This is alternative camaraderie.
This is what it means to pick out your neon accessories with one of your best bros.
This is what it means to follow blogs with your best altBros, and get ‘totally hyphy crunk’ whenever a new track by _____ drops.
He uses the word “bro” more than most; in publicized twitter conversations with (excellent) Brooklyn author Tao Lin or, here, with alt-DJ Diplo, he calls attention to the patent absurdity of the ways that contemporary men (“bros”, natch) relate to one another. A “chill bro who is always down to party” describes most hip(ster) men, after all. He yearns for a more positive masculinity, where men can relate on levels that transcend broisms.
He even reappropriates the peculiar language of the mp3 blogging community into non-mp3-blogging related posts. Traditionally, when bloggers find a new song via another blog, they’ll post the mp3, then [via blog name here]. (An example here). In character, as an obsessive reader (and ostensible producer) of MP3 blogs, Carles seems not to realize that this is a linguistic idiosyncrasy peculiar to blogs. A recent post about Swine Flu is titled:
Looking 4 something that will protect me from Swine Flu [via American Apparel]
The “joke” is one of the most consistent on the site, and seems to be creating a ridiculous assumption that Carles has never not been on the internet. He’s sort of a hyper-version of the ideal hipster. Not to mention, the constant affirming that, yes, his thoughts are “via” something else only further the evidence for the postmodern generation (again, more on this later).
Carles’ internet-langue, when it intersects self-doubt, is hard to understand, sure, but it is purposefully bringing to light the difficulty of being a hip individual when trends change by the minute and all expressions of emotion can be boiled down to a few letters. Though it’s debatable whether he succeeds, he certainly shines an incendiary spotlight onto the question: can we express ourselves on the internet? Are we alt? “Are we human, or are we dancers?”