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Inside the Mind of a Hollywood Hipster

This post is a series taken from a DMin project I put together looking at the Eucharist as a paradigm for ministry in northern Los Angeles, with the idea being that while the Eucharist is a simple and common practice of the church, it can provide a pivotal and profound paradigm for ministry in a particular place and time.

Part 1 – A Eucharistic Imagination for Los Angeles: A Bibliography

Part 2 – Bread and Wine as a Paradigm for Ministry

Part 3 – Liturgical Imaginations: Torture, Culture, and Eucharist

Part 4 – The Liturgies of Hipster Hollywood

IMG_7701-2Used as both an insult and a badge of honor, hipster is a defining characteristic of northern Los Angeles. When Forbes Magazine named Silverlake as American’s “Best Hipster Neighborhood,” local blogs received a wide-range of comments. Many were self-congratulatory, noting the many neighborhood features that merited reception of such an award, while others posted derogatory remarks, referencing Silverlake’s “gross hipsters” and declaring “whatever a hipster is or is not, please…go back home.” While not all of northern Los Angeles identifies as hipster or even agree on the exact meaning of the term, it is an underlying reality shaping the area’s cultural trends.

As the label’s etymology suggests, “hipster” (used both as a noun and an adjective) is simply a progression of what is hip. In Leland’s Hip: The History, hip is described as “an ethos of individualism [which] tends to grow in cliques…In relative isolation, a small group of individuals, forsaking the general trends around them, give each other permission to do something new. They develop their own slang as part of their group identity, and encourage each other’s idiosyncrasies as badges of membership.” An accurate description of northern Los Angeles, the freedom and “permission to do something new” is a defining mark of this region’s hipster influence.

The hipster hotbed of Hollywood is a center of creation and imagination. Styles are invented and reinvented and stories are created and recreated in a constant frenzy and abandoned just as quickly. Describing this unquenchable thirst for the new, Leland states “few things are as unhip as what was hip five minutes ago.” In line with this fascination with the new and unique, the neighborhoods of northern Los Angeles are typified by a preference for local businesses (with national or global chains often shunned and avoided), an inventive (and at times bizarre) sense of fashion, and a radical acceptance of new ideas.

Northern Los Angeles has a constant influx of transplants, often arriving to pursue a dream in the entertainment industry. Los Angeles offers a “promise of reinvention: the erasure of past ties, the chance to create a new identity.” Hollywood is a place where people come to experience rebirth and take on new identities, new careers, and even new names. I have met individuals who have (re)named themselves after everything from deities to musical terms; for these individuals, these chosen names are not merely pseudonyms or alter egos but a reflection of their desired identity. Abandoning their former name, they participate in a mythic culture of Hollywood that promises the possibility of freedom from the familial, ethnic, religious, and cultural trappings of their former self. The possibilities are endless and all things can be made new according to Hollywood’s cultural cues.

The ability to rename oneself and find acceptance in the culture of Hollywood is indicative of a postmodern, Derridian understanding of language. Just as “the world is a kind of text requiring interpretation,” so even a name in Hollywood invites interpretation. A new name provides a new interpretive starting point and, following, a new identity and reality. Language matters a great deal to the liturgical imagination of Hollywood, not as a referent but as the shaping and formative starting place for the creation of cultural identities.

Next up: Inside the Mind of a Hollywood Hipster Part 2

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