Friday, December 16, 2011

steampunk hipsters scared by justin bieber

Why does everyone assume that steampunkers are going to jump airship as soon as aspects of the subculture become more mainstream?!

The Washington Post recently published an article entitled: "Justin Bieber, Macy's co-opt steampunk subculture" in their Lifestyles section.  While the opening lines of the article would have one believe that steampunkers are dropping the genre like a hot potato by the thousands, the article actually shows more trepidation on this "infringement" by the mainstream than any actual running away from the scene.  Understandable, considering how mainstream culture tends to twist various subcultures such as goth or neo-pagans into something they're not (cutting practices, devil worship, spell casting and blood sacrifices anyone?)

But one can't necessarily disparage Justin Bieber and Macy's for using their own take on steampunk, that imaginative 19th century world that never was to inspire their "works of art."  The set design, costumes, and even concept are all pretty remarkable for Bieber's video- well thought out, fitting in with the steampunk theme very well with the toymaking gears of the workshop, the 19th century/modern mix of clothes for the workers, and the clockwork doll.  For crying out loud The Nutcracker, that most famous of Christmastime stories, features in the Christmas party scene four clockwork dolls made by Herr Drosselmeyer (Clara/Maria's uncle/godfather/grandfather, depending on what version your story goes by).  These dolls eventually become the Nutcracker Prince and the three fairies (Dewdrop, Snow, and Sugar Plum).

Besides, if you watch the video for "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with the sound off, it's easy to imagine industrial music to go along with the movements of that mechanical doll and breakdancing workers in place of the pop music nightmare that I consider Bieber's music to be.

After asking a few steampunk people I know what they thought about Bieber's video, the most common response received was "meh."  No one really cared as long as Bieber didn't go around claiming that he was now steampunk.  One person even thought it was good that the artist who made Bieber's armgear made so much money off of the tween pop sensation.

Also, who would fault Macy's window displays just because they sell "popular" clothing items such as UGG boots?  I personally think that the displays are absolutely gorgeous and perfectly enchantingly appropriate for the Christmas season:

image source: The Washington Post
image source: The Washington Post

Isabella “Captain” von Pumpernickel, a steampunker quoted in the article, put it best when she said that true enthusiasts would not be turned off by a teenage boy and a department store from indulging in their love of an altered historical era:
“If you think steampunk is dead because the ‘mainstream’ has noticed it, well then you weren’t really into it that much. ... You are not a steampunk, you are just a hipster."
Once again, let's not be steampunk hipsters!  Indulge in your love of steampunk and don't give a flying f*ck about what has gone mainstream if the subculture is really that important to you. 


  1. I have to say, the Macy's windows are quite extraordinary this year. Perhaps I'll take some pictures next week and post them on my blog?

    I always associate clockwork, steam, and diesel with Santa Claus. I've always envisioned his workshop to be a good mix of it, adding some contemporary technology to the mix.

  2. Awesome post. Justin Bieber's songs reminds me of an upcoming singer I discovered on YouTube. He sounds almost like Justin Bieber-- maybe he's emulating Bieber.