Eleanor Margolis, an apparent English Person, writes in the New Statesman about how New Yorkers have lost their sense of humor, apparently because she visited a Trustafarian shop in Bushwick and that weirded her out. I don’t really agree with Margolis’s conclusions, especially since she seems to have expected that every New Yorker to be a Woody Allen acolyte, but her text is otherwise an entertaining read.
I’m curious to hear whether others think an emblematic New York character has evolved to be less “New York cynical” due to gentrification. Seems like a bunch of mishigas considering New Yorkers are bred to weather idiocy, and the idea of a “New York authenticity” is a deeply problematic one. There’s also, of course, the case of London Kaye, an artist who installed a twee crochet yarn mural on the side of a house in Bushwick that abuts the empty lot hosting the hipster Brooklyn Flea. One of the owners of the house, who is actually from Bushwick, saw this as a sign of white centrism and gentrification, and called them out. Read more about that on the Gothamist.
Read Margolis in partial below, the full piece via the New Statesman.
I went into My Other Factory Is An Orange, a shop in an “up and coming” (gentrifying at the speed of light) Brooklyn neighbourhood looking for a friend’s birthday present. I soon remembered that none of my friends are into bird skeleton and soot jewellery and I would’ve been in and out of there in four seconds flat, if I’d had my way.
I leave, precious minutes later, wondering what became of the cynical, no bullshit New Yorker. For at least a decade, the Brooklyn hipster has been placed under the think piece microscope and inspected from every angle imaginable. So I want to make a few things clear before I continue this hallowed tradition: beards don’t offend me. I could “care less” (as Americans say, nonsensically) what people wear or what bikes they ride. I quite like artisanal jam. What bothers and slightly worries me is the inability of so many of these people to take the piss out of themselves. Something that, I’m absolutely convinced, isn’t shared by their London counterparts. Don’t get me wrong – young Londoners, myself included, are terrible in our own ways. I’m not going to get into that now but, rest assured, I hate everyone equally.
Earlier this week, queen of NYC millenials, Lena Dunham, revealed via Twitter that she’s into astrology. No, not astronomy, actual astrology – the one where you are who you are not because of an intensely complex combination of genetics and life experiences, but because of shapes in the sky. Oh, and she’s not just a bit interested in it – she thinks it “rules her soul”. Say what you like about Dunham (I happen to think the first season of Girls was brilliant) the woman is not stupid. She is also someone quite clearly able to satirise not only herself, but her entire generation. How, I ask you, can someone with these skills also have such a propensity for brick-chewing, unflinching earnestness?
I’ve noticed a similar lack of self-awareness in, of all places, New Yorkers’ Tinder profiles. In one picture, a woman in her 20s is covering a canvas in little paintings of vaginas. She is not smiling. Another woman refers to herself in her profile, without a modicum of irony, trust me, as a “wood sprite”. “I’m a Virgo by nature and a Cancer by nurture, and there is evidence of both in my personality,” she continues. The astrology thing is a running theme. I’ve been using Tinder in London for… a while. Not once have I seen a profile containing any references to star signs.
When did New York become so LA? When were hardcore cynics replaced with wood sprites? All my examples so far have been women, so I should probably make clear that this vegan homeopathy bollocks transcends gender. Just ask the two Jesus lookalikes (that weirdly Aryan Jesus, with blonde hair and blue eyes) standing near me on the subway the other day. One says to the other, quoting Tolkien, “Not all who wander are lost.” Neither of them smiles. They stand contemplating (probably, come on) their own wanderlust and how fucking deep they are because they once took a train to the end of the line, got off in the predictably Bad Area and walked around a bit in search of, I dunno, authenticity.
It irks me, I suppose, that New York, practically the birthplace of (predominantly Jewish) misery comedy seems to have lost its dark sense of humour. Admittedly, one night at the Comedy Cellar – the old haunt of hilarious gloom merchant, Louis CK – is enough to restore your faith in the city’s cynicism. Perhaps all the New Yorkers who aren’t professional clowns were never funny in the first place.