Video Essay: Defining Hipsters

An approved topic for the Regent's exam is to "discuss a stereotype that you once believed but that later proved inaccurate." Stereotyping is defined as "a generalization about a group of people whereby we attribute a defined set of characteristics to this group based on their appearance or our assumptions."

Stereotypes are definitions - we define a certain group by their "group" actions, or perceived group actions by using extended definitions. But are stereotypes always bad? Sometimes we use stereotypes to help us quickly identify and make sense of the world around us. They allow us to make predictions about what to expect from those stereotypes. It costs us relatively little psychologically, we don't have to deal with, or don't have to modify our behavior, because we know how those stereotyped are going to act. But most of all, they are beliefs that are shared, otherwise we wouldn't stereotype in the first place. So stereotypes are superficial, giving us just enough material to get us into some serious trouble. When we let assumptions, or stereotypes, rule our behavior that is when we can get into difficulties.

But we love to laugh at stereotypes . . .

According to Andy Fram at James Madison University's breezejmu "Most people fit stereotypes to some degree. There used to be plausible credibility for denying such horrible accusations. You used to be able to say, 'I wasn't any stereotype. I definitely wasn't a bro, I sure as hell wasn't no smelly hippie, I was my own person.' But then they invented hipsters and you couldn't get away with that anymore."

College humor offers us a definitional visual essay of Hipsters.

So why is it okay to laugh at this stereotype? Is it because Hipsters self-identify as such, because they cultivate the Hipster brand/look?

Another common college essay prompt asks students to "Write an essay in which you define yourself in terms of your race or ethnicity." Does this mean that stereotypes are valid, or unoffensive, if they are autobiographical; when we are asked to define ourselves because of our heritage, family, or community?

We form stereotypes when we run across a broad sample of specific behavior, or presentations of such. Do you think the media has some responsibility for the stereotypes we share? (Remember it takes a whole society to make sense of stereotypes).

When are stereotypes useful? When are they hurtful? Do you think the stereotyped Hipster will prove inaccurate, or do you think it is something those Hipsters are proud of? Can you think of other stereotypes that people are proud of? Can you define yourself based on some stereotype you are proud of?


  1. Stereotypes are a necessary evil in today's world. They have been with us for as long as any one can remember, and are both hurtful and helpful. On one hand many people find some stereotypes hurtful, but on the other they help us what something may be like to a certain extent, which may help some people prepare for their interactions with stereotypes.

  2. It seems like stereotypes are the funniest when they're unexpected, yet surprisingly accurate. They're something that you've seen people actually do. For example, these hipsters in the video - I know people who are really like that, no exaggeration. Stereotypes can be hurtful, though, and can also prevent people from being treated equally, in work environments especially.
    I will admit though, I fit the woman stereotypes of being an awful driver, having an atrocious sense of direction, and getting way too excited about interior decorating.

  3. Stereotypes aren’t always a negative thing. They only become hurtful when they start becoming disrespectful towards something that honestly cannot be changed like race or a disability. When the stereotype is about a style or a way of living it is always funny because it tends to be very true. The reason why this hipster stereotype is so funny is because we all know someone who acts and dresses like this and I’m sure that hipsters around the globe are furious about this, but they are also laughing on the inside.

  4. I think that the hipster stereotype is very accurate, as I have seen many of these kinds of people in public and at my old high school. I think that they are proud of this stereotype because generally they are part of the more popular and social crowd on campus and one must go out of their way to act/dress like a hipster. Being that I am Indian, I am somewhat proud of the stereotype that all Indians are rich and successful because that is definitely the route I plan on taking in life. Most stereotypes are largely negative and I do not like that aspect of stereotypes, but in all honesty, most people these days do fit the stereotypes that society fits them with.

  5. I think stereotypes are more often a bad than good thing. I don't think you should categorize anyone in a certain way before you actually meet them. First impressions aren't always right and it's unfair to that person being categorized. Even though stereotypes might be a good thing because you know what to expect when you meet someone, you shouldn't assume it is right. Being that I am Asian, I am proud of the stereotype that Asians are smart and successful because it makes others not look down upon me if I'm dumb or lazy. As far as it goes for the media, I think it has some responsibility for displaying the stereotypes we share.

  6. That video of defining hipsters is hilarious. The way college humor portrayed hipsters is somewhat accurate because some of the hipsters I've known and seen tend to act that way. However, it isn't a very good idea to use stereotypes as a way of judging people's personalities because it may cause some troubles, trust me. Stereotyping can be really funny at times, but don't let that get in my way of judging people's character and treating them differently. Treating someone differently based on a stereotype isn't a very good idea if you're hoping to make a new friend. On the other hand, I believe stereotypes can be very funny if shared between two very close friends.

  7. Madeline Scott-BrownMarch 1, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    I thought that video was brilliant, and I hate to admit it (although no hipster actually calls themself a hipster)but I kinda put myself in the hipster sterotype. Very light weight though. I don't know if sterotypes are ever useful. I mean they're always there and they will always be there as long as we have stand up comedians. I think theyre hurtful when you use them in a derogatory way, which is a lot and people don't seem to realize it...
    I think hipsters are secretly proud of their sterotype. I don't know, they're just really smug and they think they're better then everyone else already so why wouldn't they be proud of being called a hipster?
    I don't know, I assume atheletes are proud that they are defined as such, and smart kids probably are too. But not every single athelete and smart kid is gonna be super jazzed that people go around calling them jock or nerd. As I said earlier, I guess I'm a hipster... I shop at goodwill and listen to a bunch of different music that nobodys ever heard of and I have a tumblr. I love irony and mustaches. So yeah, I guess I'm a hipster.

    Madeline Hipster Scott-Brown

  8. I think stereotypes are hilarious. There are always new kinds of stereotypes coming out. The current one that everyone is aiming for is hipster. I don't think anything is wrong with being a hipster because being a hipster is the new 'cool thing'. Stereotypes are useful when you're trying to describe a person to a friend without knowing much about them. They can be hurtful when you tell the person what you think they are. I'm sure if you went up to someone without ever speaking to them and say "Hey nerd, can you do my homework?" they'd be hurt by that because you are just using them for their smarts. I really do think hipsters are proud to be hipsters. They rock whatever they wear with great confidence always. They act however they want with confidence. I portray a hipster as a very confident person but not a cocky one. They seem to be very chill and relaxed with excellent style. The only stereotype I'd say for myself is different. I don't do everything everyone else does, I do what I want to do and dress how I want to dress. I think that everyone would say that for themselves so when I think about it, I'm just like everyone else.


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