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Quirked Around
September 5, 2007 12:33 PM   Subscribe

We're drowning in quirk. It is the ruling sensibility of today’s Gen-X indie culture, defined territorially by the gentle ministrations of public radio’s This American Life; the strenuously odd (and now canceled) TV sitcom Arrested Development; the movies of Wes Anderson; Dave Eggers’s McSweeney’s Web site; the performance art, music, and writing of Miranda July; and the just-too-wacky-to-be-fully-believable memoirs of Augusten Burroughs. It’s been 20 years of beneficent, wide-eyed gazing upon the oddities of our fellow man. David Byrne probably birthed contemporary quirk around 1985— halfway between his “Psycho Killer” beginnings with the Talking Heads and his move to global pop—when he sang the song “Stay Up Late”: “Cute, cute, little baby / Little pee-pee, little toes.” (As it happens, Byrne appeared on July’s recent book tour.) Jon Cryer’s “Duckie” Dale in Pretty in Pink came a year later, and quirk was on its way.
posted by psmealey (176 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Apologies for getting a little over-eager on the front page space consumption front. I didn't mean it, man.
posted by psmealey at 12:35 PM on September 5, 2007


Wow this is a great post. So much to see and do. I'm going to go exploring.
posted by takeyourmedicine at 12:44 PM on September 5, 2007


Sometimes I sit in my laundry basket and tickle my ears. Sometimes not. Pizza!
posted by loquacious at 12:44 PM on September 5, 2007 [7 favorites]


Please, please please. Stop referring to Garden State as some sort of transcendent milestone in the history of culture.
posted by ninjew at 12:44 PM on September 5, 2007 [13 favorites]


That movie changed all our lives.
posted by ND¢ at 12:45 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wait, I thought we were drowning in irony. Maybe we're drowning in articles that thin-slice culture and claim it's a vat.
posted by user92371 at 12:46 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's like, I want to agree with the Atlantic guy, but his article is such shallow crap that I sort of find myself siding with anything he doesn't like just on GP. Plus, Judd Apatow is the solution to this (or any) problem? Fuck.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:47 PM on September 5, 2007


First, we're not not drowning in it; the works mentioned have (or had) pretty small audiences. And reaching back to 1985 to beef up the "trend" is not cricket. Quirk has always been with us. Was Infinite Jest not quirky? Was "Laugh-In" not quirky? Was Jackson Pollack quirky?

Jesus was quirky
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:49 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Condensed version of article:

There have been many quirky shows/movies/books over the last 20 years.

Remember [insert name of show/movie/book]? It was quirky because [insert description of quirkiness]. [repeat 20 times]

In conclusion, Knocked Up was not quirky, but it was good anyway.
posted by brain_drain at 12:50 PM on September 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


Why is Miranda July such a big thing these days? I can't seem to go to the bookstore or indie movie house without a picture of her staring at me as if someone just murdered her kitten on her birthday.

Her, um, work, isn't terrible, but it isn't all that great either. I found the movie to be kinda empty and constructed. Her writing is a pale imitation of Amy Hemple and AM Holmes. I haven't seen her performance art, but I doubt she alone would overcome my dislike of performance art in general.

To me, July is over-indulgent and underwhelming. So what's the deal?
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:52 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh my god, this article is making want to spit blood.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:52 PM on September 5, 2007


Dumbest thing I've read today.

This is as ludicrous as having "alternative" sections in the cd store or on a music downloading site.

You can't have mass quirkiness. It's an oxymoron.
posted by wfc123 at 12:53 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Meh, it all just seems like shower-nozzle masturbation material.
posted by quin at 12:54 PM on September 5, 2007


the writer is an EVP at VH1- does that make "celebreality" the anti-quirk?
posted by paul_smatatoes at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2007


Now I've heard everything. "Stay Up Late" was the birth of "quirk"?

I mean, if we're assigning first instances, shouldn't the Talking Heads movie/soundtrack "True Stories" serve as a better example of "quirk" (whatever that is) than "Stay Up Late"?
posted by blucevalo at 1:00 PM on September 5, 2007


Your favorite flavor of quirk sucks to the following extent: up +2/3; down -1/3; charm +2/3; strange -1/3; top +2/3; bottom -1/3.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:00 PM on September 5, 2007 [22 favorites]


wfc123, why not? i think "mass quirkiness" is a fair description of a certain driving force in our culture (the millions of "funny t shirt" stores, collector culture, etc), and no more an oxymoron than "mass personalization", like letting everyone decorate their own sneakers however they want.
posted by paul_smatatoes at 1:00 PM on September 5, 2007


I sent the Atlantic article to a friend of mine a while ago, and he said: Right and wrong! Cutesy quirk comedy is annoying, and Apatow is still a pussy. I thought he was going somewhere until he used "Knocked Up" as his ringer. Gag me gently with a dildo. Why not also embrace the earnest comedic stylings of Sinbad? How about embracing good old fashioned evil humor??!!

I pretty much agree. But I haven't seen Knocked Up. Superbad was good.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:01 PM on September 5, 2007


Aaaaand, on topic: The quirk thing is just that - a thing. The author of the piece does have a point with

As an aesthetic principle, quirk is an embrace of the odd against the blandly mainstream.

and then with

Quirk is odd, but not too odd. That would take us all the way to weird, and there someone might get hurt

Quirk rejects the appearance of being mainstream, but reeks with the desperation of wanting to be liked. In many ways quirk acts like a rejection of the mainstream, but is really another layer of conformity - it says 'I'm different! I'm original! and I still fit into a nice consumable little box! Get the DVD/mp3/podcast &c before I become too popular!'
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:02 PM on September 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


He's totally right. I want my characters in books and television to act exactly as expected. None of these modern digressions or unexpected turns. Get up, brush teeth, go to work, buy groceries, watch teevee, go to sleep.
posted by electroboy at 1:03 PM on September 5, 2007


[Michael Hirschorn] is also driving the network's foray into scripted series such as "So Notorious" with Tori Spelling.

Oh...oh...oh, man, I'm SO calling bullshit on this. Karl Rove doesn't get to be an ethics lecturer, Phil Spector doesn't get to extol the virtues of responsible gun ownership, and people who produce Tori Spelling vehicles absolutely positively do NOT get to also be cultural commentators. No. Just no.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:05 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I used to love This American Life but now I find it hard to listen to the show. It seems to me like they've taken their formula and stick to it so much that they've went from being a fresh voice to another tar lung.
posted by drezdn at 1:05 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think most of it's just twee dross trying to pass as genuinely engaging quirk. Regardless, that patently quirky 'aesthetic' gets so suffocating and cloying that, regardless of a work's merits, it soon falls into self-parody and begins to feel like a tiresome grind (Jonathan Goldman's WireTap, particularly it's excerpts of Little Criminals and those po-mo creative writing 101 Bible tales, Arrested Development after the first and a half seasons come to mind.)

Oddly, that was a point I was going to articulate in the FPP about the college callgirl; I could actually hear a narrator in my mind speaking in that weirdly arch CBC/NPR cadence, that softly vulnerable yet slyly self-aware voice that drives me up the freaking wall. I just started listening to TAL, and as much as I enjoy the actual content, the Muppet-newscaster-with-a-slight-lisp delivery makes me want to punch the nearest person with heavy-framed glasses. I'm interested in your damn book/tv/radio show, isn't it enough that I'm paying attention to you? Why do you feel compelled to try and ingratiate yourself to me like a runty three-legged mutt?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:09 PM on September 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


Oh FUCK:

Michael Hirschorn was promoted to Executive Vice President, Original Programming and Production for VH1 in January 2006.In this role, Hirschorn is responsible for all current VH1 original programming and development for both the East and West coasts as well as music development and celebrity talent development.

There's gotta be a Firefox script out there that just replaces all future bios of this guy with the phrase "First against the wall."
posted by Greg Nog at 1:10 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


this article is making want to spit blood.

Gene Simmons is so quirky!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:11 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Quirk rejects the appearance of being mainstream, but reeks with the desperation of wanting to be liked.

It also can mask the lack of a genuine sense of humor with the idea that (a) I wasn't really trying to be funny or (b) I was being "ironic" and you are just to dumb/lame/unhip to get it. I submit Napoleon Dynamite as exhibit A.

I'm with him as far as Rushmore went, because I think it was quirky while being genuine, sincere and somewhat sweet. This is something that only Wes Anderson is talented enough to pull off. What does annoy me is a piece of crap like Garden State, which looked great while I was watching it, and 'seemed' interesting, but when it was over, I couldn't help but conclude that was a complete waste of time and whatever they're using instead of celluloid these days.

[full disclosure] I knew that the ensuing bit of commentary would be much more interesting than the article itself, I'm happy not to be disappointed
posted by psmealey at 1:12 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Remember that quirky waitress in the TV sitcom, "Flo". She was always breaking things.
posted by doctorschlock at 1:12 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


i think "mass quirkiness" is a fair description of a certain driving force in our culture

Culture...

I call BS on this, too. The author is a hack. A schlockmeister (like Apatow- with or without "quirk"- it's still rehashed pregnancy gags everyone's seen on sitcoms for decades) peddling this garbage and calling it some kind of revolution.
posted by wfc123 at 1:17 PM on September 5, 2007


I am drinking a Dr Pepper, listening to XTC, wearing Chuck Taylors, and chewing on Blackjack gum. And I still think Garden State sucked.
posted by Dr-Baa at 1:19 PM on September 5, 2007 [8 favorites]


Fuck it— I like this article and I hate quirk.

The reason why I hate quirk is because I love the weird, and quirk is the enemy of weird. Quirk is facile, harmless, charming, awkward. Weird is complex, dangerous, self-sufficient and disturbing. Quirk can remind us of the mundane, and remind us that quirky IS normal (that bullshit about mass-market quirk upthread, that it doesn't exist, leads me to believe that the commenter has never been to a Target). Quirk is the little deviations on a scatter-plot, the ones that bring us back and reassure ourselves that nothing's out there that we can't handle, that we're all alike anyway, and that we can all have our bit of hipster flair. The weird is when somethings such an outlyer that it requires rethinking the graph, rethinking assumptions about how humans live. The weird is transcendant and troubling and deliriously joyous.

Quirk has subsumed almost all of indie rock—when people say "indie" they mean "quirky." This isn't to say that there aren't some good moments in there, with the Modest Mouse or the Arcade Fire, but that immediately after those moments, there'll be a Sunset Rubdown album that keeps the quirk but doesn't add anything. And yet, if they're sufficiently "ironic" or "sincere," they're given a pass.

Fuck quirk. Fuck Miranda July— give me Kobo Abe. Fuck Moldy Peaches— Give me Wildman Fischer. Fuck Wes Anderson— Give me David Lynch.

Fuck the quirk. Give me the weird.
posted by klangklangston at 1:20 PM on September 5, 2007 [53 favorites]


My guess is the author is 34, +/- 2. Because everything was better when you were 12. Why else would 1985 be such a watershed?
posted by jdfan at 1:20 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Are you quirkyalone?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:21 PM on September 5, 2007


Damn you klang, I had gone months- MONTHS without thinking about the moldy peaches.

*Tries to anger down blood, fails*
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:22 PM on September 5, 2007


"It is the ruling sensibility of today’s Gen-X indie culture"

And yet, sadly, there isn't an independent example among the links, so it really goes to show how corporations have sold the "indie" label back to Gen-X despite all of our counter-media urges. Not that I'm diminishing the examples cited (indie is not a synonym for "artistically more significant" or "more creative"), I just don't think of quirk as indie.

At least I'm outsider again on something! Try to sell my anti-take-over-of-indie-ennui back to me all packaged up, Mr. Corporation.
posted by bclark at 1:22 PM on September 5, 2007


Oh, and The Dog at Night Time— conciet-bound bullshit. Even Neal Pollack was better.
posted by klangklangston at 1:24 PM on September 5, 2007


(that bullshit about mass-market quirk upthread, that it doesn't exist, leads me to believe that the commenter has never been to a Target).

Repeated for emphasis.
posted by drezdn at 1:25 PM on September 5, 2007


klangklangston just said what I was trying to.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:25 PM on September 5, 2007


Klangklangston--you're spot on.

Who is responsible for this? Is there anyone, anyone at all, I can set on fire?
posted by nasreddin at 1:26 PM on September 5, 2007


*points in the general direction of Weezer*
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:28 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just don't think of quirk as indie

I can't recall precisely when it happened, but I do. To me indie was no longer all the out there DIY bands like Black Flag, Negativland, Husker Du, Minor Threat, Big Black, Naked Raygun, the Meatmen, etc ... it was the self-conscious brainy/dorky hipness of Pavement and Yo La Tengo, and all that came after them. Not that those bands didn't have great moments here and there, but I have long equated indie with quirky on that basis alone.
posted by psmealey at 1:29 PM on September 5, 2007


quirk = Williamsburg

'nuf said...
posted by twsf at 1:29 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Funnily enough, there's a TAL episode about this very phenomenon:

Death to Wacky

Or maybe its about the selling of this kind of thing. I'm not sure. Its a pretty good episode though.
posted by OldReliable at 1:30 PM on September 5, 2007


I thought that Bottle Rocket and Rushmore were, due to their unique quirkiness. But Anderson tried to appeal to a broader audience, probably out of necessity and in the process exposed Bill Murray as an [older] one-trick pony.

Exposure to the hoi polloi kills everything, I guess.

Language is the ultimate barrier. If hispters could all learn a new language (esperanto?) and produce their work in that, the shelf life of their products would be greatly extended.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:32 PM on September 5, 2007


The last few This American Life shows I listened to were about: an Iraqi translator, who falls in love with and leads a semi-clandestine and ultimately doomed affair with one of his captors; a man's attempt to save his alcoholic mother and barely functional half-bother (who had, as a child, witnessed the execution-style murder of his father) from destitution and death; and the story of a teenager who got mixed up first with Saddam Hussein's information ministry and later with the occupying forces, and his attempt to stay alive and keep his family safe.

TAL critics seem to be criticizing a show that only exists in their heads.
posted by bonecrusher at 1:33 PM on September 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


It all started with the TV show Green Acres. No, wait---that was weird, not quirky. It started with Videodrome. No wait, that was insane, not quirky. It all started with---ahhh, fuck it, I give up.

Me thinks the author is trying too hard to connect a lot of random things that don't have much to do with each other.
posted by birdhaus at 1:34 PM on September 5, 2007


Quirk is dead!

to you.
posted by washburn at 1:38 PM on September 5, 2007


"I look for one thing above all others--the what-the-fuck factor."--Hirschorn, discussing his day job.
posted by box at 1:39 PM on September 5, 2007


Clerks had its quirks but I'd go back to Captain Kirk for some real quirk.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:39 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Quirk" is unutterably stupid as a ... fad, or whatever, but this could have been alright if it was tied into the long tail, and all that.

A lot of popular culture is splintering and subsplintering as we all get the democratizing (isolating?) power to get whatever we want whenever we want it. Or maybe it just feels like that on the internet. Maybe there really are 200 million Paris Hilton fans.

I don't think that there is, though, it just seems to be what is on TV, which has less and less to do with what people actually want (and get.)
posted by blacklite at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2007


Back when I was a graphic designer in the early 90s, I would wake up, make myself a glass of Nestle's Quirk and sit down in front of my Mac Classic, designing newsletters using QuirkXpress. Man, I was drowning in quirk.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:51 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Captain Kirk and Green Acres? We're not going to get into that whole quirk vs. camp debate again, are we?
posted by psmealey at 1:52 PM on September 5, 2007


Firefox tells me this page is in Quirks mode.
posted by cairnish at 1:55 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


The reason why I hate quirk is because I love the weird, and quirk is the enemy of weird. Quirk is facile, harmless, charming, awkward. Weird is complex, dangerous, self-sufficient and disturbing.

Which is why Garden State sucked (seemed like a Scientology rant against brain drugs), while Napolion Dynamite was OK. ND was weird

Also, this guy is the programming director for VH-1? Seriously? Will someone please hit him the face for me? TIA.
posted by delmoi at 1:56 PM on September 5, 2007


If you can't genuinely derive pleasure from watching that Napoleon Dynamite dance clip, then I, for one, think you need a de-cynicizing.

Because while it is supposed to be ironically quirky and odd and we're all supposed to get it, hey, look at the nerd dancing all stupid, it's actually so fucking totally awesome that I want to punch my mom.

And also, Arrested Development isn't quirk. It's dick jokes and bad puns. And also, it is awesome.
posted by mckenney at 1:57 PM on September 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


Seems like one's perception of quirk is dependent on one's own cultural velocity. It's all framed by the speed of cool, which is a constant.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:01 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Right on Klanger,

If you are trying to be weird you usually end up quirky (in the best possible outcome), if you ARE weird then you probably don't even know it and I bet I can find something to like about you.

Lord I love a weirdo.
posted by Divine_Wino at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2007


Clerks had its quirks but I'd go back to Captain Kirk for some real quirk.

Quark had his quirks even as a clerk but I'd go back to the classic...Kirk for some real quirk.
posted by drezdn at 2:06 PM on September 5, 2007


You know, although one speaks of quirk mass in the same way as the mass of any other particle, the notion of mass for quirks is complicated by the fact that quirks cannot be found free in nature. As a result, the notion of a quirk mass is a theoretical construct, which makes sense only when one specifies exactly the procedure used to define it.
posted by Sailormom at 2:12 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Funny, I see Apatow characters as a pre-genx "get laid/stoners" 70s characters. To genx theyre old and to teens today theyre as Dazed as Cofused is to me. At best he makes nostalgia pieces based on old movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Porkys.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:15 PM on September 5, 2007


"If you are trying to be weird you usually end up quirky (in the best possible outcome), if you ARE weird then you probably don't even know it and I bet I can find something to like about you."

There was a label called Bulb, headed by a guy named Peter Larson. If they're known at all, it's for being the first place to put out Andrew WK, Wolf Eyes and Quintron albums. I got to interview Larson once and he said that he hated people calling Bulb a "noise" label. Instead, he looked for musicians that could only concieve of music the way they made it, deeply ideosyncratic and, well, weird (listen to MC Trachiotomy and then realize the guy is serious). (Here's their website). That's what I always liked about those guys— Quintron does come across as a fever-dream Prince, but he can't help but make that music. The Many Moods of Marlon Magas is weird through and through. And I worry that more and more just-off-center quirk means less and less room for the weird.

Gene Ray for president.
posted by klangklangston at 2:15 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Re: Garden State
posted by exogenous at 2:17 PM on September 5, 2007


I have skipped all the replies to this post without reading a one, just so that I can comment on how much I loathe, loathe LOATHE Me and You and Everyone We Know. I don't just loathe this film with very fiber of my being. I go around gathering up random fibers I run across and add to my being, just so I can loathe this affected, pretentious, trite and overrated P.O.S. with EVEN MORE fibers.

Um. Yeah.
posted by Windigo at 2:29 PM on September 5, 2007 [9 favorites]


*very=every*

Sigh. See what my dislike of that film and Miranda July has caused? Misplaced Vs and lost Es.
posted by Windigo at 2:31 PM on September 5, 2007


Fuck Wes Anderson— Give me David Lynch.
I remember getting together with my parents one evening. They pulled out a copy of this wonderful movie someone at church had told them about. The Straight Story. They put it in the VCR and hit play and as the credits flashed on screen, my blood went cold. David Lynch? David Lynch?

I spent that entire evening watching an elderly farmer reconcile with his brother and waiting for the backwards-talking transvestite midget clowns to appear. I don't think any horror movie left me as wigged out as the knowledge that David Lynch made a family-friendly feel-good film.
posted by verb at 2:31 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


Faithful Atlantic Monthly readers should've been calling bullshit when Hirschorn started assailing TAL for being a contrived form of pseudo-documentary filtered through the prism of Ira Glass, especially if they recall that two months ago, he penned a defense for reality TV that was all about how contrivance yields a truth that conventional documentaries fail to illuminate because of their reliance on found matter.
posted by bl1nk at 2:34 PM on September 5, 2007


For the last several years, the academic follow-on to pomo-gobbledygook (for those who didn't retreat into reactionary classicism, modernism, or romanticism) has been the watered down version of pomo-gobbledygook sometimes referred to as the phenomenology of the mundane. Quirk is the subgenre of mundane related to the former study of camp.

And yeah, we're soaking in it. When humankind can progress to the point of generating so much undigested information of questionable social value that it defies coherent processing or comprehension (what was passed over as 'totalization'), then the only the left to do is kick around small stones of questionable social value.

Such as this comment.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:35 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


To me indie was no longer all the out there DIY bands like Black Flag, Negativland, Husker Du, Minor Threat, Big Black, Naked Raygun, the Meatmen, etc ... it was the self-conscious brainy/dorky hipness of Pavement and Yo La Tengo, and all that came after them.

I am not sure yet where I fall in this quirk debate, but that statement really seems to nail the whole "indie" thing for me, although I would suggest that independent music has always been as much or more about hipness than pure music. Joy Division was supremely talented, yet, it gained its cult status being hipper than thou (in a pretty anti-joy sort of way of course) etc. Talent and something to say makes them great, but without a certain amount of style no one seems to notice. Perhaps that failing is the fan's egos, perhaps something more organic in what makes great music. I don't know. I think the bands psmealy listed lived in a particular post-punk groove in which style was temporarily less important for what my be termed in indie band. Most of them were anything but cool or hip yet had good followings, and made some nice noise too. (in any event i am not sure my thoughts on this are fully formed yet, but it is an interesting topic)
posted by caddis at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2007


Fuck Wes Anderson— Give me David Lynch.

Hmmmmmm. I dunno, klang...it's not just me saying this because I actually like Wes Anderson kind of a lot (though I generally like Lynch much more...I say "generally" because as bad as Anderson gets is Steve Zissou, which is pretty decent, and about as bad as Lynch gets is Lost Highway, which is a steaming pile), but I genuinely don't see a comparison at all. I don't think Anderson is even trying to do the same things Lynch does. They certainly have an overlapping audience, but not a single overlapping interest I can think of.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2007


If any other Chicagoans find this post eerily familiar, it's probably because Gaper's Block mentioned it last week.
posted by unmake at 2:44 PM on September 5, 2007


"Hmmmmmm. I dunno, klang...it's not just me saying this because I actually like Wes Anderson kind of a lot (though I generally like Lynch much more...I say "generally" because as bad as Anderson gets is Steve Zissou, which is pretty decent, and about as bad as Lynch gets is Lost Highway, which is a steaming pile), but I genuinely don't see a comparison at all. I don't think Anderson is even trying to do the same things Lynch does. They certainly have an overlapping audience, but not a single overlapping interest I can think of."

Two things— first off, the comparison was between quirk and weird. Even in, say, Blue Velvet, which was still fairly narrative in structure, Lynch can make harrowing and evil out of what would otherwise be "quirks." The nitrous tank, for example.

Second, I liked both Life Aquatic (probably my favorite Anderson flick, though Rushmore's right in there), and Lost Highway. I hated the Royal Tennenbaums and thought that Mullhulland Drive was OK, but I didn't enjoy watching it as much as Lost Highway.
posted by klangklangston at 2:51 PM on September 5, 2007


I'm with him as far as Rushmore went, because I think it was quirky while being genuine, sincere and somewhat sweet. This is something that only Wes Anderson is talented enough to pull off.

Rushmore reminded me of my two years in Catholic prep school. Yeah, it was a little over the top, but Anderson really did capture the vibe. So it does feel relevant to me. And Bill Murray was robbed.

What does annoy me is a piece of crap like Garden State, which looked great while I was watching it, and 'seemed' interesting, but when it was over, I couldn't help but conclude that was a complete waste of time and whatever they're using instead of celluloid these days.

I remember walking out of there and thinking, "I'm 33 years old. If I were 10 years younger, this movie would be One Of Those Cultural Touchstones That Really Got Me And Understood Where I Am Right Now. But I'm 33, so it was cute yet unsatisfying and immature, but Portman could be my muse any day of the week and twice on Sunday."

Or something like that. Probably mostly about Portman.

Re: Miranda July, she's one of those transcendent people in the hipster culture. By that I mean I know men AND women, gay AND straight who crush on her.
posted by dw at 2:57 PM on September 5, 2007


Reminds me of this critique of the "new male infantilism" of "the tastemaking class," as represented by Anderson, Jonathan Safran Foer, Conor Oberst, and Donnie Darko.

Where a Scotch-sozzled Big Bruiser once ran onto the fire escape with a roar, rolling up his or her sleeves to challenge the whole U.S. of A. to step outside, now a smallish fellow in a knit cap and woolen sweater sits in the corner with a box of chocolate milk, giggling at his own inadvertent burps.

posted by Iridic at 3:00 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gen-X indie culture

Being a Gen-X'er (I graduated from university in 1994), I can't say that I relate to any of this quirky crap. McSweeney's? Ug. Wes Anderson? How twee. Anyway, most Gen-X'ers are now on the downward slope to the big 4-0. After a while, this cultural crap starts to lose value. Give me a bottle of Chilean Shiraz, a book by Ian McEwan, and the latest Playmobil helicopter for my son. Maybe later we'll listen to Dots and Loops while driving around in a Ford Focus. That's Gen-X culture.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:00 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


If you can't genuinely derive pleasure from watching that Napoleon Dynamite dance clip, then I, for one, think you need a de-cynicizing.

Napoleon Dynamite was a completely cynical movie. It had an incredibly ugly attitude towards its own characters.
posted by stammer at 3:03 PM on September 5, 2007


Anyway, most Gen-X'ers are now on the downward slope to the big 4-0.

Sigh. Just under three weeks until I'm starting the back side of my 30s. You Bright Eyes listening Miranda July reading whippersnappers get off my lawn.

Give me a bottle of Chilean Shiraz, a book by Ian McEwan, and the latest Playmobil helicopter for my son. Maybe later we'll listen to Dots and Loops while driving around in a Ford Focus. That's Gen-X culture.

Or watch Yo Gabba Gabba. It's a preschool show aimed entirely at Gen X parents. Although, it's missing the biting cynicism of Gen X.
posted by dw at 3:05 PM on September 5, 2007


Thanks for the interesting post.

I think that the three approaches mentioned here and in the article (Quirk=Wes Anderson, Weird=David Lynch, Straight=Judd Apatow) are trying to do the same thing which is to cause the audience to feel emotion. Lynch and Anderson try the more difficult approach of creating something unexpected - that is to cause an emotion by linking something that you have not thought of before with an emotion. When a lesser hand tries it they tend to fall hard and the films are memorable for their badness.

Apatow is part of the mainstream and does not try to surprise with the unexpected but with truth - you relate thinking "wow, that is so true". When someone tries this approach and fails you end up with bland truisms like "Love will conquer all" - see most mainstream films.

For me all of these approaches are successful when I am genuinely moved - Apatow's Freaks and Geeks, Lynch's Twin Peaks and, I know I'm in a minority here, Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums.
posted by meech at 3:12 PM on September 5, 2007


And if Garden State really was quirky it would be like this.
posted by meech at 3:18 PM on September 5, 2007


Two things— first off, the comparison was between quirk and weird. Even in, say, Blue Velvet, which was still fairly narrative in structure, Lynch can make harrowing and evil out of what would otherwise be "quirks." The nitrous tank, for example.

True that. But if we're using "quirk" as sort of a dismissive term meaning cutesy/weird for its own sake, something that's meant to read as meaningful or cool just because it's "quirky!" but is actually pretty flimsy and insubstantial, I'm not sure (a) that a lot of things in Anderson's body of work qualify, and (b) that either director is really above the occasional lapse into quirkydom. I mean, it's not all Frank in Blue Velvet. Sometimes it's Laura Dern's mom rubbing lipstick all over her face and screaming at the mirror in Wild at Heart. This is certainly not "cute," but it is a moment of self-conscious weirdness that seems to exist for no other reason than David Lynch suddenly remembered that he was David Lynch, and had to do something freaky here, fer chrissake. Something...well...quirky. (Along the same lines, I'd argue that the scenes of guys in scuba gear bopping along to neo-Devo in The Life Aquatic are just Wes Anderson suddenly recalling that he's Wes Anderson, fer chrissake...bring on the quirky!)

Second, I liked both Life Aquatic (probably my favorite Anderson flick, though Rushmore's right in there), and Lost Highway. I hated the Royal Tennenbaums and thought that Mullhulland Drive was OK, but I didn't enjoy watching it as much as Lost Highway.

I...can't begin to formulate a response to any of that, since I think The Royal Tenenbaums is Anderson's best film, think Mulholland Drive may very well be Lynch's best film, and think Lost Highway is singularly awful (except for Robert Blake, whose performance is even more disturbing in retrospect -- for real life reasons -- than it was when I first saw it, and it was pretty fucking creepy then). You're obviously my duplicate from the antimatter universe, and I don't mind telling you it's kinda freaking me out.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:26 PM on September 5, 2007


If you've posted to a thread discussing an article that refers to that Braff dude with anything but a potent mixture of bile and contempt, realize you survive only because anonymity afford you the luxury. Die plz.

Carey Grant once walked this Earth.
posted by ogre at 3:38 PM on September 5, 2007


If ya got it, flaunt it.
posted by AppleSeed at 3:39 PM on September 5, 2007


"Stay Up Late" isn't quirky, it's scientific; little babies have little pee-pees[1] and little toes.

[1] Little boy babies, anyway.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:40 PM on September 5, 2007


I liked the article. As an outsider to the US, I sometimes listen to This American Life and appreciate it for the care they take in putting together their stories. Which i think is its appeal, not the nasal voices or the slightly rickety 90s indie vibe of the show. The show is engaging despite these things. My girlfriend listening to the show, too, and she is as far from 'indie-quirky' as it gets.

Garden State, however, was an unsatifying movie, precisely because it was interested in this manner/style above all else. It mistook media matters for human substance. No meat on the bones, Zack.

I feel sorry for journalists who write these generational/sociological articles, because of the outrage they have to deal with from people who feel they've been pinned to the wall like moths. Especially interesting to see that outrage on Metafilter, the 'hipper' section of which is under the microscope here.
posted by dydecker at 3:43 PM on September 5, 2007


Do the folks who hated the article disagree with it, or is it just ad hominems about the author being (regrettably) some bigwig at VH1? I genuinely appreciated the defense of TAL based on actual examples of recent shows, & would listen to those shows if there was a way to remove Ira Glass from them; anybody wanna stick up for quirk as such? I'd read it if you did.

For me, the article fails because it's 4-5 years too late and because of a lack of viable counterexamples. Judd Apatow? What about "Les Chants de Maldoror"? Which is mostly to say, "what klangklangston said."

The article could have made so much more of this: far beyond the simple exclusion of weirdo material, "quirk" steamrolls it, disappears it, refuses to deal with it, even on a level of "hey we all have this weird stuff going on in our heads, for example I murdered several people in a dream I had last night". Quirk cleanly plucks the weird, rude, offensive, and inappropriate from any and all received tradition, and offers itself in the vacuum, which isn't a matter of simple aesthetic choice, it's a form of hostility (and, I would offer, of self-hatred).

see also: Billy Collins
posted by sleevener at 3:50 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The reason why I hate quirk is because I love the weird, and quirk is the enemy of weird. Quirk is facile, harmless, charming, awkward. Weird is complex, dangerous, self-sufficient and disturbing. Quirk can remind us of the mundane, and remind us that quirky IS normal...The weird is when somethings such an outlyer that it requires rethinking the graph

I doubt it's ever so simple that something either does or doesn't cause a person to question their assumptions. In other words, what's quirky to one person may be weird to another, and vice-versa. Even the passage of time is going to alter how things come across. I know there are bands or writers or films which seemed transcendent to me as a teenager which now seem rather naive. I can't tell for certain if it's me or the world that's changed so much (maybe teenagers still find some of those things powerful, or maybe it was just a different time and some elements just can't be reclaimed), but I think the way we gain from art and ideas is individual.

Sure, everything gets cliched over time - what is getting called "quirky" here is just the current cliches, the attempts to copy what was innovative when it first came out but has become too familiar. But even so, there are elements of weirdness in the mundane sometimes, and the overly weird can become bland once it's been seen too many times, so I'm not sure you can distinguish the Weird which you love from the Quirky which you loathe so simply. Take a look from another angle and you're back at square one.
posted by mdn at 4:04 PM on September 5, 2007


Okay, The Atlantic writer Michael Hirschorn, you and I's gonna have some words now...

One, as has been mentioned, the very existence of So NoTORIous excludes you from having a voice in this very debate which you created out of whole-cloth and a deadline.

Two, congrats, I guess, for writing yet another tired anti-hipster article at least two years past it's prime without ever mentioning the word "hipster." I can appreciate that, even though it means that your replacement word - "quirk" - is uselessly vague and meaningless. Dave Eggers may indeed be quirky (full disclosure, I just find him self-important and over-wordy and generally irritating) but McSweeney's I don't think quite fits the bill. It has it's own problems, to be sure, the chief of which is that its humor has been distilled down into endless variations of exactly one joke, i.e. "Take an extremely specific bizzarre (on the other side of his danger line, usually) premise, and then play it straight." It's still funny occasionally, not funny much of the time, but has little if anything to do with Napoleon Dynamite.

Three, don't ever, EVER, fuck with Arrested Development on my watch. And if you must, at least know more than what you've read in reviews before you try it. The humor in AD isn't quirky - it's flat out mean, at a direct counter to it's controlling theme, which is that family's gotta stick together. Not since All in the Family has a sit-com taken that theme to such tension with it's "counter-argument" (as Robert McKee would say) and come out on the side of the counter.

Mitch Hurwitz didn't give his charaters "quirks." He gave them what Moliere and the old practitioners of Comedia Del'Arte called "Obsessions." Quirky is when Napoleon's granny goes off to jump sand-dunes. An obsession is Michael Palin's Ken in A Fish Called Wanda having a love of animals, and him having to kill the woman with the five dogs. The first is odd for the sake of odd, the writer/director putting his own little gold star of "aren't I creative and clever" onto celluloid. The second is the basis for increasing comedy.

When you're quirky you know it, and keep to it because you want people to love you for it - Natalie Portman in Garden State. Character's with obsessions are blind to them. Lucille Bluth can't see her raging alcoholism or Machiavellian machinations for how damaging they truly are. Buster can't see his need to get out of the nest. Lindsay can't see the hypocrisy in her show-boating "liberalism." Tobias can't see his own atrocious acting talents nor the fact that he's obviously gay. GOB can't see his selfishness and neediness. And Michael can't see his own need to control everything and his inattentiveness to his son while trying to be the perfect father. Sure, Lucille Austero's vertigo was kind of quirky, I guess, but she was an ancillary character and cut them some slack.

Also, AD garnered much of - if not most of it's humor from just baaaaaarely skirted filthy jokes, puns (some bad, some brilliant as a pun can be) honest-to-god character conflict, and insanely complicated storylines, faster than ANY comedy in ANY form has ever done, much less accomplished and kept in straight order from start to tight finish. You talk about the meaninglessness of Tobias painting himself blue, except that it was the symbol of his actor's desperation throughout season two, and that it found it's way into every other storyline in season two in one way or another.

Also, The Atlantic writer Michael Hirschorn, if you're going to bitch about Arrested Development and then praise the (deserving) Judd Apatow, you should probably know that Apatow had a guiding hand in AD. Don't worry about it though, as it's clear you did no research beyond thinking over things that people younger than you have enjoyed.

Now, to you MeFites. Can we please stop turning every other post into an excuse for all of the hipsters to jump in and have a pissing contest to prove how much they hate hipsters? It's pretty transparent and not very interesting to boot.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:05 PM on September 5, 2007 [25 favorites]


ogre : If you've posted to a thread discussing an article that refers to that Braff dude with anything but a potent mixture of bile and contempt, realize you survive only because anonymity afford you the luxury. Die plz.

Wait, are you talking about Zach Braff, the dude from Scrubs? He's just some guy. Hell, most of the time I find him pretty funny. What puppy of yours did he kick to generate that kind of animosity?

Carey Grant once walked this Earth.

Yeah, but so did Gary Glitter.
posted by quin at 4:16 PM on September 5, 2007


Article summary:
Fucking hipsters are ruining my culture and riding bikes on my lawn.

I have nothing but contempt for this man.

Most of the things that Hirschorn dismisses are things that engage the intellect on some level. I have an appreciation for TAL that I will never have for any of the schlock on VH1. They appeal to people in a different way, and thus are elitist and snobbish.

His unstated position seems to be (at least for me) "If only people could go back to the gut humor of Knocked Up this world would be a better place. That intellectual crap needs to go away."

So fuck him. By his definition, the culture produced by my generation is superficial and quirky. It's people pretending, not people actually trying to produce something good and interesting. It's coming off major labels, yes, but the originators are all in their early thirties at the oldest. The ends of Gen-X and the beginnings of Gen-Y/The MTV Generation. The culture produced by this group will be different. And it will bother the hell out of our predecessors because what we're producing can never compare to the gods of old, at least from their point of view.

I read this as someone losing cultural relevance and being pissed about it.

(Disclaimer: these views and cultural notes are about the middle to upper class white/Asian/other culturally assimilated minorities. I make no claim about other subgroups, but feel I can at least speak a little from where I stand. And I still don't get Arrested Development. I walked away from the first episode midway through to read comics by Warren Ellis, which were funnier, dirty and more bizare.)
posted by Hactar at 4:33 PM on September 5, 2007


I left this thread thinking - I've said enough. But, I was wrong.

Arrested Development was awesome. It was everything that television has failed to be, and in response television killed it.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:37 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


And what's with all the Zack Braff hate? He made an entertaining movie that I had fun watching with my then girlfriend. Garden State was a romantic movie without the usual bullshit that you encounter in them. While the action was highly improbable, the emotion felt more genuine. I didn't cringe once, which is unusual for a movie with any pretensions at being a romantic comedy.
posted by Hactar at 4:41 PM on September 5, 2007


And what's with all the Zack Braff hate?

I think it's because he is pretty much a dick
posted by psmealey at 4:45 PM on September 5, 2007


Quirky my sweet ass. All those kids in massed produced "vote For Pedro" shirts are the vanguard of individuality now? Wake me when the shuttle lands, please. The so-called bland mainstream people are a hundred times weirder than those trendy conformists without even trying.
posted by jonmc at 4:46 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I think it's because he is pretty much a dick

On the one hand, I don't think beating someone up who's vandalizing your stuff actually makes you a dick. I mean it's not a good thing to do, obviously, but how does it make you a dick?

On the other hand, owning a Porsche does actually make you a dick.
posted by delmoi at 4:51 PM on September 5, 2007


Lord I love a weirdo.

and we love you, too.
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on September 5, 2007


On the other hand, owning a Porsche does actually make you a dick.

But that's ok, because you'll geta lot of pussy.

is this thing on???
posted by jonmc at 4:52 PM on September 5, 2007


man, I have to finally go rent some Arrested Development (thanks, Navelgazer), be back in a few seasons
posted by sleevener at 4:55 PM on September 5, 2007


There's a lot of world between weird and banal. Between Lynchian nightmare and the Oxygen channel. Why force entertainment through polarized filters where the quirky and trivial, the merely off-kilter, are dismissed out of hand as not ugly enough? Should indie cult cred or Gen-X cult love really depend on how sick in the head or how dangerous, tacky or rude we can be? Important films bore me. I'm shallow. So sue me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:58 PM on September 5, 2007


Clerks had its quirks but I'd go back to Captain Kirk for some real quirk.

BTW this is the essence of Metafilterthink in a nutshell, and why i don't trust the site when it comes to talking about art/entertainment/music.
posted by dydecker at 5:00 PM on September 5, 2007


Why force entertainment through polarized filters where the quirky and trivial, the merely off-kilter, are dismissed out of hand as not ugly enough?

The genuine quirky is not what some of us are dismissing. However when 7 skadillion young people are all brandishing the same talismans of quirkdom, I begin to smell a strong odor of bullshit in the air.
posted by jonmc at 5:02 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


* Beating up someone for vandalizing your shit doesn't (necessarily) make you a dick.
* Having a Porsche doesn't (necessarily) make you a dick.

Beating up someone for vandalizing your Porsche makes you a dick. It's kind of an additive thing.
posted by psmealey at 5:10 PM on September 5, 2007


Quirky my sweet ass. All those kids in massed produced "vote For Pedro" shirts are the vanguard of individuality now? Wake me when the shuttle lands, please. The so-called bland mainstream people are a hundred times weirder than those trendy conformists without even trying.

What, exactly, do the T-shirts have to do with anything? If this were about the mindset of the audience, you might have a point, but this is about the artistic worth (or lack thereof) of the cultural product itself, not the inevitable cash-cow merchandise.
posted by arto at 5:10 PM on September 5, 2007


*beats up a Porsche*
posted by jonmc at 5:10 PM on September 5, 2007


What, exactly, do the T-shirts have to do with anything? If this were about the mindset of the audience, you might have a point, but this is about the artistic worth (or lack thereof) of the cultural product itself, not the inevitable cash-cow merchandise.

I've never seen Napoleon Dynamite and have no desire to, but the fact that I see those shirts every 10 feet in NYC* made them a prime example of what I'm talking about. From the press I gather that the film was suppsed to be the quintessential 'quirky' film of the decade. And how is that quirkiness celebrated? By wearing identical t-shirts. See my point.

*including a 70+ year old Puerto Rican man at the fruit stand the other day. I wonder if he meant a different Pedro
posted by jonmc at 5:14 PM on September 5, 2007


I have an appreciation for TAL that I will never have for any of the schlock on VH1.

It's beyond me how anyone could not appreciate Rock of Love. That shit is like watching a found colony of anus faced fish aliens laying around giving each other puckered farty kisses or something. The fact that Brett Michaels is able to surround himself with enough dudes just like himself and women who desperately want to be with dudes like that to form this insane, self-contained universe is compelety awesome. I would so love to hang out at his ranch for like...twenty minutes, maybe. Maybe ten.
posted by The Straightener at 5:21 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'll admit that I felt a little less uneasy about Napoleon Dynamite after seeing Jon Heder in Blades of Glory. Until that point, all I could think of was how shameful it was to cast an actor in that role who was clearly severely mentally disabled.
posted by psmealey at 5:22 PM on September 5, 2007


The fact that Brett Michaels is able to surround himself with enough dudes just like himself and women who desperately want to be with dudes like that....

Do I need to say it? Every rose has its thorn, dude.
posted by psmealey at 5:24 PM on September 5, 2007


I have an irredeemably Welsh friend who writes "quirky" as "querci". Now that's quirky.
posted by Joeforking at 5:25 PM on September 5, 2007


You know, Hirschorn reminds me of Tobias on Arrested Development, the sort of guy who wants to combine being a cultural analyst and some sort of dour therapist.

Indeed, Hirschorn needs a business card just like Tobias.
posted by dw at 5:26 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The fact that Brett Michaels is able to surround himself with enough dudes just like himself and women who desperately want to be with dudes like that....

If he hadn't done what he did to acheive that, he'd be working in a Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania. More power to him.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on September 5, 2007


I'll tune into this This American Life the day they run the Snakemannn story.
posted by The Straightener at 5:29 PM on September 5, 2007


"I have an irredeemably Welsh friend who writes "quirky" as "querci". Now that's quirky."

Oh, yeah—with the Zygotic Mynci.
posted by klangklangston at 5:36 PM on September 5, 2007


Napoleon Dynamite was flat-out unwatchable. It tried harder to show off (albeit in a different way) in the first ten minutes than any five whole James Bond movies.

It took me three tries to get through Pulp Fiction, back in the day, with out rolling my eyes so far back in my head that I wanted to pass out. I thought it'd be personal record for the ages - no other movie would *so*many* people try to get me to like. I was wrong; the first 20 minutes of ND made me want to kill a hipster, and i've refused with no pause those that have tried to make me watch further. Ick ick ick.
posted by notsnot at 5:45 PM on September 5, 2007


jonmc: The popularity of those shirts proves nothing except that those shirts are popular. It's not the audience that's being discussed here, dude. I haven't seen "Napoleon Dynamite" either, for all I know it may be the suckiest suck that ever did suck, but if so it's because of what's on the celluloid, not what's on a legion of 18-year-old chests in Cooper Black on a 50/50 polyester/cotton blend.
posted by arto at 5:47 PM on September 5, 2007


Quirk, 1986-style: Buffalo, by Stump (from the album Quirk Out).
posted by scruss at 5:49 PM on September 5, 2007


Whatever, arto. I was just picking a ubiquitous symbol to make a point. Relax.
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on September 5, 2007


See, what notsnot said there? That's a valid way to dis a movie.
posted by arto at 5:50 PM on September 5, 2007


For the record, I like Napoleon Dynamite - I think it was amazingly different , particularly for MTV Films, and effective in it's minimalism. Also, how cool is it that the anti-social Napoleon has his greatest victory not by running for class president himself, but by putting himself on the line to get his first true friend elected? This was a movie that understood its characters and its world. It wasn't dumb. I can understand why people didn't like it, but I did. It's still quirky though, which I didn't realize was a bad thing until The Atlantic informed me.

I also like Garden State. I don't get where all the Braff hate comes from, except that at some point it became cooler-than-though to shit on him. Even still, whether we hate Braff or accept him as decently funny, we can all get behind Peter Saarsgard, right? Right?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:55 PM on September 5, 2007


Hey, no worries, man.
posted by arto at 5:55 PM on September 5, 2007


arto, my point is that the kids sporting that shirt probably think that they are the quirkiest little special snowflakes in the world, even though there's 200 other kids sportiung the same shirt within a half-mile radius is what I'm saying. Thus rendering 'quirk' meaningless.
posted by jonmc at 5:56 PM on September 5, 2007


Quirkiness is distinction, which is the only modern commodity. Like any commodity it's subject to all the lovable foibles of consumer capitalism. If you can't buy it outright you can buy it as a reference.

It's also irredeemably empty like all affectations.
posted by Ictus at 5:59 PM on September 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well put, Ictus.
posted by arto at 6:41 PM on September 5, 2007


The so-called bland mainstream people are a hundred times weirder than those trendy conformists without even trying.

Having spent almost my whole life in small towns in the south, I can verify that this is absolutely true.
posted by thivaia at 6:50 PM on September 5, 2007


This one will fade, as they all tend to do sooner or later. Reminds me of what we all should have learned in The Century of the Self.
posted by christopherious at 6:57 PM on September 5, 2007


Well bourgeois culture would have to turn it's parasitic individualism and overzealous egalitarianism against itself and end up fetishizing small, meaningless differences and obsessing over style. But this isn't a bad thing. Paris Hilton and her ham handed attempts at seduction still acts as a kind of aggression, as something that might be rebelled against, something that at least gives a nod to some idea of (pop) culture. But something funny happened in GenX: overwhelming defeat was met with overwhelming denial. The stupid losers didn't even have the courage to sell out. It became necessary to remove all positive notions of strength, beauty, danger and violence. And so we get a culture that idolizes the prototypical Geek and strives to see just how far it can stuff its collective head and various other shiny gadgets up its collective ass. It's not an aesthetic really, it's too ruthlessly introspective, it adamantly refuses to entertain even the possibility of other people... It's more like a secret code. The defining feature being that it's not even meant to be understood/appreciated/acquired but by an exclusive (yeah right) few who are in on the joke, by those supposedly intelligent enough to get it. The whole affair just comes off as so shallow, so harmless. But what the hey. As long as people continue to play nice, as long as no serious attempt is made to oppose the forces of late stage capitalism and no thought of political violence is entertained, as long as people still show up to work and do their time, then yeah, we can let kids be kids and have their toys. The machine only works if everybody goes along and to get along.
posted by nixerman at 7:09 PM on September 5, 2007 [6 favorites]


We may not have learned from The Century of the Self because the video quality is so shit as to be unwatchable. A marginally less painful version can be found here.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:45 PM on September 5, 2007


my point is that the kids sporting that shirt probably think that they are the quirkiest little special snowflakes in the world

It's also possible that they just like Napoleon Dynamite.
posted by brain_drain at 7:56 PM on September 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


As someone who is really into twee pop, people who actually use twee as derogatory always confuse me a little bit at first, before my brain shifts into the relevant category and meaning.

That said, I like quirk. I like weird too. I even like normal.

Why do I have to pick just one?
posted by Arturus at 8:10 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whatever Devo was, I want more of that.
posted by billder at 8:10 PM on September 5, 2007


*sets navelgazer on fire*
posted by nasreddin at 8:25 PM on September 5, 2007


ACHHH!!! Dear god Why! Why, nasreddin, why!!!!!
posted by Navelgazer at 8:59 PM on September 5, 2007


It took me three tries to get through Pulp Fiction, back in the day, with out rolling my eyes so far back in my head that I wanted to pass out.

Good gravy. If this was your reaction to Pulp Fiction, I'm flat-out amazed you can make it through a day's worth of newspaper headlines, half-overheard CNN, billboard schlock and convenience-store packaging without spontaneously combusting in a great pillar of undiluted searing integrity.

But then I thought Napoleon Dynamite kicked ass, so what do I know?
posted by gompa at 9:03 PM on September 5, 2007


Now, to you MeFites. Can we please stop turning every other post into an excuse for all of the hipsters to jump in and have a pissing contest to prove how much they hate hipsters? It's pretty transparent and not very interesting to boot.
posted by Navelgazer


eponysterical.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:23 PM on September 5, 2007


Wow, Nixerman, I haven't seen a vintage Gen-X anti-machine rant like that in years. And right about, "The stupid losers didn't even have the courage to sell out. It became necessary to remove all positive notions of strength, beauty, danger and violence," that's when you went off the rails.

You do realize that a) there's a gradation of quirk, and b) that the jocks still won, so they're the ones fetishizing the quirk, right?
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wholeheartedly second Navelgazer's spirited defense of Arrested Development and I found it to be wonderful because as strange and hilarious as most of the characters were, they held up as real personalities as opposed to a collections of quirks. Gob is remarkable not only for the constantly funny combination of jackass bravado and crushing neediness, but because you can see in his relationships with his parents and his siblings just where that comes from and how it has been developed and reinforced.

And I also love Napoleon Dynamite. I first saw it in one of the wave of free screenings they were doing all over the country to drum up awareness the summer before it was released and I ended up going back to each subsequent early screening I could find in Arizona, dragging anybody I could along with me. After it had its wide release and I started hearing the accusations that it "had an ugly attitude towards its own characters", I was really taken aback. I suppose I might possibly understand that if you'd had a bad experience watching it in a room full of people who clearly spent their lives at school making fun of Napoleon types in real life, but as a person who was generally much more Napoleon than Summer, and who was always friends with plenty of Napoleons and Pedros throughout school (though we were certainly more self-aware than the characters in the movie), I thought the movie was affectionate in its comedy and surprisingly actually moving in the end. I cheered for Napoleon and Pedro at the big assembly and I was really pleased that Deb joined Napoleon for a tetherball game at the end of the picture. Sure you are meant to laugh at the stupid or strange things the characters do, but there was plenty of stupid and strange stuff that my friends and I did in high school that was worth laughing at (and we weren't shy about laughing at each other over it). With the consensus in some circles that the movie was little more than a freak show mocking the weirdos, it makes it awkward sometimes to say that when I first saw Napoleon Dynamite I considered it probably the most accurate feeling depiction of the middle school/high school experience I'd seen.

Anyway, I also love Wes Anderson's pictures and found The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic genuinely moving as well as funny, so according to the author of the article, I may be part of the problem. I'll get off his lawn now.
posted by Nathaniel W at 9:48 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


quirk = Williamsburg

'nuf said...

posted by twsf at 1:29 PM on September 5


I can hate on the 'Burg with the best of them (I lived there for a few years, am now in adjacent Greenpoint, and will probably soon relocate to a much less hip part of Brooklyn). But I don't see it as the epicenter of quirk.

My theory of the gentrification of Brooklyn* is that because it has happened in different areas at different times, these areas bear the imprint of the generational cohort that pioneered the gentrification. Most of the quirk is further south.

If you want '80s Talking Heads quirk, look at Park Slope. If you want more '90s McSweeney's quirk, look at "BoCoCa" (the horrible real estate term I just learned for Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens).

It's true that there is a trace of '00s Wes Anderson "indie" quirk in W'burg. But there's also something more nihilistic and materialistic, which to me distinguishes quirk from hip.

The Williamsburg hipsters seem more likely to be coke sniffers than pot smokers. They are more interested in the rich (and the poor, even if only to mock them) than in the middle class. They are Vice Magazine people more than McSweeney's people.

Quirk can be elitist, but it hides its elitism behind a facade of mediocrity. Hip is much more open about its elitism. I don't like it, particularly, but it's perhaps a little less anaesthetizingly twee and bourgeois than quirk.

*This is applicable to Manhattan as well. Compare and contrast the sequential gentrifications of Greenwich Village, the Upper West Side, the East Village, and the LES.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:06 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


God. I really cannot stand these articles. This one is only slightly better than the bullshit one about the "new infantilism", where the author spends a thousand words when they just mean to say, "FAAAAGS!"
If you do not understand a culture, perhaps that's because it's not your culture. I don't understand why people watch football, but that doesn't mean I have to write a screed on why they watch football and how this makes me morally superior. I don't belong to the culture inherent to people who enjoy football. If you don't like a "culture", perhaps you can try to figure out why those who enjoy it do- what need it fulfills for them- and try to come up with an answer other than "because they're idiots." I mean, jesus, we've already had 20 people in this thread chart which David Lynch films they like vs. which Wes Anderson films they like- at what point are people going to realize that different people like different things?
If there are overarching elements to this "culture" this guy is railing against, I'd have to say that one of the most obvious is a realization that normal, regular people are riddled with personal difficulties (which I use because "quirk" is pretty much poisoned now) and it is through overcoming those to interact with other, similarly challenged people that we earn our positive qualities. I cannot even conceive of the person who would dislike media that engages with flaws as a positive. Oh wait, I can, and they LOVE NoTORIous.
posted by 235w103 at 10:26 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's because I'm up 'cause I can't sleep. Maybe it's because I live in Austin and I like it. Maybe it's just because I am really happy with the new TMBG album and I've listened to it too many times.

Who cares? We like what we like, and leave the rest.

Everyone needs to be a little more earnest -- not because it's "quirky," just because we're all old enough to stop caring whether what we like is cool.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:36 PM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Orge: If you've posted to a thread discussing an article that refers to that Braff dude with anything but a potent mixture of bile and contempt, realize you survive only because anonymity afford you the luxury. Die plz.

I dislike Zach Braff too, but Christ, shut-up.
posted by spaltavian at 11:00 PM on September 5, 2007


I hated Napoleon Dynamite. I thought it was the worst kind of faux- weird. That's the thing about "quirk", it has all the uncomfortable and painful bits smoothed down for mass consumption. If you thought Napoleon Dynamite was weird, You should have a gander at the Todd Solondz movie Happiness, and then explain to me what's inherently funny about tater tots.

(hint:nothing)

To me the only interesting thing about Garden State was that it was pretty much a remake of Beautiful Girls, right down to the inclusion of Natalie Portman in the "woman in the form of a child/child in the form of a woman" role. Which when I really think about it, is pretty damn weird. Movie still sucked, though.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:02 AM on September 6, 2007


>Clerks had its quirks but I'd go back to Captain Kirk for some real quirk.

>>BTW this is the essence of Metafilterthink in a nutshell, and why i don't trust the site when it comes to talking about art/entertainment/music.


Uh, dude, I'm pretty sure it was just a language-aware joke. I don't think the phrase 'trust a joke' can actually make any sense.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:28 AM on September 6, 2007


Wow, Nixerman, I haven't seen a vintage Gen-X anti-machine rant like that in years.

Well, there was some good things about the 90's.
posted by nixerman at 2:06 AM on September 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Actually, gompa, I just thought it was really dumb.
posted by notsnot at 4:06 AM on September 6, 2007


You've got quirk.






I hate quirk.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:41 AM on September 6, 2007


I'm with stupid.
posted by flabdablet at 5:09 AM on September 6, 2007


Thank you for your support.
posted by Nathaniel W at 5:19 AM on September 6, 2007


I think a lot of people would be amazed how much more interesting they and the people around them become when they stop attaching their identities, personalities and sense of self worth to shit they buy.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I mean, jesus, we've already had 20 people in this thread chart which David Lynch films they like vs. which Wes Anderson films they like- at what point are people going to realize that different people like different things?"

Counter-point: The things I like rule, the things you like suck. Further, like the guy who can't stop singing "The wheels on the bus" over and over while standing in line in front of me at the Albertson's, the stuff you like to do often annoys the shit out of me.
posted by klangklangston at 7:55 AM on September 6, 2007


T-Rex should write for The Atlantic.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:03 AM on September 6, 2007


That's great, klangklangston. I love Bulb records. I'll forever be indebted to them for introducing me to the Ass Baboons of Venus.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:07 AM on September 6, 2007


I think a lot of people would be amazed how much more interesting they and the people around them become when they stop attaching their identities, personalities and sense of self worth to shit they buy.

Or not.
posted by psmealey at 8:23 AM on September 6, 2007


Quirk and strange was around long before you kids.

Before we were born, It Happened One Night was quirky. Back in the day, A Boy and His Dog was weird (it still us, and you should rent it right now).

Every story's been told, there's nothing new under the sun and you did not invent quirkiness or create the wikipedia entry on weird.

Now get off my lawn already!
posted by misha at 8:57 AM on September 6, 2007


ugh. it still IS, not us. Carry on.
posted by misha at 8:58 AM on September 6, 2007


Or not.

Yea, verily. Sometimes the meaning that people attach to what they buy is the only interesting thing about them.
posted by Gervais Brooke-Hamster at 10:09 AM on September 6, 2007


A Boy and His Dog certainly is weird. On the downside, it stars Don Johnson.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:17 AM on September 6, 2007


Buuut on the upside, it was directed and features Peckinpah-regular and cool guy LQ Jones. "Y-you shouldn't talk that way to me!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:30 AM on September 6, 2007


posted by Kirth Gerson A Boy and His Dog certainly is weird. On the downside, it stars Don Johnson.

TiVo recommends Hell Comes To Frogtown, starring Roddy Piper. Quirky!
posted by fandango_matt at 10:53 AM on September 6, 2007


quin also recommends Hell Comes To Frogtown. It is a fantastic movie.
posted by quin at 11:07 AM on September 6, 2007


Wes Anderson is the new Tim Burton.

Make of that what you will.
posted by beefetish at 11:42 AM on September 6, 2007


Oh man, I am so late to this. It ocurred to me reading the discussion about bands and indieness that I think what "selling out" should really mean is when a band that used to be weird starts being quirky, as per the above definitions. This often, but not always, coincides with something that once existed in something of a vacuum becoming more popular. Which makes sense from a business standpoint. But trading in your weirdness for quirkyness, not accepting a paycheck, is what makes an artist a sellout. (So for those of you keeping score at home, Of Montreal is still weird, but the Decemberists have been in the fast line to quirky for awhile now). But of course the line between weirdness and quirkiness is subjective and can shift.

Although the hipster-bashing stuff gets really tiresome. Everyone wants to be "cool" because everyone wants to be accepted and admired. And because what's cool is what sells, so if you want to make a living you have to be cool. But no one wants to be seen as trying too hard to be cool, because trying to be cool isn't cool. But we see it in those who don't share our definition of cool, and when we see them as trying and failing we criticize them. The whole, "Don't these people realize that by trying to be different they all end up the same!" thing. jonmc, don't you think that if you see a whole lot of people wearing the same t-shirt, the people wearing that shirt also see the other people wearing it?

I don't think the article treated Garden State as some kind of cultural touchstone, and I think the Garden State and Braff bashing is over the top. It wasn't life changing, but I didn't think it was terrible. Would people make as much fun of that line about The Shins if they didn't get hugely popular? What if she'd said "The Lucksmiths will change your life?" And finally,

As someone who is really into twee pop, people who actually use twee as derogatory always confuse me a little bit at first, before my brain shifts into the relevant category and meaning.

I've always found it funny the way one always has to look at the context to determine if twee is being used as a neutral-to-positive descriptor or a sneering, dismissive insult.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:25 PM on September 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


The fact that Brett Michaels is able to surround himself with enough dudes just like himself and women who desperately want to be with dudes like that to form this insane, self-contained universe is compelety awesome.

I watched my first episode of Rock of Love the other night. It really shocked me, how ugly the women were. I had assumed that someone like Brett Michaels could get better pussy than that. The average thirtysomething stockbroker appears to get better tail than Brett Michaels.

Could it be that the rockstar life, of being surrounded by beautiful women, is a myth? That really you're just left with the trashy women with meth mouth, bad complexions, tattoos, and stringy hair?
posted by jayder at 12:56 PM on September 6, 2007


Could it be that the rockstar life, of being surrounded by beautiful women, is a myth? That really you're just left with the trashy women with meth mouth, bad complexions, tattoos, and stringy hair?

I'm pretty sure that was always the case in a cheesy butt-rock outfit like Poison (and now more than ever that they are 50 year old has-beens), but I think the guys in other bands of that era did all right.
posted by psmealey at 1:17 PM on September 6, 2007


Yea, verily. Sometimes the meaning that people attach to what they buy is the only interesting thing about them.

I guess I got a different idea of what's interesting in people than you and psmealey. In terms of a conversational partner, I'll take even the most hamfisted dimestore psychology, MSM news driven political discussion, hell, if they got a real passion for it, I'll even fucking talk to someone about sports over one more "let me fascinate you by playing show and tell with some trendy gadget I bought at the mall yesterday" or a one-sided series of "Hey remember that show/movie/franchise/toy line from our childhoods? Let's quote it at each other for the next 3 hours!"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


No doubt that shit is boring as hell, UB, I entirely agree. Just saying that we're not all, uh, snowflakes. Some people are just plain dull.
posted by psmealey at 1:31 PM on September 6, 2007


I'm a dull snowflake.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:39 PM on September 6, 2007


Me too. I don't discount myself from my own analysis, of course. But that should go without saying at this point.
posted by psmealey at 1:47 PM on September 6, 2007


I'm a sharp snowflake. I CUT YOU.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:49 PM on September 6, 2007


None of this is going to matter when we are all growing potatoes in the backyard just to keep from starving.
posted by Justin Case at 2:18 PM on September 6, 2007


None of it matters now.
posted by psmealey at 2:21 PM on September 6, 2007


I think a lot of people would be amazed how much more interesting they and the people around them become when they stop attaching their identities, personalities and sense of self worth to shit they buy.

But "shit they buy" covers so much of what people prize in themselves. For example, a lot of purportedly anti-materialistic types spend shitloads of money on travel and various forms of "self-improvement," to the extent that their travels, their personal milestones, and their myriad accomplishments are really just more "shit they bought." That year in the Japanese monastery didn't come cheap. So, whatever depth they think their adventures have given them, they're just materialistic idiots just like the morons who rush to Best Buy every weekend to charge up their plastic with computer gadgets and audio equipment.

I'll take even the most hamfisted dimestore psychology, MSM news driven political discussion, hell, if they got a real passion for it, I'll even fucking talk to someone about sports over one more "let me fascinate you by playing show and tell with some trendy gadget I bought at the mall yesterday" or a one-sided series of "Hey remember that show/movie/franchise/toy line from our childhoods? Let's quote it at each other for the next 3 hours!"

I remember one time, at a coffee shop when cell phones with a variety of different ringtones were novel, being stuck in the conversational clutches of a dude who insisted on demonstrating every single ring on his new phone.
posted by jayder at 3:20 PM on September 6, 2007


I didn't see that this FPP had been MeTa'ed until now.

Sigh.

Yes, I know. I cut and pasted the entire first paragraph from the Atlantic article, links and all, into the FPP. That should have been obvious to anyone who clicked on the first link. I did this because the article itself resembled a typical multiple link MeFi post, both in form and content, and because the supporting links were (wikipdia, mcsweeney's, etc.) were well below our usual standards, thought that doing this would make a bit of a statement about the artical, and also be of course, quirky.

I'll never try clever again, at least not here. It seems not to suit me. Satisfied, motherfuckers?
posted by psmealey at 3:31 PM on September 6, 2007


Everyone wants to be "cool" because everyone wants to be accepted and admired.

Actually, as a wise man once said 'you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself.' Cool is doing what pleases you and not caring what everybody else thinks.
posted by jonmc at 6:05 PM on September 6, 2007


Actually, as a wise man once said 'you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself.' Cool is doing what pleases you and not caring what everybody else thinks.

Well...not if what pleases you isn't cool, man!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:04 PM on September 6, 2007


what pleases me is cool by definition. The sooner you accept that, the better off you will be.
posted by jonmc at 7:22 PM on September 6, 2007


I think quirk culture (as defined in the article) is part of the same shift in thinking that sees the path to big change through an aggregate of hundreds of small changes; things like microloans for example. No individual quirkwork is likely to rise to the level of great art; the ambitions (if not the egos) are far far lower. But bit by bit, these works are changing culture for better or worse. I'm sure the makers of Napoleon Dynamite were suprised as anyone at the degree to which their film resonated with the culture at large. It took a hundred Garden States/Talking Heads songs to get there.

Whether one takes value from this shift or not is irrelevent. It is what it is, and your taste might well differ given any specific example one could cite.

I think the article is useful as a mild rebuke and request to the artists and audiences who make and appreciate this material to take a closer look at themselves and their motives. There's only so much time and money - Is this where you want it spent?

Small choices can have large consequences, that's the whole point.
posted by extrabox at 2:06 PM on September 8, 2007


The defense of Arrested Development above is entirely correct.

Similarly, I'm not sure why Donnie Darko is brought up in the "new male infantilism" article. It's a terrible article and all, but why did the author get the notion that Donnie's the patron saint of anything?

Donnie Darko is more Lynch than Anderson. There's not a whole lot of sweetness and light in that movie. It is not the story of a quirky flower of a man floating through life, having everything work out for him in its quirky, modern way. It is darker than any of the Wes Anderson movies I've seen by quite a lot.

Donnie isn't the "most sensitive and martyred" of any kind.

Depending on how you choose to interpret the movie's events, he's either pulled into a parallel universe where he has super powers, or he's just plain mentally disturbed and it's all in his head, or... Well, there are probably other coherent interpretations.

When one simply writes it as "sensitive, off-kilter teenager takes instructions from a giant rabbit" ... It seems more harmless than it really is. Frank is a dangerous manifestation of Donnie's mental problems. He tells Donnie when the world will end. He urges Donnie to commit vandalism and arson. The positive consequences of these actions is beside the point. There is never a time when Frank's presence is a charming, silly thing. He is always freaky and weird.

How does the story of a schizoid teenager that ends with his death get pegged as a touchstone for a mostly-made-up movement of man-children?
posted by sparkletone at 2:37 PM on September 8, 2007


How does the story of a schizoid teenager that ends with his death get pegged as a touchstone for a mostly-made-up movement of man-children?
When a columnist checks his watch and realizes that there's a deadline four hours away.
posted by verb at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2007


For the record, I don't really agree with the infantilism article myself - especially not as regards Donnie Darko, a movie that the author doesn't actually seem to have seen.
posted by Iridic at 7:14 PM on September 9, 2007


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