I bought something from Hot Topic the other day. I know, I’m ashamed. I got a Jack the Pumpkin King (from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas) lanyard to replace my dorky brown and yellow university one. Mind you, I didn’t buy it for its camp value, the way some self-denigrating teenagers wear Spongebob t-shirts or wax nostalgic for cultural events they weren’t alive to experience. No, I bought it because of my uncanny resemblance to said character, both because of my physical appearance and my morbid cynicism.

But I digress. For those of you who have been living in a cave on a remote island with cotton balls in your ears and your hands over your eyes, Hot Topic is a thriving fixture of malls everywhere, a cozy little niche for counterculture brats that sells everything from full punker regalia to manic-depressive nu-metal albums to Care Bear kitsch. It’s the perfect store for anyone who hates the establishment, wants to die, or just wants to get laid!

The novel thing about this particular store is that they allow —or possibly even encourage— their employees to wear the weirdest outfits they own to work. It’s strange having some Halloween misfit asking if they can help you with anything. Sorry, hon; I’m not the one who needs it.

On the fateful day when I forked over $6 for my little piece of the clichè quiche, my girlfriend, myself, and the cashier who rang up my purchase were the only normal looking people in the store. I must say, the poor guy looked miserable. His coworkers were dressed in knee-high patent leather boots with 1.5 inch soles, fishnets, a leather skirt, a mutant tank top, bright bubblegum-pink hair, and earrings with hoops so big I could fit my fist through them. He, on the other hand, looked as though he should be working in American Eagle.

I don’t exactly like American Eagle, but at least they have the right idea about clothes, albeit for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, right now, the clean-cut AE/A&F look is as much a trendfuck as anything that Hot Topic has ever rolled out, and at twice the price. Still, nothing sickens me more than some poor teenage schmuck trying to buy into a phony dissident culture, asserting their supposed individuality by joining the pack. The irony inherent here is so thick you could spread it with a butter knife.

I find that the same problem has arisen with what I call the Black Urban Youth culture (or BUY, appropriately enough), which is more or less Blacks, As Described By MTV. A complete departure from every important musical or cultural contribution that blacks have made in their American history, the BUY culture propagates bankrupt “musical” forms, poor social commentary, rampant hedonism/consumerism, and consistently derides education and responsibility. Bring back M.C. Hammer: at least he was “2 legit 2 quit [school].”

I hate to suggest that everyone subscribe to the same, tastefully narrow fashion sense, because then we’re no better off. But too many people perceive a more or less “official” counterculture as being fresh and original, so stores like Hot Topic churn out processed little rebels clutching to their angst and fiery, if misguided, determinism, oblivious to the the looming death of their contemporanæity.

They tried this before, guys, and it didn’t work. Give it up.

§293 · January 9, 2004 · ·

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