When filmmaker Shilpi Roy moved to Silverlake in 2007, all she was looking for was cheap rent. What she found was LA's hipster haven.
For The Charlotte, N.C. transplant, her neighbors' facial hair, oversized glasses and skinny jeans were easy to mock. Roy, the daughter of no-nonsense Indian immigrants, thought hipsters' non-conformist conformity was irritating and confusing. But when she found herself buying a pair of skinny jeans, getting into obscure music and enjoying vegan food, she had a little bit of an identity crisis. Was she becoming what she hated?
Her new webseries, "Hipsterhood," explores what it means to be a hipster in LA -- specifically, what it's like to navigate love (ironic and otherwise) among those who are too cool to care. She spoke with The Huffington Post about conformity, the difference between foodies and hipsters and the stereotypes Eastsiders have about the Westside.
Hipsters are more than just the width of their jeans, aren't they? How would you define a hipster? They're superficially defined by what they look like, but I think what most people are interested in is the mentality a hipster carries. They're trying not to conform to anything, but in doing so conform to each other.
Could you be a hipster and not even look like somebody from hipsterland -- AKA Silverlake? Yes! There's the mental component and then there's the image component. I feel like a lot of people have adopted the look of the hipster because now it's cool. But really anybody could be a hipster. You could be one and you don't even know it.
What's your show about? When I was walking around Silverlake and seeing all those people who look like hipsters, it occurred to me that there is no way they're actually all hipsters. They're clearly all following the trends because they're all at the same coffee shop wearing the same things.
My characters are hipsters who are rethinking their hipsterness. Am I actually a hipster? Do I want to be one? Am I following a trend or am I really my own thing?
Something that irritates people about hipsters is a certain stereotypical attitude. They definitely have an attitude. I like to generalize it as, "They-always-think-they're-better-than-you-in-any-way," whether it's because they've heard of a band you haven't or they know of a brand that you're not wearing.
It could be politics. It could be literature. Anything in the social media sphere. Music, obviously. Art. Fashion. You could come out with some really educated analysis of a piece of art, and it doesnt matter how intelligent you were. They'll be like, that stuff isn't even cool anymore. We're so past that. They can always overstep where you are.
At that point, is being a hipster something you should stage an intervention for, like being a drug addict? It just depends on how annoying the hipster is to you and your friends... And how much you love them and want to save them.
But on a serious note, the young, educated, creative class is feeding into this culture in a very real way. Why, do you think? Because the economy is down and because the young, educated class doesn't have a lot of job prospects. They have a lot of time on their hands. You don't actually have to have a lot of money to look and act like a hipster. The stereotype is of course, that they have trust funds, but that's not all of them.
There's also a racial component to hipsterhood, isn't there? There's definitely a racial component. They're majority white and they definitely will put out a message that they are colorblind and don't care about race. But clearly the hipster identity appeals mostly to white people.
Does that explain the casting in your webseries? I thought about casting people of color but, in my observations of the neighborhood, everybody was white. If I'm trying to portray what I see, then they should be two white people. But as a filmmaker I will always stress, I don't care what color people are -- I'm just looking for the best actors. So that's always the most important thing.
LA Weekly's food writer Besha Rodell contemplated this last week -- What's worse, a hipster or a foodie? I think most hipsters are foodies because hipsters do discriminate about their food. They won't eat just anything. I would say, living in Silverlake, hipsters are worse. But I could see if you were constantly around foodies, that would really suck. You would never be able to go to Burger King or Del Taco -- you could never live that down. It would be a shame upon your name and your family.
We couldn't talk about hipsters without mentioning gentrification. I am a big fan of gentrification as long as the area doesnt become the Westside. What we like about the East Side is its character and personality and culture. What I don't want to happen is for Nordstrom, Walmart or Sears to come in. When those stores come in, you tend to lose the personality of the neighborhood and the people.
What are some things that Westsiders [Roy defines as west of La Brea Avenue] just don't understand about LA's hipster havens? I think one thing Westsiders don't understand is why you wouldn't want to live near the ocean, because I know a lot of Westsiders love living near the ocean. I used to live on the Westside, also "near" the ocean -- but I never went to the beach for anything. It's really not that great.
There's a lot more variety of culture and people than there are on the Westside. I remember when I'd go to Santa Monica that everyone was beautiful and in shape and wearing cool clothes -- that's very nice, but those people are usually kind of boring. The crazies are on the East Side, and while you have to deal with drama, it's also much more interesting.
What do you think are some stereotypes hipsters have about West LA? Definitely boring, rich and stupid beause you deal with 405 traffic all the time. Why would you want to live over there?
You're going to get a lot of hipster hate about this webseries. I don't exactly know how to phrase this. Since I put out the webseries, people have been asking me a lot about hipster stuff, and quite frankly I don't feel I'm an expert. Everything in the webseries is just my observations in the neighborhood and my life in the neighborhood. I'm getting a little sick of talking about hipsters. I can understand if people don't want to hear about it because I'm kind of over it myself.
That's the most hipsterish thing you could say.
Where do hipsters like to hang out? At bars that you've never heard of.
Here's a list of Shilpi Roy's top hipster hang outs on the East Side -- including a few that will make appearances in "Hipsterhood."