The Phyllis Nefler Corner: Yuppies and Hipster Socialites

Welcome to the Phyllis Nefler Corner, a running catalog/update of the disgusting displays of excess witnessed by Coco and Stella while living in New York City.

In the 40th Anniversary Issue of New York Magazine, Jay McInerny (author of Bright Lights, Big City) wrote a piece called “Yuppies in Eden: How young professionals revived the city, turning it into their own personal playground (and inspiring a novel or two along the way.  But not mine.  No way).”  In it, he muses how in the mid-80s, the concepts of “brunch,” “working out,” and eating raw fish were sort of unusual things that characterized one as a yuppie.  But, nowadays, yuppie ideals have more and more essentially become, THE standard/norm for life:

The ideal brand of connoisseurship, the worship of brand names and designer labels, the pursuit of physical perfection through exercise and surgery-do these sound like the quaint habits of an extinct clan?

That’s right, comrades, Yuppies are alive and well.  They are everyone and everywhere.  McInerny even pointed out that hipsters can be seen as some sort of a more contemporary branch off of the yuppie “tree,” as it were:

Hipster consumerism championed the notions of alternative and independent, rejecting the yuppie embrace of certain consumer brands in favor of their own.  So it was vintage T-shirts rather than Turnbull & Asser dress shirts with spread collars, Pabst Blue Ribbon over Chardonnay.  But ultimately, whether you love Starbucks or loathe it, in world in which we are defined by our choice of blue jeans and coffee beans owes more to Alex Keaton than Abbie Hoffman.

Which brings me to a sighting Stella and I had the other day at a café in the West Village-sitting on the periphery from our table was a headband-less (incognito?) Arden Wohl.  Wohl, an aspiring filmmaker and philanthropist has made a sort of name for herself in the gossip rags for being an anti-it-girl It girl:

I just feel like, with anything, things go in and out of interest, and in and out of fashion. The age of technology, people are drawn now to the Internet, so they gain access to things. People are obsessed with things that are not important-money, and imaginary lives that people don’t really live. And I think that 10 years ago it was magazines, it was these imaginary lives, what people would look at, and it was models. It would be supermodels, and it was a great, trendy thing, and now there’s like five supermodels that die a year, and they’re all faceless, skinny girls who are like 15 who were probably sex-trafficked and abused, and they probably come here and are stuffed with drugs and put on the runway and, like, are anorexic and they’re all underage, and they’re faceless. And now people are like, ‘The new trend now is socialites,’ and people like to blog, and people like the Internet, to talk about who they know, people that they’ve met. People are more easily accessible, and self-promoting

Now, I don’t know Arden Wohl, and I probably never willl have the opportunity to get to know her, but, to me-her persona as  represented in the media, anyway, is one of a few semi-well-known New Yorkers who epitomize, on a more exaggerated scale, this sort of hipster yuppie.  Like, a magnification of the absurdities and contradictions of what it is to be a “hipster.”  On one hand, your M.O. is to be this sort of socially conscious, artsy, in-the-know person, but on the other hand, there’s the whole priviledge of being white and wealthy.  Arden Wohl is the ultimate collision of Hipster and Socialite.  Or perhaps it isn’t a collision at all.   It may very well be that it’s just a different incarnation of Patrick Bateman.

This quote from Wohl kind of says it all right here:

But Paris Hilton, or someone like that, if she believed in something, she could make a difference. She’s fabulous, she’s great-she’s great? You know, I don’t know. Whatever.

I think it’s a pretty hard thing to genuinely live outside of your white privilege bubble if you’re someone who thinks and goes on record saying that Paris Hilton is in any way “great.”  I guess this is where the hipster’s essential irony armor comes into play here. It’s like, everything can be brushed aside, and everything is excusable because of irony.  Nevermind exploring WHY something is ironic or if it even makes any sense in any context to be ironic about whatever the topic of discussion is, but that it’s always lorded over people with this underlying condescension of “you wouldn’t understand, I took Post-Structuralist Post-modern theory in college, so clearly, I am going waaaay over your realm of understanding.”  If that isn’t elitism, I don’t know what is.


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