In movies and TV shows, kids now talk wistfully of getting out of the ‘burbs and heading to funky town, the exact opposite of our grandparents, who drove the other way in search of an extra bedroom, a lawn and somewhere to barbecue the chops.
The aforementioned Great Australian Dream is apparently a nightmare for many hipsters; as laughably daggy as John Williamson singing about plum trees, ”a clothesline out the back, verandah out the front and an old rocking chair”…Writing recently in Canada’s Toronto Standard, Navneet Alang observes, ”it’s a profoundly privileged, Western idea to want to forsake sterility for the ‘real and gritty’…
Their visions are probably pretty similar to those of our grandparents – a lawn and a nice, big, neat, bland house – because, as Alang writes, ”Once you’ve lived in a developing nation, sterile can feel good. Uncluttered is good. Cars are good.”
The author goes on to suggest that perhaps these young Australians simply think the grass is greener on the other side: after growing up in suburbs, these young people are now looking to urban life. Several thoughts about this:
1. It would be interesting to see survey data about what immigrants imagine America to be before they arrive or even during their early months in the United States. Does it look like suburbia? Is their goal from the beginning to make it to the suburbs?
2. The sterility of the suburbs, often held in contrast to the authenticity, richness, and contrasts of the big city, is an old argument. Just listen to Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes” for an overview. (Interestingly, more people probably know this song now because it is the theme song for a trendy/novel current TV show: Weeds.) I would guess that many suburban residents, particularly those older than hipster age, actually prefer the suburbs over the city because of this sterility: the city may be more interesting but this interesting could also include negative outcomes.
3. Could we see the rise of hipster suburbs or at least hipster enclaves within suburbs? For example, inner-ring suburbs would be perfect places for hipster types: denser and cheaper housing in neighborhoods that have been around a century or more. There are a number of neighborhoods in these suburbs ripe for gentrification (though there could be disadvantages to this). Also, newer New Urbanist developments or neighborhoods might offer the authenticity hipsters seek.