Arts, Column

The Millennial Boheme

When you think “bohemian,” what comes to mind? Maybe it’s some girl wearing a flower crown at Coachella, or it could be an entire fashion trend composed entirely of Free People sundresses and John Lennon-esque sunglasses. But the real, pure definition of “bohemian” has a much deeper meaning—it’s typically a person who lives her life unconventionally in communion with others.

A few months ago, a teacher of mine mentioned that every generation seemed to have a bohemian culture attached to it. Whether it’s the obvious hippie culture of the early ’70s or the grunge rock movement in the ’90s, each decade seems to have a group of people that branch off into a different way of life. Usually, they were artists or musicians and would congregate in one place (maybe California or at Woodstock) and form their own type of society. But we’re in 2018 now, and everything is mainstream. We no longer have a group of American bohemians, we don’t have a society of offbeats or misfits or anyone in between. Who are they, and where did they go?

First of all, there is no longer a location suited for wandering artists. Places like California are completely mainstream, as are Southern musical meccas such as Nashville and Austin. These two cities have undergone an upper class purification, a sort of artistic gentrification, that has left them a little more corporate than before. Even neighborhoods such as Brooklyn and Wynwood (in my hometown of Miami) have been revitalized before our very eyes. Brooklyn is now incredibly expensive and has an upscale-hipster atmosphere, and Wynwood has gone from being a sketchy neighborhood with eye-popping graffiti to the home of some of Miami’s best restaurants and clubs in the span of just a couple years. It is the pinnacle of a major revitalization, but I’m not sure what will happen to the artist community that originally settled there now that rent has skyrocketed and painters are competing for publicity.

In addition to the lack of a location to secure an artist community, it seems that just about anything can become mainstream overnight nowadays, thanks to social media. It is hard to believe that any community of people would be separated from society. In a time and culture where self-expression is the norm and individuality reigns king, a societal separation seems rather unthinkable. On top of that, a “bohemian” way of life (in the modern sense, not the traditional one) is in vogue—think Coachella—but it is quite obviously the opposite of true unconventionality.

Coachella is today’s version of Woodstock, but the two are so astronomically different in everything but fashion that they are truly incomparable. Woodstock was the beginning of a vastly significant countercultural movement that entailed both political and social changes. It was a free festival attracting true bohemians. Coachella, on the other hand, costs a hefty $400 for basic tickets. That is on top of the hundreds of dollars spent on an airplane ticket if you’re not from the west coast. It takes a certain type of person to spend that kind of money for a music festival—and what for? To get a picture in front of the big ferris wheel and say you went?

Sure, there are some parallels between the two massive festivals (although Woodstock drew a much larger attendance) such as big name musicians, and of course, drug usage. Both festivals have seen no shortage of psychedelic drugs, and they seem like a requirement for both.

Many people go to Coachella for the love of music, and I am not here to bash them at all. But it’s not the cultural phenomenon it’s made out to be. It’s expensive to get in—if you’re there, you are in no way the nonconformist free spirit you make yourself out to be. The crowd at Coachella is predominantly white and middle to upper class. Bohemian fashion popularized in Woodstock is mainstream there—flower crowns, flowing dresses, and peasant skirts are readily available at Urban Outfitters in preparation for festival season. In many ways, this goes to show how purely unoriginal and absolutely predictable this gathering of millennial “hippies” truly is.

So it seems that the prospect of having a bohemian group for our generation is diminishing quickly. Maybe what’s left of one will settle in an industrial city—one that hasn’t become gentrified yet—in hopes of creating a long overdue artistic revitalization. Maybe it’ll be Detroit, or perhaps Pittsburgh, but soon enough those will be more notches in the mainstream hipster belt.

Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Heights Editor

April 22, 2018