The Bucket Hat from Hell: In Defense of Basic and Bad Bitches

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My Facebook Newsfeed has been blowing up lately with pithy and derisive articles about the basic bitch. At first, I only heard lanky gays (holla Lohanthony) and female rappers use the term. Now it seems like everybody’s anti-basic. The basic bitch is the antithesis of the bad bitch. She wears Uggs, drinks Starbucks, watches Glee, and does Zumba. Carrie Underwood = basic. Kreayshawn = bad. Old Miley Cyrus = basic. Miley + mini buns = bad.

It’s good to be bad and bad, as in not good, to be basic. The mainstream is rejecting its models of normalcy, these name-branded biddies of sorority lore. That’s pretty ironic. Meanwhile, on the other side of the cultural tracks, the counterculture is rejecting the subversive and saying no to any self-expression or rebellious act they didn’t first read about on a WordPress. Dweebs wear the flannels and Converse of hipsters circa 2009 while the chicest of art students dress like Midwestern tourists (two words: bucket hats) in the latest “normcore” fad. In short, everything is scrambled. Contemporary culture is cannibalizing itself.

I am struck by the hypocrisy of all the hate directed towards the BB (here meaning basic bitch, not bareback) as of late. I’ve seen the people who repost increasingly misogynistic articles about the BB and her criminal Netflix queue, and let me just say, these BB-hating bros don’t look so goddamn radical themselves. They still give the BB an up-down when she struts by in her oh-so-basic bandeau and Daisy Dukes. They still play “Teenage Dream” (i.e. HER JAM) at parties in order to get her to put down her mojito and shake it. They love her in the lotioned flesh; they hate her in cyber theory.

Furthermore, many of the characteristics that make the BB so horrendously basic—leggings, the Dave Matthews Band, live love laugh henna tattoos—were perfectly acceptable just a few years ago. In fact, they were all the rage, back when hipsters, the BB’s alleged counterpart, as shaggy as the BB is Brazilianed, were our cultural scapegoats. In the early days of hipsterdom (I remember it well; I was fourteen and sometimes wore two belts BECAUSE I AM A VISIONARY) there were as many satires published about their slinky, blasé ways as there are articles about the BB and her fatal taste for pumpkin spice nowadays. It seemed to me that the people who railed the hardest against snoods and acoustic music had no problem selling their souls for a weekend pass to Coachella as soon as “alt” aesthetics were integrated into the mainstream via James Franco, Fleet Foxes, and that creepy-ass version of Where The Wild Things Are. At some point, the hipster-haters lowered their pitchforks and read the magazine instead.

Lest we forget, before normcore there was softcore—Bon Iver, quinoa, boys in cutoff shorts (the better to bike in). This is easy to overlook, now that so many trends that used to define dat sun-bleached indie life have been co-opted by the vitamin D deficient norm. Meanwhile, the basic bitch is ridiculed for her Johnson & Johnson spray-on tan. She is left in the cold (good thing she has her North Face).

Now that everyone’s a little dip-dyed, Insta-savvy, occasionally scruffy, versed in Vice, poetry slam snappy, the BB is the latest target. Hipster has gone from a pejorative to a genre on Yelp. Everyone dabbles in rap now. Everyone watches Wes Anderson movies. The BB is, like, so behind the times. The normal thing now is to try to look “different” (different here meaning a cross between Terry Richardson and Bill Cosby).

OK, so the BB is boring. So what? She is no more consumeristic than her Ray Ban-wearing haters. Her real crime is reminding the mainstream of its former self, a low-cal ghost of frappes past. By reviling and rejecting the BB, a newly-hip person proves their nonconformity to the entire Buzzfeed community. They’re flying high, despite looking like the Fresh Prince of the Grand Budapest Hotel.

(I would just like to point out that Rihanna, current queen of bad bitches, once wore a fascinator and bobbed beside Eminem. She penned the quintessential BB anthem, “Umbrella.” Now she’s so bad she wears bucket hats naked in France and has her Instagram regularly censored. Never forget.)

So the BB is too mainstream for the mainstream, too bland for the culture that taught her to model herself after teen-centric TV. But should she choose to put her omnipresent workout clothes to use and strike out on a path less traveled, she should be warned: there’s no rest for bad bitches either. As it turns out, one can’t be bad without risking an earful at best and a petition against her at worst from the very community that should be cheering her on. Naughtiness is not OK; subversive acts need to be signed off on. The (largely digital) explosion of political correctness within fringe communities is a recent and far more worrisome phenomena than the mockery of the basic bitch. Plus it’s a motherfucking bore.

I’m Facebook friends (read: desperately obsessed) with a lot of drag queens, and their statuses are a feeding ground for quasi-intellectual debates and in-house scrabbles about the “right” way to fuck the system. It seems like every single day at least one queen is being accused of a new linguistic trespass by members of her own community. This divisiveness is almost as disheartening as the censorship that is being championed by pissed-off whizz-kids on a keyboard. One acid-tongued queen and idol of mine, Cher Noble, posted a status that I wholeheartedly hit “like” on (ah, activism): “After the lgbtq community kills itself, the people we actually hate will still rule the world.” Lo and behold, her post was reported for containing pornography. Because a drag queen who performs with a thirteen-inch crocheted dildo needs to have her mouth washed out. Because someone who rallies against gender conventions needs to be dinged for inappropriateness.

When did the counterculture become so precious? I am of the school of thought: if you’re uncomfortable, it’s working. I’m not saying that the counterculture should be insensitive or offensive purely for the sake of it. I’m saying that I worry for the counterculture’s spark. Empathy and awareness are crucial: but they are meant to broaden and free the mind, not tsk-tsk it into submission.

While the mainstream is policing its conformists, the fringe is policing its provocateurs. At this rate, the counterculture will soon be so P.C., so apologetic and colorless, as to be confused with the BB in her apolitical torpor. The BB and Cher Noble can flop by the pool, order hot wings, and vent. They can bond over their hatred for Facebook. The BB can’t post a selfie without getting harangued for captioning it “I love my girls!” (SHE DOES) and Cher Noble can’t post a thought-provoking status without being attacked for her gargantuan insensitivity to every issue in the world.

Listen up, all textbook-heavy hecklers: literacy is a privilege. And you are throwing some pretty fancy words at the people most likely to support you in your mission against hegemony (unless I’ve misunderstood that term). I know people who passionately identify as faggots, gender-benders, queens, and queer. Each of them is striving, in their own unique way, to change the paradigm. They’ve walked the walk, yet all these talkers can’t stop talking that ten-syllable talk, attacking the truly radical for their potty-mouths. As victims of/the alternative to the norm, the counterculture is supposed to be above such cheap-shot politics. But here we are, sucking off strawmen.

My idea of an artist is someone who is as sensitive as they are subversive, who listens attentively while stirring shit up. What is this new obsession with permission? Asking for permission is the opposite of rebellion; permission is the acoustic cover of subservience. As far as I know, lasting change has never been made by someone who is afraid of a slap on the wrist. The fringe is supposed to be composed of rebels, not nitpickers, red flaggers, and glorified trolls.

This policing of fringe-on-fringe is, above all else, an attack on originality. Originality of expression as well as response: people are only encouraged to create things that they can predict the reaction to. It’s like slam poetry, an art-form that I used to love but now am bored to tears by: rather than making a statement and risking unrest, our so-called poets throw out buzz words and everyone goes “OOOOH.” The counterculture is beginning to look like a refrigerator, covered in those little magnetic words. You can’t deviate from the given vocabulary. You can only rearrange.

Our alleged radicals, shamed into mousiness by the P.C. police, will soon be subject to derision by the very normatives they sought to model themselves against. Why? Because they’re boring. Sometimes it feels like the counterculture is becoming more tyrannical, restrictive, and monotonous than the mainstream from which it allegedly split. It is said, after all, that we take after our oppressors.

The BB gets so much shit because she can’t think for herself; she is a cliché, a #girl. Yet I do not feel free to express myself. Within artistic and queer communities, I see a strange new fear of filth. No rebel yell; just a bunch of students crying wolf.

Art is a shock to the system. It’s not linguistic MadLibs. The artist, countercultural figurehead, and nonconformist are supposed to take risks, needle people, veer out-of-bounds, and be brave. Where is the permission in that?

You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. These days it seems like the counterculture is so afraid of any fractures that it has gone vegan.

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If mainstream culture continues to shame its most diligent citizens, the innocent BB’s for whom label and ad are god, and the counterculture continues to censor its rabble-rousers, applauding instead its Wikipedia vanguards who use such big words to silence people, we will very quickly reach a plateau where neither the bland nor the provocative is allowed. What will we be left with? Overpriced coffee. Bucket hats. Night is falling fast and we’ve no fireworks nor key-chain flashlights: no dazzle nor daddishness is permitted to illumine the way out. We need our basic bitches. Moreover, we need our provocateurs, our envelope-pushers and don’t-give-a-fuckers. We need our bad girls bad.

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