≡ ‘Normcore’: it’s all about adaptability ≡

YOUTH_Page_08page from the K-Hole report.

The end of authenticity is near. Apparently, the post-authenticity movement is coming and it seems to have found its motto: embrace the fake. To quit the rhetoric of authenticity, a discourse that argues for the importance of being different and unique, and to embrace this new attitude would presuppose the understanding of the following rules: 1) all reality is constructed by the individual understanding of cultural signs; 2) copies are what values originals, i.e., the bigger the number of multiples the higher the value of the #1; 3) the promotion of a given tendency is what kills it, though it also triggers the birth of a new one

In an article about Hipsters, fashion editor Morwenna Ferrier mentions a new term, Normcore, created by K-Hole, a trend forecasting group based in New York. Released in their 2013 report called Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom, normcore would then stand for the sort of youngster who is no longer motivated by the idea that being cool is about being different, and being different is being authentic, and now is motivated by an idea of sameness. But the idea of coolness is a fragile one and as often happens “the more commonplace a trend – in one instance, beards – the less attractive they are perceived to be.” (Ferrier, 2014)

YOUTH_Page_17page from the K-Hole report.

In the aforementioned report, other trends are identified, as “The Death of Age” and “The Youth Mode”, but is the Normcore definition that grabs my attention. Normcore is defined as situational, adaptable, non-deterministic, unconcerned with authenticity, and post-aspirational:

“Once upon a time people were born into communities and had to find their individuality. Today people are born individuals and have to find their communities. (…) It’s about adaptability, not exclusivity. (…) Normcore doesn’t want the freedom to become someone. Normcore wants the freedom to be with anyone. (…) Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness.” (pp. 27-8)

YOUTH_Page_30 copypages from the K-Hole report.

Although normcore is promoting itself as an innovative trend, and the report in itself creatively addresses questions related to identity in adolescence, this so-called trend for adaptability is passé. It reveals both a tendency for revitalization and a tendency to conform to things, both being a retraction from the “empire of authenticity”. The normcore discourse exposes the wear of the search for an identity, a wear that associated that effort with loneliness. It is a disclaimer on the values of youth: individuality and coolness. Given the tragidy, K-Hole suggests we look for “the freedom that comes with non-exclusivity” and the feeling of liberation, understood as relief, that comes from “being nothing special”, one amongst the crowd. By the end they claim: “Normcore is a path to a more peaceful life.” (p. 36)

The rhetoric of authenticity in the context of media culture tends to be reduced to the exploitation of the hazards of public figures who struggle to keep “faithful to themselves” when faced with the violence of the industry that forces dreams and promises of happiness upon them. On the other hand, the rhetoric of post-authenticity exploits precisely the artificiality and the relevance of aesthetic choices, taking advantage of the youngsters’ sense of urgency.

YOUTH_Page_37page from the K-Hole report.

Alison Hillhouse, vice-president of the MTV trends research team that helps shape MTV programming, has been interested in the phenomenon of authenticity amidst young people. Hillhouse suggests that we think of post-authenticity in the context of a generation that, faced with the huge impact of an out-of-control circulation of imagery, and faced with the impossible task to chose an identity for her/himself, quits the idea of being original and sincere, and opts for the fake, the staged and the artificial, as part of the search for difference. She concludes:

“Some of the most heated conversations we see around social media involve teens complaining about who is “trying too hard” to seem like they are not trying. For example, the “no-makeup selfie” phenomenon was once respected, now teens question whether there is something inauthentic about trying too hard to be authentic.” (2014, s.p.)

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