In Britain, twee involved wispy wimps who loved their jangle and liked to put it on cassettes (so I hear). “Their clothes are asexual, their haircuts are fringes, their colours are pastel. Cuties like Penguin modern classics, sweets, ginger beer, vegetables, and anoraks.” Now America has belatedly responded with “tough twee,” which finds its form in the Barack Obama campaign, movies with a “big indie heart” like Iron Man, Gwyneth Paltrow having a fugly freakout, and angry bands like the Arcade Fire. “Just look at Owen Wilson, Scarlett Johansson, Claire Danes and Miley Cyrus, all once Twee, now post-Twee.” I never thought of it this way, but Tom McGeveran’s “American Cutie” captures the evolution of C86 in a way no rational human being ever could.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy hit the Twee nail on the head. A great battle is taking place, and by a series of unfortunate circumstances, the little Hobbits have gotten involved.
J.R.R. Tolkien described the race of tiny creatures he invented thusly: They are “unobtrusive.” They “love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-farmed countryside was their favorite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill or a hand-loom, though they were skillful with tools.” They are “shy of the Big Folk.” Hobbits were Twee Pioneers. But at least they took on Sauron frontally and beat the crap out of him.
And they look a lot like the kids in that Arcade Fire video, except these modern-day Hobbits are armed with laptops (possibly engineered by steampunks or Wes Anderson types so that the plastic keys are replaced with old typewriter keys).
It’s not hard to see how Hillary Clinton failed with the Twee Folk. Her tactic, which was to call Barack Obama naïve, simply backfired.
You’d have to inject LSD into Greil Marcus’s eye sockets to make him free-associate like McGeveran here. To be fair, the Arcade Fire’s Win Butler appears to be through the looking glass as well.
“I’m sick of fine presidents and good presidents and mediocre presidents. I’m sick of Rutherford B. Hayes and James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore. We got Barack Obama! Barack Obama, for crying out loud!”
I always knew that Win wasn’t born the same decade I was. Here’s a photo of Gwyenth Paltrow’s heels that McGeveran believes is symbolic of how “cutie has been replaced by duty,” just to make this post more bugfuck than it already is.
The past decade, during the Bush years, post 9/11, even with the background of the war in Iraq, has been a conservative social revolution: Settling in and marrying young; setting up 401(k) plans; leafing through Martha Stewart for “ideas.” Fueled by advice gurus like Suze Orman, they put people first, then money, then things. Which category does going out at night fall under? “Clubbing” for this set is something you want them to stop doing to seals. Carrie Bradshaw can go suck an egg.
The soundtrack for this way of life is nothing new. If you have ever not muted a Target ad, you’ve heard it. Think Nico’s voice over a Phil Spector song. A few songs written from a kid’s point of view. And all over an air of pleasant, suggestive insubstantiality, suburban neighborliness and nostalgic pastiche.
Suze Orman. Belle & Sebastian. The unpopularity of Carrie Bradshaw. It all makes sense!
Too high, too high.