Now is not the time to be a Steamhipster!

07 Feb

Hello again, readers. First off, I’d like to apologize upfront for my sparse updates in January. The month was hectic for me both personally and professionally and it left me little time and inspiration to actually write my blog.

However, I do have some good news! Starting later this month, I will be writing a regular column for Steampunk Chronicle! I will still be doing occasional media reviews, but once a month, I will be focusing on fundraising projects and philanthropy in the Steampunk community. I will have more information on that soon, so stay tuned!

Today though, I’m here to talk about something more serious. Something that is plaguing the Steampunk community as it continues to grow. I’m talking, of course, about Steamhipsterness.

The Steamhipster, for those unaware, are those who have a regular temper tantrum anytime anything vaguely Steampunk hits the mainstream and says that the genre has been killed at least every few months. This can be a reaction to anything, like a Steampunk episode of a TV series, but most of the Steamhipster’s tantrums are directed towards music. The first known example of this phenomena happened in January 2011 when Panic! at the Disco released the video for ‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’ unto the world. The video featured a Steampunk wake organized by the League of S.T.E.A.M. and had Panic! letting everyone know they were saying goodbye to their past. Of course, most Steamhipsters could not see this. They cried that Brendon and Spencer had killed Steampunk, even though they have been a band with a consistent victorian aesthetic since they had a budget to throw around. How is making a Steampunk video and forcing Jake Sinclair to play banjo not the next logical step?!

What came next is debatable. Panic! was the dead horse for most of the year, but some people think Lady GaGa’s ‘You and I’ was Steampunk. It was some kind of retrofuturism, but I thought it was mostly about how hot GaGa is a Jo Calderone. T-Pain dressed as Captain Robert on the cover of his latest album, but that was more confusingly amusing more than anything else. Victoria’s Secret had a Victorian inspired section of this year’s fashion show, but all that really brought on was weird opinions about underwear (sidenote: no, we do not need to be returning to corsets, garters, and stockings as regular wear). However, the community was not prepared for the storm that would be Justin Bieber singing ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’.

The video, which features clips from Arthur Christmas and a $3,000 leather and brass glove created by artist Ian Finch-Feld, takes place in a Steampunk version of Santa’s workshop. The focus is obviously on Bieber, but there’s also some pretty cool scenery, dancing, and fashion. It’s not the best thing ever, but it’s actually pretty nice looking. Of course, forget all that stuff. Bieber went Steampunk! Forget that Panic at the Gym Class Fall Out band! Steampunk is dead now and Bieber is holding the smoking gun! IT’S ALL OVERRRRRRRRRRRR!

Until last week, when Nicki Minaj and David Guetta upped the ante with ‘Turn Me On’.

The video reminds me of a Steampunk Frankenstein story, with an inventor trying to create a perfect creation and the creation getting away from him. The gearwork CG is pretty fantastic, and the costumes are wonderful.  Of course, once again, the Steamhipsters cry out that Steampunk is…

Okay, you know what. Stop.



If we’re going to declare that Steampunk is dead every time it goes mainstream, the mainstream isn’t going to be the one that kills it.

There’s a reason so many musicians have started using Steampunk in their videos. And it’s the same reason so many of us flocked to it in the first place. It’s because it’s awesome.

Visually and conceptually, Steampunk is an awesome thing. You have ladies looking sexy in gear that hasn’t been considered attractive in years, technology running on clockwork and steam, and Tesla winning. When a band is producing a music video for a single, they want to focus on making a memorable video that will get people talking and thinking about your product and ultimately buying it. Steampunk looks cool, and people will remember your video if the woman who killed Brendon Urie is caught in a net canon or see Nicki Minaj being made out of gears. For better or worse, by complaining endlessly about so and so “killing” Steampunk, we’re ultimately doing what the artist wants by talking about them.

Complaining is not worst thing the community does though by practicing Steamhipsterness. Stifling potential creativity is.

I mean, it’s bad enough that we aren’t celebrating the fact that The League of S.T.E.A.M. has an expanded audience, had large props scene across the country as Panic! at the Disco toured, and went beyond their $10,000 Kickstarter goal for their second season. It’s bad enough that no one wants to acknowledge the artist who sold a $3,000 piece to Justin Bieber because he sold it to Justin Bieber. It’s bad enough that we forget that the producers of the ‘Turn Me On’ video put out a casting call for Steampunks in LA to play the plastic automotons. The community just wants to focus on the fact that Steampunk is mainstream, and that’s bad.

But by focusing on what’s “bad”, it puts the community in this mindset to exile those who come from the “bad”. What if the next great leather maker came into the community because they saw it in a Panic! at the Disco video, or a potential hatmaker gets interested in Steampunk because they liked the one Nicki Minaj wore? Will we be exiling them because they admit that this is where they came from? How is that any worse than a goth who followed Abney Park to their Steampunk change, someone who got into Steampunk because they saw it at Dragon*Con, or because they saw a Steampunk band open for Voltaire and thought it looked like fun?

The point is that we can’t judge a person for discovering Steampunk from a Justin Bieber video. It’s not any worse than the way you discovered it or the moment you decided you wanted to be a part of that universe. Our community is growing and we simply cannot adhere to the same rules anymore. Cherie Priest recognizes this. Why can’t everyone else?

Steampunk Community, now is not the time to be a Steamhipster! People are noticing us and we’re getting more awesome by the second. If you spend so much time focusing on how the mainstream is interpreting us and how you wish they would stay out or how Steampunk bands should get the budget for these videos, you’ll lose focus on those who really need it or what kind of things are actually coming in because of the mainstream attention. If there’s anything that will really leave this community behind and kill the genre, it will be that mindset. Not a pop-punk band wearing gears and goggles.

And PS… The Bieber video only has a little over 6 million hits on YouTube. The Panic! at the Disco video has over 16 million, but it has been out for a year. Minaj and Guetta have over 12 million and it has been a week. Morals of the Story: Bieber didn’t kill Steampunk, and “You can be the King, but watch the Queen conquer.”


Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Steampunk


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

32 responses to “Now is not the time to be a Steamhipster!

  1. S. K. Graham

    February 7, 2012 at 10:05 am

    You forgot Rush jumping the steampunk bandwagon! (Does the fact that they’ve done SF since the beginning matter?)

    • Liesel Hindmann

      February 7, 2012 at 11:35 am

      I knew I forgot someone! Though, they never really got as much flack from what I’ve seen, and I think their Sci-Fi roots really helped them there.

  2. Mike Perschon

    February 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Bless you. A lovely little post.

  3. Suzanna Stinnett (@Brainmaker)

    February 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Good comprehensive view of this dynamic, which happens to every subculture. I just keep the dial turned down on that particular voice. To me, steampunk is an aesthetic. It’s an orientation. I LOVE that it’s all over the place and it makes sense to me that some mainstream audiences would enjoy it and want to join in. Lots of people are involved in steampunk art projects without even knowing the term. I worked on the pyro crew for Raygun Gothic Rocketship at burning man before I had grasped much of anything about steampunk.

    Doesn’t hurt to have the occasional reminder that “steam” actually refers to something, though. You know?

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Miss Kagashi

    February 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Also Sugarland’s pretty awful attempt (music wise).

    Though granted, this is more what I call mass histeria than being a steam hipster.

  5. Richard 'Swede' Hoaglund

    February 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    “we simply cannot adhere to the same rules anymore.”
    There are…RULES?!?

  6. Tanya Taylor

    February 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. I got so tired of listing to Steampunk elitist crying like children because some teen sensation wore something Stempunkish (because we all know that Artistic directors, producers and stylist have nothing what so ever to do with the look and costuming for a music video). The tantrums only makes Steampunkers look like snobs and an unwelcoming group no one who does not have their nose in the air would ever want to explore and for that shame on them!

  7. Aaron TheIcon Spriggs

    February 7, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    While I don’t nay-say when a little-known style/theme etc becomes better known, I do find myself saying “That’s not steampunk” often. haha

    Not music so much as literature.

    I’m open to new takes/concepts/ideas/visions adding to an existing/growing schematic, but there is also defining aspects that, if ignored, the very concept itself is lost.

    The whole horror section of books went through this in the last 15 years. Authors did not want the “stigma” of being labeled a horror writer, so they avoided it. Soon, monster stories, slasher stories, supernatural, true crime, it all got lumped as horror and a new purchaser of the genre can’t find what they want.

    I see steampunk going the same route. I define steampunk novels fairly narrowly (but am always open to exceptions to my own rules hahaha). New steampunk stories are tending towards supernatural, not science based, which is in general not steampunk to me. Also, the punks have been removed. No longer are the heroes fighting the system, but rather fighting to maintain the status quo. Again, not steampunk. I’m generalizing to make my point.

    I like your article but there is the opposite problem of accepting everything. It dilutes the original to the point of no longer existing.

    Just a thought or two.
    Thanks for the article and I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

  8. Fat Asian Chick

    February 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    love love love this post! thanks for sharing.

  9. dubael

    February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Hipsters of any type like to believe that their an elite, elitism is one of the worst failings of the human species. Its one of the things that humans do to ruin anything that they come up with. Stupid Shaved Apes. *wink*

  10. dubael

    February 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Seriously though: good points all around and a very inciteful article, I look forward to more of your work.

  11. Lord Fluffy

    February 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I’ve not been keeping up, but when the TV show “Castle” referenced Steampunk, did anyone freak right the heck out?

    • Liesel Hindmann

      February 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      I’m sure that there were some objectors, but reception to that episode was actually fairly positive. I’m sure that the involvement of Nathan Fillion helped soften the blow on that one.

  12. Dr Fidelius

    February 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Brava, my dear. Very well said.
    I have been politely railing against elitists and Steam-“purists” for two or three years now; I am heartened that someone more eloquent than I is also voicing an opinion.
    Thank you.

  13. craig hallam

    February 7, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Great post! Agree on all accounts! Steampunk is about innovation. Why should we stop people using it in any way they see fit? And, to be honest, with very few Steampunk movies coming out, these videos are nice little tidbits!
    How would we feel if these Steamhipsters stifled until our literature became repetative, or our creativity stifled. We Steampunks need to evolve to survive. And we’re doing so well! 🙂


  14. Cindy

    February 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Great article. It is so bizarre how communities – of any kind – want to share what they love with like-minded souls, yet remain exclusive and “pure” and better than others. Appreciate what is great, where ever you find it!

  15. Christopher Washburn (Kristov)

    February 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I enjoyed your article, and respect your views. Hipsters of any genre often make life difficult for those who are just trying to enjoy life, I totally agree. Steam “purists”??? I’m a little confused, should we all bow to the period Nazi’s and go raid vintage clothing stores or our great grandmother’s attics in search of authentic Victorian apparel? At what point do we consider punk accessories over the top, or in bad taste? Who is the authority to dictate such things? I love steam punk, but I have refrained from delving into the hardcore garb and persona development because of these people. My other great loves are medieval recreation and riding my motorcycle. I make armor, fight, and wear leather with my club’s patch. All without worrying if someone is going to approach me and tell me that this isn’t right, or that isn’t authentic. I don’t need some lady in a bad corset telling me my top hat is wrong. I have better things to do. I still enjoy steam punk in all it’s various expressions, but I chose to do so at arms length due to these outspoken fun-killers. That is where I stand on all this.

  16. Dannii

    February 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Unsun also did a very Victorian-esque music video for the song “Home”.

  17. Paul R. Hopkins

    February 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    I think it’s sad that people in the community think that way… i liked steampunk before i knew what to call it .. I’m a big fan of Welles and Verne LOVED the league of extrodinary gentlemen and the wild wild west… i’m a mecha model builder and gunpla fan ,love anime ..and recently started using my skills to make steampunk props (guns, goggles and gadgets) I’d hate to think i wouldn’t be accepted because of how i got into it.

  18. Nikki

    February 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm


    I’m not a big steampunker (don’t have anything against it, just never got heavily into it), but I’ve seen this play out again and again in the subcultures I’m part of. It’s nice to see someone stand up against this elitism and snobbery.

  19. Siryn

    February 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm


    Thank you for writing this, and thank you for putting my head back where it SHOULD be on the things are are the most important. I was starting to turn into a Steamhipster and it frightened me. lol.

  20. Katie

    February 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    This is fantastic!!! I keep trying to tell some of my friends this!!! Glad I am not alone in feeling this way!! Can’t wait to spread the word about your blog!!

  21. Steve O'Neal

    February 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I can’t remember what year I first started seeing it (2004, maybe ’05), but before it really took on the Steampunk name I saw about a half-dozen people at the International Comic-Con in San Diego…and not even as one particular group, just a small handfull of individuals walking around in gear inspired by “gnomish inventors”, mad scientists, or the “Steamboy” movie. The next year there were a dozen or so, a score the following year…now Steampunk has its own conventions. While I myself have not yet made the leap…a majority of the GOOD ‘Punkers make their own gear rather than buy off-the-rack (in many cases said gear actually WORKS!)…but now instead of watching it walk past a friend’s booth or passing it in an aisle Steampunk has become something I rub elbows with…my friend Conrad (yes, “Sir Conrad”) is a member of the League of S.T.E.A.M. as well as being a master leatherworker, and the gorgeous goggles and arm-piece from Panic! at the Disco is on display in my friend Tony Swatton’s shop ( in Burbank. One of these days I’ll get off my lazy duff and make my turnbuckle “Indian-style” breastplate and arm-mounted Gatling gun, but in the meantime I actually congratulate Steampunk from going from a tiny pocket of creativity to international fame…and ‘hipsters, be glad people recognize that your community has talent coming out its arse rather than being “Goths that discovered the color ‘brown'” or “a bunch of f***ing nerds”…you made the Big Time!

  22. Hetty Bttersea

    February 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I still hate Niki’s music. I think its playing dirty that producers go cheap by doing casting calls where the extras have to supply their own costuming. Some one got $3k for a creation? Fantastic! Don’t expect me to like awful music just because a video producer had a “vision” of steampunk/clockwork dystopia/victoriana for some half talented hack’s next song.
    P.s. I hate Beiber’s music, too.

    • Liesel Hindmann

      February 8, 2012 at 12:14 am

      I think you missed the point I was trying to make.

      Out of the three artists I mentioned as examples in this article, I’m a fan of two of them. Despite me coming to terms with the fact I was into obnoxious teenybopper artists when I was the age of most Bieber fans and I cannot insult them for it, I find nails on a chalkboard more appealing than Justin Bieber. The point I was making was not that Steampunks have to start liking these artists. It’s that we have to stop freaking out and trying to stuff it back into a box any time the mainstream gets a look at it. It’s counterproductive to keep doing that if we want our community to grow.

      And to your point about producers “playing dirty”, music videos aren’t funded by record labels the way they used to be in the 80s and 90s. If an artist wants to create a video to their vision, they will have to cut costs in certain areas or turn to sponsorship. Having extras provide their own costuming isn’t “playing dirty”, it’s saving money.

  23. Minyassa

    February 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Well said! Reminds me of that list of things people are inexplicably proud of, one of which was hating something that is popular. It’s a bit mind-boggling that people waste so much venom on a child pop star; even if his music isn’t to our taste it’s absurd to have hissy fits and proclaim one’s hatred of the child himself and act as if anything he touches has been poisoned. We should be glad when artists of a genre we find boring reach out to try to do something that’s actually kinda cool. It’s an effort at least!

  24. Jordan

    February 7, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    I wouldn’t consider myself a steamhipster mostly cause I am very open to different ways of interpreting steampunk but I think there is something to say for wanting a standard of quality or heart in something you hold so dear. I personally really liked the “Turn me on” video but the Panic! and Bieber videos I thought were a little shallow. The league of steam is great but it was obvious in the video that there were like “hey, what should we do for this video?… I know we’ll make it steampunk!” and that was it. I understand it was a wake but as someone who has video taped LARPers that is all it looked like. Come on you have a budget a shitload of people in awesome costumes at least make an effort to have them do something interesting, anything at all. Sure Beiber had them do more but it was still a veneer of steampunk (expensive steampunk) glued on top of an average dance video with no actual investment of thought beyond “hey steampunk is cool”. Despite all this, saying it is dead is ridiculous, the people who cry that it is dead are the true fairweather steampunks, it will never die. After all people have been saying goth is dead for decades but I still see sickly people dressed in black and stinking of sage all the time.

  25. Beth Dolgner

    February 8, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Great post! I LOVE the term Steamhipster. I wrote a review of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series for The Steampunk Chronicle, and in it I mentioned people who indignantly insisted that the series wasn’t “steampunk enough.” If I’d only known there was a term for these naysayers!

  26. Rod

    February 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Well Said =]:-{D

    • Liesel Hindmann

      February 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      Is that a Steampunk Gentleman smiley? My goodness, that’s clever!


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