Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity

Overview

"Hal Niedzviecki is one of the wisest, funniest and most acute cultural critics writing today."—Naomi Klein, author of No Logo

Hal Niedzviecki has a blunt message for the army of tattoo and piercing enthusiasts, bloggers, skateboard warriors, and anyone else walking around with the smug certainty that they are one of a kind: Individuality is the new conformity.

Niedzviecki’s meditations touch on everything from designer religions to webcasts, ...

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Overview

"Hal Niedzviecki is one of the wisest, funniest and most acute cultural critics writing today."—Naomi Klein, author of No Logo

Hal Niedzviecki has a blunt message for the army of tattoo and piercing enthusiasts, bloggers, skateboard warriors, and anyone else walking around with the smug certainty that they are one of a kind: Individuality is the new conformity.

Niedzviecki’s meditations touch on everything from designer religions to webcasts, from reality TV to the endless “everybody is a star” platitudes of global pop culture. The result is a smart, witty, and impassioned argument that shatters the you-can-do-anything pop myth and exposes the paradox of individualism.

Hal Niedzviecki is the founder of Broken Pencil magazine and the author of We Want Some Too: Underground Desire and the Reinvention of Mass Culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When nonconformity has become not only cool but also consumable, and everyone is told they are special, what happens to our definitions of rebellion and individualism? Are our real rebels against "conformist nonconformity" now the "neo-traditionalists" who exchange their individualism for membership in a community that offers meaning in backward-looking ideologies? These questions are pertinent but hardly original, and Niedzviecki's approach doesn't refresh the cultural debate. Niedzviecki (We Want Some Too) details lively examples from pop, consumer and counter culture-e.g., backyard wrestlers who assert their uniqueness while participating in mass culture; the "philosophy" brand of health and beauty products that sells its lotions with "moral maxims." But he molds these cases to fit his often predictable arguments: celebrity culture has been confused with individualism; the "semi-collapse" of traditional culture has led some to rebel by embracing orthodoxy; marketers have exploited ideals of individuality; and political activism is often just a way for protestors to "affirm their specialness." Falling short of a richer, more contradictory and more provocative analysis of these cultural items, Niedzviecki only grazes the surface of many of the issues Christopher Lasch (The Culture of Narcissism) and Thomas Frank (The Conquest of Cool) have already explored with depth and complexity. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Add this to the growing list of books in the Malcolm Gladwell (Blink) observations-of-pop-culture genre. Niedzviecki, a novelist (The Program), 'zine founder (Broken Pencil), and social critic (We Want Some Too: Underground Desire and the Reinvention of Mass Culture) addresses "who we are" in a slightly rambling, albeit witty discussion of how being true to ourselves is not necessarily a good thing. (One is reminded of the song from the long-lived musical The Fantastics, in which the heroine begs "Please, God, please: Don't let me be normal!") In our longing to be different, and our insistence on being accepted as we (supposedly) march to a different drummer, more often than not we are actually in lockstep with one another, suggests Niedzviecki, sometimes to the point of our own detriment (e.g., it's okay to be obese, as long as you have self-esteem). Where Gladwell is bemused, fellow Canadian Niedzviecki is curmudgeonly as he points out the rampant hypocrisy reflected in New Age religion, celebrity worship, and current perceptions of community. Although there is an index and lists of references for each chapter, this book is, like its subject, an artifact of pop culture and, as such, it is recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.-Ellen D. Gilbert, Princeton, NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872864535
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 4/15/2006
  • Pages: 278
  • Sales rank: 1,474,665
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Hal Niedzviecki's writings on culture have appeared in newspapers and magazines across North America. He is the founder of Broken Pencil, a magazine covering zine culture and the indie arts. In addition to three novels and a story collection, Niedzviecki is the author of Hello, I'm Special and We Want Some Too: Underground Desire and the Reinvention of Mass Culture.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : "mom, dad, I've got something to tell you ..." : discovering the new conformity 1
1 Hello, I'm special : the rise of nonconformity 3
2 Alone together : the new conformity challenges tradition 33
3 Everyone's a star : pop culture invents the new conformity 65
4 Crowd control : conformity versus the pop promise 95
5 "Who else is me?" : finding our own special roles 131
6 The search for home : community reinvented 147
7 Extreme behavior : morality versus celebrity in the age of special 183
8 Revolution redux : the end of individuality? 209
Conclusion : on my own at the end of the road 233
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