Watching all of Steampunk communities online lately has been very interesting.
“Justin Bieber has gone Steampunk!”
“Steampunk is dead because of him!”
“Bieber has ruined Steampunk!”
“Steampunk has gone mainstream, now it sucks!”
Relax kids, the sky is not falling, I promise you. Even if it were, we are steampunks. We are prepared.
Justin Bieber will not ruin Steampunk, neither will the so-called “teenyboppers” or “posers” his video may or may not bring into the fold.
Let me state from the beginning that I am NOT a Bieber fan in any way, shape or form. His voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me, he can’t dance, and whether it is up or down, his hair just really irritates me. But to say an androgynous child (and he IS still a child) is the harbinger of death to all things Steampunk … that’s a bit much.
Let’s look at this from the Bieber side of things. I doubt he even knows what Steampunk is. He is a manufactured pop star, with handlers, stylists and publicists micromanaging everything he does, says, and wears. They likely threw this stuff at him and told him to wear it. And let’s be honest …. Steampunk clothes and gadgets are pretty awesome; otherwise none of us would like it. Now since I’m not a fan, I’m not sure if he actually has used the phrase “Steampunk” himself. But even if he did, why does it matter? Even if he starts dressing that way publicly, should we care, and if so, why? If Bieber has never influenced your life before, don’t let him do so now.
People seem to be all up in arms screaming, “Steampunk has gone mainstream!” It doesn’t matter. If you loved Steampunk before, you shouldn’t love it less now because other people are learning about it. I’ve been a Steampunk since 2008. I’ve been to every single SteamCon and a few other conventions as well, such as the first Nova Albion. I’ve watched it grow exponentially every year and I’ve made some wonderful friends (both local and nationwide) that I never would have met otherwise. I’ve met people from Abney Park and Unextraordinary Gentlemen, and am honored to call the Unwoman and the members of Vernian Process my friends. I will still like them no matter what. Steampunk will not change, only the people involved will.
The only people who seem to have a problem with this are the elitist snobs. Now that Steampunk is “mainstream” it’s not longer fun for them. Well phooey, I say! I look forward to welcoming new people into the fold. Because really, how hard is it to explain the concept of NOT gluing gears on something just to call it Steampunk? It’s not hard at all. What is it you’re afraid of? That their costumes and gadgets won’t measure up to your high standards? Maybe you’re afraid that their stuff might be better than yours. Either way, so what? The best thing to me about Steampunk is that there really aren’t any hard and fast rules. We are rewriting a history that never happened … who’s to say what’s right or wrong?
I welcome the chance to possibly find attractive Steampunk clothes in my local mall, and if it turns out to be garbage (by my standards), I won’t buy it. Not all of us know how to make patterns or sew or build cool gadgets. When I first started doing Steampunk, I had a slightly modded dress I bought from an online costume shop (it was so pretty, I was sad when it finally fell apart a year and a half later). Nobody told me I was doing it right or wrong. If they had, I would have shot them with my squirt gun and run away laughing.
The so-called “teenyboppers,” “posers,” or whatever some people are calling them have no reason to be judged so harshly. Sure they might wear mass-produced plastic baubles that the accessory stores in the mall sell. That doesn’t mean they don’t love Steampunk or are less enthusiastic about it than anyone else. It means that is what they’ve got and they’re working with it. It took me years to get the few outfits I have, and most of it was from bits and pieces bought at chain stores like Kohl’s …. and I still get complimented on it.
This supposed new influx may mean we get some new talented artists, designers, even musicians. People who are suddenly drawn to Steampunk, like it, and realize they have a knack for it. Maybe even people who were doing it for years but didn’t realize there was a name for it.
Some people are afraid of it watering down the community with people who glom onto Steampunk because it’s suddenly the new cool thing. Again, so what? It eventually happens to every subculture. Eventually , the newness wears off, and those people are off to find the next shiny distraction. Let it happen. The core people who really care about it will still be here, and those people will have been nothing more than a blip on the radar. Bonus: when they get rid of all their Steampunk gear, we can raid the thrift stores and get it for a song!
In conclusion, let me reiterate that the sky is NOT falling. New people does not equal the death of Steampunk, we were all once new to it as well.
If “going mainstream” is all that it takes for you to no longer love Steampunk, then you aren’t a very good Steampunk. You are just another hipster, disguised as a Steampunk elitist snob. And to you I say, good riddance.