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Author Topic: Is Steampunk Becoming Too Mainstream?  (Read 47558 times)
Eduard
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« on: July 03, 2008, 11:03:10 am »

Three years ago I became aware of this little known subculture that was Steampunk, but over time it seems to have grown at an incredible rate, most notably on Second Life.

Is this a good or a bad thing for the culture?

My experience with Goth suggests not Sad  Already I am seeing the "Is it Steampunk or not?" question cause a great many arguments, the very same thing that killed Goth.  Maybe it’s just me, but I like to decide for myself what is Steampunk, not have it dictated to me by some unelected governing body.  I don’t like to come across as elitist, far from it, I am just a casual fan, but I do worry that the culture will become sold out and that big corporations will invade the genre much like Alchemy Gothic and New Rock invaded Goth.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2008, 12:39:11 pm by Eduard » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2008, 11:22:02 am »

To me, I see a paradox in your words. At the one hand, you like to (and probably do) decide for yourself what Steampunk is. And at the other hand, you worry about corporations making money with Steampunk.

If you declare the former to be true, how can you be bothered by the latter? Even if all the companies in the known world would create a veritable universe of (self-proclaimed) Steampunk items, it would not make 'your' Steampunk disappear or obsolete.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2008, 11:24:18 am by Torvald_Faust » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2008, 11:46:52 am »

I think Steampunk will only become "mainstream" in the sense that more and more people are rejecting the schizophrenic world we live in where on the one hand consumerism and technology are proceeding at an alarming rate without much concern for social and environemntal impact, and yet we are being continually endorsed to be "responsible" with our individual lifestyle choices according to government edict, and therefore may drift towards "Steampunk" as a haven.

I personally am sick of fashion design that sexualises every woman from age  four and abruptly demands we dissappear at around 30 or else diet and exercise ourselves into neurosis. I am sick of the short lifespan of all the consumer goods we are presented with, and then we are harangued for buying them due to the working conditions of the people who make them, yet if we don't other economies may collapse? I'm sick of beign dictated to by psychobabble spouting experts who think common sense is a dirty word. I'm shocked that most of the rational intelligent people I know, self included, are so messed up by the world we live in that therapy seems like a lifeline. And I was going to carry on a little more in that vein, but am mindful of avoiding the politics issue Undecided

Coming back to the original question, I don't think "Steampunk" will become mainstream in a consumer sense, because it seems to me that is what the people here are trying to avoid - they like to hand craft and recycle with a particular style in mind. People who don't instinctively have an affection for that style cannot be sold it! For instance, Goth may have been marketed to death Roll Eyes but even so, most people who pick up and buy into it now are young and affecting rebellion. Elder Goths may be hardly noticeable because they are secure enough in themselves not to need to display their allegiance so publically and they are also much more creative in their interpretation, tailoring it to suit themselves, but Boy, when they dress up to the nines at the Goth night we attend they look fantastic - individual, creative. the works.

I am impressed at the moment by the inclusive nature of Steampunk despite its niche status, particularly by the almost no rules philosophy. It seems to me that the point of contact for various people is thoroughly individual - there is the literary genre, the creating of "new" antiquity and the respect and fascination of the old, the appreciation of a style of dress which combines fantasy and practicality.

The world we live in is plagued by elitism, and I have no time for it. I seek out the places where I feel most comfortable, and avoid the ones where I feel misunderstood.

From what I have seen and read here, and during waay too many hours of internet browsing Cheesy my aesthetics and moral framework seem to be in tune with "Steampunk". And I'm very grateful  Kiss

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« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2008, 11:51:23 am »

If, in the event that we DO become mainstream, and go hte way the goths did...It'll serve to blow away all the fair-weather fans with only a passing internet. I, for one, can say that i won't become disillusioned, this is the nicest place in the internet with some of the most intelligent, polite people i've ever met.
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« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2008, 11:52:18 am »

I don´t mind it becoming well known, but I´d really prefer it doesn´t become fashionable. The less sheep the better.
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« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2008, 12:09:52 pm »

I'm in two minds. 

On the one hand, the exposure can only be beneficial.  The people introduced to it by going mainstream who then stay with it when the next trend comes around will make it a more vibrant scene.  I would also welcome the possibility of it becoming mainstream to the extent that I can go out in a bowler or top hat and not be a figure of ridicule. 

However on the other hand what I would not want to see would be a sort of hierarchy of those 'steamier than thou', which is what I saw with the Goth crowds.  I would also feel that the idea of going out and being able to purchase commercially a Victorian aesthetic laptop, say, would be to miss the point somewhat of the DIY aspect.  I also would most definitely not appreciate the scene being bound by a series of rules or something that dictates we all have to be the same or we are not 'Steampunks'. 

What would be tragic would be if we found ourselves in a situation similar to that in 'Meet the Slackwaters', ie we find ourselves drowning in a sea of trend-followers and other such social sheep. 

But as I said above, the more poeple who discover it and become interested the better it is for the scene.  Just so long as big-money commercial enterprise doesn't hijack it.     
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« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2008, 12:15:17 pm »

We are much more rational than Goths, so I think it's safe to assume we'd fair much better from arguments like that.
We're also more inclined to say "Yeah sure, looks cool."
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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2008, 12:19:11 pm »

Since when does Steampunk also include a branch of the Environmentalism movement?

Other than that, am I truly the only one with my stance on this subculture and on any and all subcultures, for that matter?
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« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2008, 12:24:12 pm »

Dear Mr Faust,

I feel that the element of recycling is "environmental" to a degree, however I would say I am not a subscriber to the green movement per se, simply because I feel the science is usafe and untested, and the rhetoric and capitalist band wagon jumping that is going on is cynical beyond belief.

Nonetheless, respect for one's environment should be in my opinion, a moral duty  Wink
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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2008, 12:34:18 pm »

Dear Mistress Victoria,

I agree with you, but I still fail to see what it* has to do with Steampunk. As I see it, that Steampunks recycle and reuse certain materials, follows from their wish to (re)create an certain aesthetic. An aesthetic for which there are very few materials made anew. Without the recycling and reusing, we would not be able to create what we love.

And even while discussing the above, I still have to mention that I also completely fail to see what being "...sick of fashion design that sexualises every woman from age  four..." has to do with the topic at hand Wink



* 'it' being "...rejecting the schizophrenic world we live in where on the one hand consumerism and technology are proceeding at an alarming rate without much concern for social and environemntal impact, and yet we are being continually endorsed to be "responsible" with our individual lifestyle choices according to government edict, and therefore may drift towards "Steampunk" as a haven."
« Last Edit: July 03, 2008, 12:36:42 pm by Torvald_Faust » Logged
von Adler
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« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2008, 12:50:09 pm »

I kind of agree with Mistress Victoria, though in my opinion, the environmentalism/recycling/anti-consumerist aspect present in steampunk is somewhat accidental; the movement seems to draw people who are interested in those things in the first place. Other people may catch on, as ideas tend to spread in communities such as this, and it may seem like those aspects are somehow inherent to the scene.

As to the other comments: it doesn't really matter if steampunk becomes mainstream or not; it wasn't manufactured fad in the first place, it had its proponents before any corporate drone had ever heard of it, and will have its adherents even after it is no longer fashionable. Just like Punk or Goth, really.
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Eduard
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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2008, 12:51:23 pm »

I do suppose that on a personal level you have the option to reject any corporatised Steampunk and just ride it out until it the novelty wears off and the band wagon jumpers move on to the next big thing. I am nominally Goth, I have never waivered too far from that despite the mainstream invasion, and I have merely begun to incorporate a steampunk aesthetic into my own personal style, a Gothic Steampunk if such a thing may exist.  I have always avoided New Rock and Alchemy and can do the same within steampunk. I much prefer the hand made, reused sensibility, there is nothing better than discovering and incorporating genuine vintage items into your wardrobe  Grin *

*Apologies for any poor grammar, not my strong point I'm afraid Sad
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« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2008, 12:53:56 pm »

What other level than personal is there as far as one's style is concerned?
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Eduard
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« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2008, 01:02:05 pm »

It will be interesting to see what mainstream corporations come up with, I'm sure Alchemy Gothic will latch on at some point.
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« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2008, 01:41:12 pm »

I really don't mind if it becomes mainstream.  It won't make me like the aesthetic any less, and might make it easier to find neat things (which could then be customized ^_^). I've always liked what I like regardless of whether or not it's popular. I'm not of the sort of elitist who'll stop liking a band, or a fashion, or whatever just because they go mainstream. 
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« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2008, 02:04:56 pm »

I agree with Katarina.  If a whole bunch of people suddenly discover steampunk it's not going to make me like it any more or less.   If corporations jump on it and start producing cheap tat then it'll still be cheap tat whether it's styled in a particular way or not. (Some of it might be cool though.)  Wink


To draw an anime analogy, a girl my daughter knows 'started hating' Akira and Ghost in the Shell because "everyone likes those."   

Plain daft in you ask me.


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« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2008, 02:05:34 pm »

Dear Mistress Victoria,


And even while discussing the above, I still have to mention that I also completely fail to see what being "...sick of fashion design that sexualises every woman from age  four..." has to do with the topic at hand Wink


I believe good sir, that Victoria is relating to the fact that most women that post pictures of themselves in this forum are almost always wearing clothes that fully cover their bodies and yet are still looking good and demonstrating induviduality. However many women out in the world today wear skimpy, "stripper" like clothing that may imply a lack of interest in cerebrall matters.

The inclusion of things like corsets and stockings etc in the steampunk aesthetic tantalises and leaves women in control.
(Have you seen how difficult it is to get a woman out of a corset against her will) Smiley

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« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2008, 03:15:21 pm »

My answer to this is probably going to be a rambling mess... but I'll try.

Partly the reason that "Steampunk becoming mainstream" doesn't worry me is the reasons that drew me to steampunk in the first place.

1) I'm an avid reader, I read almost everything from science books to novels, from Children's books to very adult ones.  Among other authors I have read HG Wells, Phillip Jose Farmer, Jules Verne, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, and enjoyed their works.

2) I love the well made articles that last.  I grew up in a Victorian house in the UK that had worn tiles and brass from years of use.  My father and I used a 19th century printing press.

3) I love unique items.  The hand made items that are made by craftsmen.

4) I enjoy making things for myself (or doing things or repairing things).  This is what has led me to Leatherwork.  I would be the first to admit that my woodworking skills are minimal to non-existent (although the built-in bookshelves that flank the fireplace seem to have survived so far.)  I really get a kick out of making something, and making it well.

5) My own sense of style as far as clothes go has always included some of the styles from the past.  I was known to wear dinner jackets, tweed jackets and waistcoats when I was in my teens.

So, what happens if steampunk goes mainstream?  We get a lot more craftsmen making their own unique items... This is good.  We get companies trying to jump on the bandwagon and either selling cheap plastic crap with "gears" on it which we don't buy, or we get companies selling stuff that is well made and we can modify, or we get companies selling "bits".  All of this is fine by me.  I don't have to buy the cheap crap, and if someone is selling lots of brass gears or good stuff I can modify then this is good. 

The only thing I'm not looking forward to is people jumping on the steampunk traction engine and then declaring that steampunk is only what they think it is, I will try and ignore them. 

The things that I really like about steampunk, the makers ethic, the sense of the unique, those are things that can't be mainstreamed in a way that would ruin them.  Either the mainstream would have to change or it couldn't adopt those parts.

Z.
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« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2008, 03:20:21 pm »

Excellent post Zwack!

I realise that my earlier post may be perceived as a rant and slightly off topic, and what I was trying to say was very much along your lines!

As for my post feminist bit, well, I knew what I meant!! (Thank you Sir. Silence Wink  )
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« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2008, 03:30:24 pm »

This is a difficult question to answer. I have always belonged to an "alternative" lifestyle (I try not to label things too much, and have been called anything from goth to punk to grunge etc.) and when it came into fashion, it was highly annoying for a while as people were suddenly jumping on the bandwagon as it were.

When it comes to Steampunk, there are two sides to it. On the one hand, the exposure is a great thing to have, but I agree that I would rather not see it becoming mainstream. Still, these people that will join just to be sheep are unlikely to invest as much time and effort into it as most people I have seen who are into Steampunk, as such they will not be able to fully gel into this environment. And even if some manage, they will move away from it within a few months or so.

From what I can see, most people that have gotten into Steampunk in a big way are those who have had some knowledge of Steampunk related things before finding out what it is (whether it be literature, fashion, music etc.) and once they find it, their niche is discovered. That will not be the case with anyone who is merely sheeping their way into it.

I would say, fret not.
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« Reply #20 on: July 03, 2008, 03:39:19 pm »

Quite a few of these arguments sound like one on the Steampunk Fashion LiveJournal page a while ago. People came to pretty much the same conclusion: if it does go mainstream, there is a possibility of being left with a load of cheap crap and all the sheep will get bored and move on to something else before long. Or, lots of people will get interested in the aesthetic for what it is and we end up with an army which we can use to take over the world [insert evil laugh here]. Feel free to ignore the world domination bit. It was meant as a joke. Or was it...
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« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2008, 04:37:25 pm »

Zwack, you have made a very valid point.

I think that what the mainstream would do to steampunk would not change our love for the aesthetic. What we, as those who are everything from casual fans to those who don't own "normal" clothes, think about our niche wouldn't change. There may be hundreds of teenagers running around in waistcoats and goggles, and people who are not involved in steampunk at all may see all of us as followers of the new trend.

What I'm really trying to say is that "going mainstream" won't change steampunk. It will change what people think of steampunk. And if all of us are concerned with how people see us, then we will descend into "THAT IZ NOT TRU STEEMPUNX", like the goths have.

As, however, most of us aren't too concerned with how the average person on the street thinks of us, we will continue reading our books and making goggles in our garages. The fad will pass, and we'll still be here.

Look at punk and the way that it moved from a fringe anti-disco music scene to a commercialized look. There are still people who love punk and have stayed with it past the bandwagon stage.

Well, that wasn't very articulate. I'm writing an article about the way subcultures are absorbed into the mainstream, focusing on steampunk, that I'll post here as soon as it's done.
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« Reply #22 on: July 03, 2008, 05:10:54 pm »

"Victoria the Mistress" has posted the most intelligent and thoughful response to the question. 
I agree with her views entirely.  Splendid writing and thoughts, Victoria.

To answer the post question myself, "Mainstream" to me means that when I start seeing TV commercials for 'Target' hawking "Steampunk-Inspired" goods...you would know that it's definitley hit the mainstream.   

Also, if and when I see very young teens in shopping malls wearing outfits with cogs and gears,  that would be a good barometer that Steampunk would need to be re-defined.

That said,  I am not worrying about the genre at all becoming mainstream because the people involved with Steampunk are so wonderfully unique, authentic and talented.  I mean, just look at the great talent and sheer love for Steampunk on this very forum!

Regards to All.  Art Donovan
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« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2008, 05:50:04 pm »

I find that worrying about steampunk becoming "mainstream" (a word that I'm not completely sure of the defintion of) is an odd thing.  If one just likes something because it is "different" and not because they like the thing, that's rather a pity.  It seems to me that they only want to be "different" and get attention for that, nothing else. I find it reminiscent of the current political situation here in the US.  There are some people who supported Sen. Clinton who were so bound up in being part of the "winner's" coterie that they will not consider voting for Sen. Obama, and at worst, have claimed that they will vote for McCain rather than vote for Senator Clinton.  This isn't is just wanting to be a "winner", nothing more.  This thoughtless behavior does disappoint me. 
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« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2008, 05:52:40 pm »

I find that worrying about steampunk becoming "mainstream" (a word that I'm not completely sure of the defintion of) is an odd thing.  If one just likes something because it is "different" and not because they like the thing, that's rather a pity.  It seems to me that they only want to be "different" and get attention for that, nothing else. I find it reminiscent of the current political situation here in the US.  There are some people who supported Sen. Clinton who were so bound up in being part of the "winner's" coterie that they will not consider voting for Sen. Obama, and at worst, have claimed that they will vote for McCain rather than vote for Senator Clinton.  This isn't is just wanting to be a "winner", nothing more.  This thoughtless behavior does disappoint me. 

Careful there, we have rules against discussing politics
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