January 2nd, 2019
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“The opposite of grimdark is hopepunk,” declared Alexandra Rowland, a Massachusetts writer, in a two-sentence Tumblr post in July 2017. “Pass it on.”
…When pressed by other Tumblr users to expand on her two-sentence Tumblr post that coined the term, Rowland elaborated on what she meant by “hopepunk,” touching on themes present in both her own psyche and in the spirit of resistance and political agitation all around her:
Hopepunk says that genuinely and sincerely caring about something, anything, requires bravery and strength. Hopepunk isn’t ever about submission or acceptance: It’s about standing up and fighting for what you believe in. It’s about standing up for other people. It’s about DEMANDING a better, kinder world, and truly believing that we can get there if we care about each other as hard as we possibly can, with every drop of power in our little hearts.
Rowland was responding to the idea of “grimdark” — a literary descriptor for genre texts and media which evoke a pervasively gritty, bleak, pessimistic, or nihilistic view of the world. These are the worlds of modern-era Batman, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and so many other contemporary pop culture properties — universes in which cruelty is a given and social systems are destined to betray or disappoint.
…The aesthetic of hopepunk can be seen as part of a broader cultural embrace of “softness,” wholesomeness, and gentleness. We see this in a growing emphasis on what might be thought of as an extreme, even aggressive form of self-care and wellness in response to stress created by bleak sociopolitical times. Embedded into this idea are trends like the high-end sleep industry; the popular home and lifestyle trend hygge, which emphasizes comfort and coziness; the rom-com resurgence; the ever-growing popularity of kawaii, or “cute” culture; “JOMO,” a.k.a. the joy of missing out; and the online shift away from cynicism to wholesome memes.
There’s a growing push to see consciously chosen simple pleasures — relaxation, self-care and communal care, and softness — as valid and important lifestyle choices. There’s a bit of millennial contrariness involved, too: After all, when you’re constantly characterized as “lazy,” why not turn laziness into a show of defiance? In essence, aggressive relaxation is starting to emerge as a new form of resistance against the dominant social narrative that ceaseless hard work, constant social “effort,” and profit-driven lifestyles are what define success.
And while that may sound paradoxical, it’s a perfect aesthetic accompaniment to the hopepunk philosophy that aggressively choosing kindness, optimism, and softness over hardness, cynicism, and violence can be a powerful political choice.