So I’m only now hearing about this book Twee, written by Marc Spitz. In addition to Zooey Deschanel (eh, okay?), Portlandia (what?), Disney (???????), Spitz lists Rookie as a point of reference for the apparent rise of Twee. His definition of “Twees” (ugh) BTW, is:
I have already been on a huge rant in other venues about this book so I’m almost hesitant to start up on it here, but it was bound to happen sooner or later.
The OP here has a huge point. Is something necessarily “cute” just because it is geared toward teen girls? Because otherwise I don’t see what’s so cute about Rookie. Unless perhaps you cherry-pick examples while ignoring others. Messed up.
But I have a whole other massive problem with this thing and that is the huge misread and/or utter ignorance of previously established uses of the word twee that Spitz exhibits. Personally, one of my biggest formative musical experiences was my introduction to twee indiepop in the mid-90s. There’s a whole constellation of terms associated with this type of music, which have slightly different meanings and fit certain bands and scenes better than others: C-86, shambling, anorak pop, cuddlecore, and so forth. Twee was a derisive term aimed at these bands by the catty UK music press, but it was reclaimed and used in somewhat ironic ways, as in the slogan “twee as fuck.” Still, this loose musical tradition was not big on irony and if anything championed a degree of guilelessness you didn’t see much in music at the time. It was a great scene in so many ways. It pointed out what a transgressive stance sensitivity, emotionality, and sincerity can be. It was an incredibly punk rock stance to take at the time. It was also a scene that not only included women but celebrated their perspectives, that didn’t devalue femininity or traditionally girly concerns. It also encouraged fans to rediscover previous bands, often all-girl ones, who came before, like Dolly Mixture and Marine Girls.
My sister and I, who pooled our musical resources a great deal, got into this sort of music in high school. I guess it must have started with Karen getting the K catalog in the mail after reading stuff Kurt Cobain said about the label and just gone from there. I know that’s how we first heard the Pastels. I remember I ordered For Keeps by the Field Mice from Parasol after seeing a reference to them in a Veronica Lake seven-inch sleeve. It just went from there and kind of exploded when I went to college in upstate New York and went to weekend shows in NYC.
I listened to other stuff back then and still do now, but the indiepop thing was so formative for me. I still listen to those records regularly and they still feel like part of who I am. I still go back and discover new stuff from that era as well. And so much good new stuff is totally influenced by that type of music, as well. And the sensibility behind this music is one of the most important things about it.
So now there’s this writer looking for a cool new word to popularize and a new crackpot theory for classifying cultural whatnot that is just as tenuous and ill-considered as most such theories. Some goober who doesn’t seem to have so much as heard of Sarah Records. And he’s using the term “twee” to apply to a bunch of seemingly unrelated popular whatnot. The whole thing is really dopey and irritating. But it happens to push my personal buttons on a whole other level because it is grouping Wes Anderson in with this imagined twee phenomenon.
I try not to talk about it too often because I have so many friends who love his work, but I hate Wes Anderson and his work with a fiery passion. I was pretty infamous in my media studies program for this and people mostly just stopped talking about WA in front of me because they were sick of my rants (sorry, guys). I just find his work totally emotionally bankrupt and empty, a mockery of every human emotion or deep experience it purports to portray. Any sort of authenticity that crops up in his work inevitably gets sacrificed in favor of arch smartypantsness and overstylized cultural capital mobilization. And don’t get me started on the racism. When my partner and I tried to play a racism drinking game (simple: drink when something is racist) while watching The Darjeeling Limited, we ran out of alcohol before it ended despite having stocked up pretty significantly and switching to beer about twenty minutes in.
So I really don’t like Wes Anderson movies. And I don’t like hearing them compared to this other thing that I do like. But it’s more than that. The two things just couldn’t be more different in terms of tone and intention. One emphasizes sincerity and unabashed feeling, often at the expense of polished musicianship, while the other emphasizes cleverness and lacquers over emotionality with a stultifying degree of stylization. They just couldn’t be more diametrically opposed from where I’m sitting.
So what’s going to happen with this book? It sounds painfully boring so I doubt it is going to sell tons of copies or be some kind of, like, touchstone for a generation of youth struggling to define their personal ethos or whatever. But I bet you anything a bunch of lazy journalists are going to take this new, meaningless version of “twee” and write ridiculous think pieces about it. And it’ll spread around and color the way people look at the 90s version of twee. And it’ll probably be annoying me for some time to come.
Maybe this is what those emo fans felt like in the early 00’s.