Miranda July has become the unwilling exemplar of an aggravating boho archetype: the dreamy, young hipster whose days are filled with coffee, curios and disposable enchantments. “Yes, in some ways Miranda July is living my dream and life, and yes, maybe I’m a little jealous,” wrote one Brooklyn-based artist on her blog. “I loathe her. It feels personal.” To her detractors (“haters” doesn’t seem like too strong a word) July has come to personify everything infuriating about the Etsy-shopping, Wes Anderson-quoting, McSweeney’s-reading, coastal-living category of upscale urban bohemia that flourished in the aughts. Her very existence is enough to inspire, for example, an I Hate Miranda July blog, which purports to detest her “insufferable precious nonsense.” Or there is the online commenter who roots for July to be exiled to Darfur. Or the blogger who yearns to beat her with a shoe.
…But unlike certain directors who fixate on marginalia, creating art in which the engraving on a character’s belt buckle takes precedence over the story, July’s seemingly superficial gestures service something greater: a pulsing emotional center. It’s odd that she has come to represent, for some, a kind of soulless hipster cool, because in July’s work, nobody is cool. There’s no irony to it, no insider wink. Her characters are ordinary people whose lives don’t normally invite investigation. So her project is the opposite of hipster exclusion: her work is desperate to bring people together, forcing them into a kind of fellow feeling. She’s unrelentingly sincere, and maybe that sincerity makes her difficult to bear. It also might make her culturally essential.
How anyone could hate Miranda July, I have no idea. However, I am an Etsy-shopping, McSweeney’s-reading kind of lady, so I guess I fall into the demographic in question. (Heh.) And call me crazy, but I want to believe in talking cats, pink sunrises and powerful moments in ordinary lives. Because deep down, we’re all living ordinary lives and trying to make the best of it, and I want to believe that there’s more to it than paying bills and making ironic statements out of insecurity and putting up false fronts. If she can show me the magical in my own life (and she has, in her fiction and her films), then I subscribe to the cult. Sign me up!
Please read The New York Times Magazine profile on Miranda. You’ll enjoy it.