The Implications of Mac DeMarco
Ever since the emergence of mass-distributed music in the 1950’s, younger generations have used the various subcultures of popular music in attempt to create their own sense of identity. Every subculture, from hippies to punks, has created their own set of customs and cultural norms in order to develop their way of life. These sets of norms are largely positive; they help young people break away from the perceived monotony of everyday life and give them a sense of camaraderie with young people who feel the same way. In other words, it aids the romantic ideals that all young people feel. One more recent subculture has both taken the country and my attention by storm: the followers of Mac DeMarco. DeMarco is undoubtedly one of the most unique and rabble-rousing indie artists alive today – he has embraced the slacker aesthetic enticing to so many teens and young adults who grew up in a time of increasingly popular anti-capitalistic views and rebellion against the 9-to-5 work day. His way of life completely contradicts the traditional view of fame and success; many artists flaunt their wealth and attempt to create a barrier between themselves and their less-than-fortunate fans, but Mac is different. He buys his clothes from thrift stores, he openly gives personal information to his fans, and most interestingly (to me, at the very least), he smokes cigarettes.
This is not to say that smoking is antithetical to the aesthetic which he tries to present to the world, but it does present a very real danger to his young, impressionable fan base, mostly because it seems that more and more teens are embracing the DeMarco sense of style. I see young people wearing Vans, cupped jeans, flannel shirts, hats bought from Goodwill, and, of course, smoking cigarettes for the sole reason that Mac DeMarco has appropriated smoking into his own subculture.
This phenomenon raises its own set of questions. First of all, is this a cause for concern, undoing years of attempting to completely destroy the cigarette demand? And second, raising the age-old question, does Mac, as a celebrity, hold responsibility as a role model for his fan base? My answer to both of these questions is no.
One of my favorite things about Mac DeMarco is the fact that he completely severs the strange cultural boundary between performer and audience, and in doing that, he completely severs any responsibility he might hold for the actions of his fans. Mac is human, nothing more. He’s not claiming to be perfect nor a role model, and most importantly, it’s not his fault that his fans romanticize his smoking habit.
However, one must also consider the fact that the DeMarco subculture is unique in that it almost exclusively follows one man’s musical journey. Of course, drugs and intoxicants are ubiquitous in nearly every musical subculture there is, but that’s because the psychoactive effects are beneficial to the goals of each respective genre – psychedelic drugs are popular among hippies because they procure feelings of spiritual enlightenment, stimulants are popular among punks because they engender feelings of anger and intensity, etc. But cigarettes hold no intrinsic value to those who smoke them, or at least not to those who smoke them simply because of one man’s habit. To them, smoking is simply a part of becoming Mac DeMarco.
I trust that the youth of the Western world understand the risks of idolizing a musician, and I hope that all understand the ramifications of the choices they make. In the end, it’s all about the music and self-image, and if Mac DeMarco embodies the aesthetic which someone wants to imitate, who am I to judge?
Image via wikimedia.