Boppers, The Fresh Generation & Asian American Teens

“I don’t want to go to the Great Mall – it’s bopperville!”

The Daughter said that when I told her that we were going shopping. “Bopperville?”  I thought.  “What is a bopper?”  I had no idea what she was talking about, so my kids tried to explain boppers to me in terms of what these teens wear and do.

“They like to wear Stussy shirts.”
“They walk around with giant cameras.”
“They hang out with ukuleles.”

Hanging out playing the ukulele?  What?

I live in an Asian neighborhood, and I occasionally see some Asian kids hanging out around our local shops and playing ukuleles.   Who are these kids?  They are apparently the 2011 version of the Asian American teen “in” crowd.  To be part of this crowd, you must wear certain clothes, carry certain accessories, and listen to certain music.   This look and mentality is epitomized by the tumblr,  You can see Asian American kids with a Stussy shirt, a giant camera, and a ukulele.

“Bopper” is a derogatory term for these kids, shortened from “Teeny bopper.”  This definition from the Urban Dictionary seems both accurate and funny.  There was a funny parody site of fuckyeahfreshgeneration called fuckyeahboppers.  It commented on some of the strange fashions that these kids wear, such as wearing backpacks with nothing in them and using plastic glasses without actually needing them.   The fuckyeahbopper site was taken down.  Don’t know why – perhaps some “boppers” didn’t have much a sense of humor.   Some snippets of the site are still preserved here and there.

I suppose that there are good points and bad points about these kids.  On the plus side, they typically aren’t obsessed with grades and don’t fit into the model minority stereotype.  I have heard people complain about a perceived lack of any kind of pan-ethnic Asian American culture, and they have one.  In addition, I suppose that chasing the latest accessories is better than putting that energy into being a gang member.  My kids have told me about the minus side.  Often these kids look down at other kids (like mine) who don’t conform to their “hip” standards.  Some of them are so busy attempting to be hip that they don’t always put effort into school.   Number One Son hates the sheeplike sense of conformity – you have to wear the right thing, hang out with the right people, and listen to the right kind of music.  He’d rather listen to Incubus than hip hop.

When I was a teen in the 80’s, there were Asian kids at school who acted very similar.  They also had a code of how to dress and act that would set them apart, distinct from the Hispanic kids, the white kids, the black kids, and the nerdy Asian kids (ones like me).  They would wear the same styles and act the same so they could be different. Although I grew up with many of them, I remember how they would never say “hi” to me when they were in a group, only when they ran into me individually.   Like what my kids told me about their version, this version didn’t always focus on school.   Not sure if this is just a California thing, but when I went to college and met East Coast Asian Americans, they didn’t seem to have the same kind of Asians at their schools.

It’s funny that years later, my kids are running into the 2011 version of the Asian American Teen in crowd .  I wish the Fresh Generation all the luck in the world, but I have to say that I’m glad that my kids aren’t part of that scene.

[Photo Courtesy of here].


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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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