Twee by definition means affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint, but in society it’s come to mean much more than that. In Mark Spitz’s Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion, and Film, this culture and history of twee is broken down, starting with Walt Disney, essentially the grandfather of Twee, all the way through to Portlandia, the satirical comedy show starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.
Spitz breaks his chapters into Twee-eras, including “Do Something Pretty While You Still Can” about Glasgow and Belle and Sebastian, and “Dorks Incorporated,” which spans the years 2005-2011 and looks in-depth at Zooey Deschanel’s trajectory as an it twee girl. Spitz quotes an episode of New Girl where Jess (Deschanel) is forced to defend her aesthetic: “I brake for birds. I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children, and I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person,” her character says. “And that doesn’t mean I’m not smart and tough and strong.” If that isn’t twee, we’re not sure what is.
But if you’re still confused over what makes someone twee rather than twee, Spitz breaks it down in a bulleted list. Things like appreciating beauty over ugliness, a teether to childhood, a healthy suspicion of adulthood, an interest in sex but wariness and shyness when actually having it, and a lust for knowledge are just some of the cornerstones of twee-dom.
Spitz, a journalist, playwright, and author, leans heavily on his journo-past, writing in the style of an extended magazine article, which allows Twee to not read as a textbook on culture. Instead, it’s easily broken down and perfect for those times when you can just read a short amount. Twee knows its demographic and doesn’t stray from it. If you like Wes Anderson movies and Vampire Weekend music, there’s a good chance you’re twee, but Spitz’s chronological examination will confirm — or deny — that for you. Plus, there’s a reading list, playlist, and movie list at the end that acts as a sort of twee syllabus. Even if you’re not twee, you can be shortly.
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