Bourgeois Bohemian

Putting the Bohemian in Bourgeois Bohemian.

The Bourgeois Bohemian is often what the Hipster or Granola Girl turns into when he/she hits middle age, or what the New-Age Retro Hippie might have become had he not dropped out.

The defining trait of the Bourgeois Bohemian (Bobo for short) is that while he belongs to the upper or upper-middle class in economic terms, his values are often inherited from the countercultural movements of the 1960s. Expect very open attitudes towards issues such as sexuality and recreational drugs as well as support for liberal/progressive political causes. A fondness for NPR and PBS is also common, as is a tendency to shop at places like Whole Foods. Unsympathetic examples of the trope will often be portrayed as being hypocritical about their wealth, criticizing other wealthy elites while sharing much of their lifestyle. Pejorative terms like "limousine liberal" (American), "champagne socialist" (British), "Chardonnay socialist" (Australian), or "caviar leftist" (French) are often found applied to this type. Sympathetic portrayals will usually suggest that liberal values and financial success aren't contradictory, and may in fact invoke such ideals as the "Gospel of wealth" or noblesse oblige as a justification for it.

Ironically, this insulting depiction originated in the 1890s on the left rather than the right, with Populists in the United States and Labourites in Britain using it to mock their more bourgeois Democratic/Liberal counterparts. Conservatives began to co-opt it in the mid-20th century, although one could argue that it is the "bohemian" rather than the "bourgeois" part of the equation that truly offends them.

Often someone's Hippie Parents, and often Nouveau Riche, having earned their comfortable living after a poor and rebellious youth.

See also: The Man Is Sticking It to the Man, Rule-Abiding Rebel, Fox News Liberal, and Upper-Class Twit. If the aging character becomes conservative rather than retains their counterculture values, they're a Former Teen Rebel. Bourgeois Bumpkin is almost this trope, but with the political ideology flipped and combined with It's All About Me. Cool People Rebel Against Authority may motivate young Hipster Bobos.


  • Underground Comics artist Mary Fleener met some of these people. Like an ex-hippie girl turned stereotype yuppie, and a former (female) drug dealer who became a realtor.

Comic Strips
  • British cartoonist Posy Simmonds spent much of the 1980s satirising this type of person in her comic strips for The Guardian, whose readership tended that way.

  • The trope image features Greg's parents (Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand) in Meet the Fockers: They are pretty much well-off, and they also embrace some pretty weird activities (an over-the-top parody of New Age beliefs popular at the time).
  • Jane in It's Complicated, though her ex-husband seems to be more of the businessman type.
  • Everybody in The Big Chill, being part of the counterculture while studying at an Ivy League campus.
  • Team America: World Police casts a number of Hollywood celebrities as wealthy liberal activists who try to aid Kim Jong-Il.
  • Varying degrees in the main characters in The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions, by Quebecois director Denys Arcand.
  • Coherence: This is Beth's characterization. The film takes place in her very nice home, so she's obviously wealthy. She mentions a number of New Age beliefs and habitually uses recreational drugs.
  • Ferdinand in Pierrot Le Fou is so pissed off by this type that he abandons his family and goes on a existentialist rampage with his children's nanny.
  • Cleo in The Scribbler. She dresses in hippie/gypsy garb, her speech tends towards Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, and she doesn't go anywhere without her pet boa constrictor draped around her shoulders.

  • New York Times columnist and PBS/NPR commentator David Brooks coined the term "Bourgeois Bohemian" in his 2000 nonfiction book Bobos in Paradise. He admits in the book's introduction that he himself probably counts as one.
  • Discussed and critiqued in the non-fiction book The Rebel Sell as part of the shifting values of the political left from old-school socialism to counterculture hipsterism, and how these values have fed the consumer culture they claim to resent.
  • Similarly discussed in Thomas Frank's 2004 book What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. He charges that many of the U.S. political class's wealthy leftists are not really leftists at all; they are "libertarian" (which in American political parlance roughly equals "moderate conservative") opportunists who feign politically correct attitudes in order to appeal to more upscale (and ostensibly more sophisticated) urban and suburban voters in the "blue states". Conversely, those elites who live in the "red states" generally prefer to act like right-wing culture warriors in order to court the more downscale (and generally more traditionalist) constituents of America's conservative coalition. Regardless of ideology, Frank proposes, each of these groups of political insiders care only about maintaining the status quo and have no problem with screwing the most economically vulnerable of their respective constituencies.
  • 1632: Thomas "Stoner" Stone is a last-wave hippie, whose knowledge of chemistry (he made LSD in the sixties) has made him one of the richest men in Europe, with a personal fortune that rivals that of many nations. He is completely devoted to the ideals of peace, love and understanding, in word and deed. For example, he refuses payment for all medicines he makes, only making money from dyes and cosmetics. Profiting from people's vanity is OK, profiting from their pain is not.
  • In The Island, India is an example of this, although her sister Birdie is much more conservative. India is the widow of a famous artist and herself is a college professor.
  • The Chalfen family of White Teeth is a mixed Jewish/Catholic couple (though they don't practice either religion) who were former hippies with a strong interest in Hinduism and other "alternative" religions. The novel shows that, about two decades later, they are raising a family of overachieving children in a suburb in North London. While (to their credit) the Chalfens send their kids to a comprehensive, note  they are also shown (by their magazine subscriptions) to be strong aficionados of socialism, anarchism, what-have-you despite their material comfort (the mother is a successful author of gardening books, while the father is a cutting-edge genetic engineer). The book portrays them more or less sympathetically: they are not arrogant or hypocritical, just incredibly clueless about reality (like when they take a gang member who goes to their kids' school under their wing and show him great compassion even though he is very angry and rude and a potential terrorist).

Live-Action TV
  • Family Ties, which is centered around the conflicts between Bobo parents and their Reaganite conservative offspring.
  • The Hillard-Findlay family from Maude is an early example: An upper-middle class household which supports the liberal side of the main issues of the 1970s, most notably feminism.
  • Nora Walker on Brothers and Sisters, who is a classic upper-middle class housewife who drives a Prius and fervently supports socially-liberal causes, but lives in a huge house and throws extravagant parties.
  • Paul Kinsey on Mad Men is the beatnik version.
  • Portlandia makes fun of the counter-culture scene of Portland, Oregon. Many characters are middle-aged professionals with bohemian values.
  • You could also definitely include Warren and Lois Whelan—Debra's wealthy (or at least upper middle-class) parents—from Everybody Loves Raymond. When they first appear, Ray, Frank, and Marie are not looking forward to it, groaning about how much Warren and Lois basically embody this trope to a tee, and how different their own blue-collar family is from the Whelans. When they arrive later in the episode, Hilarity Ensues obviously. Over the course of the series, Warren and Lois continue to embody this trope, leading to more awkwardness (and hilarity) when they and the Barones interact.
  • George in Bored to Death, played by Ted Danson, is a pot-smoking hippy who runs a magazine similar to The New Yorker. He's quite wealthy, but still has his left-wing lifestyle and opinions. In the second season, he suffers a serious clash of cultures when his magazine is bought out by a right-wing organization.
  • French Canadian sketch comedy Les Bobos is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a satirical depiction of a couple of Bourgeois Bohemians living in Montreal's hippest neighborhood.
  • In Saxondale Tommy Saxondale and Mags are a New-Age Retro Hippie and Granola Girl respectively but live in a fairly middle-class suburban neighborhood, and own their own businesses. Of course, being a Brit Com, this contradiction is the whole point of the show.
  • The Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who is an extremely weird variation of this archetype. His appearance and personality is modelled on Victorian bohemians like Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec and Oscar Wilde, but he has as much material wealth as he needs, is technically a Lord and possesses lots of stereotypically upper-class mannerisms and interests. He makes a great show of being anti-authoritarian and his hatred of it is genuine, but spends much of his run as the puppet of the Time Lords, fulfilling their orders.
  • The girls of Girls fall somewhere between being this and Hipsters.
  • Pretty much the same for the gang in Friends (understandably since it's set in 1990s-2000s NY), although veering more on the "hipster" territory.

  • Private Eye satirised this kind of attitude in affluent students during the Occupy movement, where an Occupy protester wrote in to the (fictional) letters page asking for fashion advice on her protest outfit. "My hammer and sickle earrings I bought from Etsy."

  • This sort of character is referenced in Don Henley's haunting hit song "The Boys of Summer," which is about aging and looking back at the past. The particularly poignant line "saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" paints a harsh image of contrast: The Grateful Dead represented a freewheeling lifestyle (they openly encouraged bootlegging and it is a large part of Deadhead culture), while Cadillacs are expensive symbols of luxury and social status. (The Ataris' cover version changes the sticker to Black Flag, which is ironic conisdering that Black Flag singer Henry Rollins now pitches for Infiniti.)
  • "Les Bobos", a song by French singer Renaud, is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a satirical portrayal of Bourgeois Bohemians. At the end of the song, the singer acknowledges that he may be one of them.

  • Keating! The Musical has the title character assure the audience that "there's nothing wrong with being inner-city elite" in his first song. Paul Keating, the former Australian Prime Minister on whose career the musical is based, is probably the highest ranking Bobo in Australian history.
  • In RENT, a criticism against the character of Mark is that he's from an upper-class background (Scarsdale is a real suburb of New York City and one of the wealthiest in the area), and his poverty is largely self-imposed; even if he doesn't take any help from his parents, he has the skills to land a job in the media but considers that "selling out." Collins is another example, being a college professor between teaching gigs, and what we know of his life implies that he comes from money too.

Video Games

Web Original
  • Stuff White People Like's definition of "white people" generally refers to American, metropolitan, bicoastal, college-educated liberals, and includes a lot of Bourgeois Bohemian tastes. The initialism "SWPL" is sometimes used by conservative critics as a pejorative term for the type of people described here. (This can be considered ironic - even tragic - if you accept the premise that many white people become liberals in order to avoid being mocked for being stereotypical white conservatives.)
  • Conservapedia ascribes this trait to basically any left-winger who isn't a Bomb Throwing Anarchist. Incredibly, they lump even historian Howard Zinn in with the pack, even though Zinn insisted he was not a liberal but a radical, and his People's History of the United States is very sympathetic to working-class Americans, including those white working-class Americans whom conservatives like to insist are so persecuted.

Western Animation
  • Though he's technically part of a blue-collar household, Brian Griffin of Family Guy has most of the stereotypical traits of this type, up to and including driving a Toyota Prius.
  • In the South Park episode "Smug Alert", the adult residents of San Francisco are portrayed as bourgeois bohemians who are so smug and self-satisfied that they enjoy the smell of their own farts.
  • Though usually simply an Upper-Class Twit, Bruce Wayne's (platonic) friend Veronica Vreeland on Batman: The Animated Series also donated much of her family's fortunes to conservationist causes, sometimes at fancy public events held to promote those causes. Selina Kyle, who considers herself a true animal-rights activist, once observed that Veronica could possibly be getting involved in those causes because she feels tremendous guilt about all the endangered species her ancestors shot when they were big-game hunters. Bruce has defended Veronica on at least one occasion, noting that, whatever her motivation, at least she is doing something socially responsible with her money, which is more than can be said for most other rich folk in Gotham we see on the show.

Real Life
  • Celebrities in the arts and entertainment industries are often Bourgeois Bohemians, probably due to their combination of wealth and liberal arts backgrounds.
    Michael K.: Every morning Kristen Stewart opens up her closet and as she looks at all her clothes, she asks herself, 'What would Allen Ginsberg wear?'
    • Movie stars such as George Clooney, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sean Penn, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, and Eva Longoria are notable examples of well-heeled celebrities who stump for liberal causes.
    • Leonardo DiCaprio has become the poster-boy for this trope in recent years. His penchant for dating supermodels almost half his age and plans to preserve a tropical island by turning it into a resort for rich people seem to be distilling the bohemian aspect.
    • Peter Coyote is the Batman of limousine liberals. By day he's the very picture of sophistication; all Windsor knots and wingtip shoes. By night he dons his Crocodile Dundee hat, smokes some peyote and blasts off to save the rainforest once again. He's said that he'd rather be an activist than an actor, but he's managed to reconcile the two lives without any hassle.
    • Michael Moore makes documentaries that criticize big business and support working class families, and has made himself wealthy in the process.
    • Examples in the music industry include Barbra Streisand, Roger Waters, Bono, Michael Stipe, and Neil Portnow, head of NARAS (which gives the Grammy Awards), who once used his annual address at the Grammys to editorialize on the Iraq War.
    • Henry Rollins is a punk rock icon who now regularly gives spoken-word performances from his liberal point of view. He's obviously made quite a lot of money over the years from his music, acting roles and voice-over gigs. He's now the voice of Infiniti luxury automobiles. He provides a defense of old punk rockers "selling out" and allowing their music to appear in advertisements.
  • Hipsters, especially teens and college kids from middle or upper-middle class families, are often the junior version of this trope. Too young to have fully entered the work force, they tend to espouse strongly liberal, counterculture and anti-establishment views from a position of material comfort.
  • Places in the U.S. likely to be considered havens for these types of people include the San Francisco Bay Area and the Westside of Los Angeles in California; Boston, Massachusetts (and the nearby suburbs of Cambridge and Brookline); Seattle, Washington; Portland and Eugene in Oregon; Austin, Texas; Boulder, Colorado; the Twin Cities area in Minnesota; the North Side of Chicago; Madison, Bay View, or Milwaukee's east side in Wisconsin; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Park City, Utah; Hoboken and downtown Jersey City in New Jersey; New York City, specifically the gentrified parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn; Georgetown in Washington, D.C; and northern Virginia.
  • Common in any community with a 'flagship' public school or prestigious university. The prestige ensures top-flight academic staff, who also exhibit the same tendency as the student body. Students settle down there after graduation and the already-high levels attract even more Bourgeois Bohemians, causing a feedback effect.
  • In Britain, there are certain things that are associated with this trope. For instance, people who live in Islington are generally seen as an example, to the point where the word "Islington" itself has become synonymous with this sort of stereotype. Also, people who read the upmarket left-wing paper The Guardian are also seen being this-the paper's editorial slant is towards socialistic, anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist opinions but being a national daily newspaper it still carries the usual magazine features on high-end holidays, fashion, food, restaurants, house-buying etc. There's even an often unintentionally amusing 'Ethical Living' page. The term "Guardianista" has become the rightpondian equivalent of "latte-liberal".
  • British Labour prime minister Tony Blair came in for heavy criticism when it emerged one of his children had been sent to a private school instead of a state school.
  • Russell Brand once sourly commented (in an interview for The Guardian, appropriately enough) on being seen as this trope. "When I was poor and I complained about inequality people said I was bitter, now I'm rich and I complain about inequality they say I'm a hypocrite."
  • Many Chilean artists tend to strongly attack the neo-liberal economical model in the country that promotes classism, discrimination, right-wing political parties and lack of opportunities for the poor as well as the upper-class privilege and the heirs of the Pinochet economic and social models. However, most of the recognized Chilean artists, and specially filmmakers, come from very wealthy families, studied in the best private schools and went to study to international universities with their parents' money. Many are distinguished by their Anglo-Saxon surnames, as opposed to the Hispanic names of the middle and lower classes.
    • Andres Wood made the critical and commercially acclaimed film Machuca, a direct attack to social segregation and how it was boosted by Pinochet's action, but Wood himself comes from a very wealthy family. The private school shown in the film is the same where he studied.
    • Filmmaker Marcela Said, with films such as I love Pinochet and El Verano de los Peces Voladores. The former is a mockery of people that support the dictator, while the latter is about a wealthy family that owns land that belonged to Mapuches. Rhe first film attacks the social class that she comes from, and the second portrays Mapuches as violent uncultured people.