Follow TV Tropes


Bourgeois Bohemian

Go To

"A bohemian-looking girl with dreadlocks floated past in a long paisley dress, but a five-thousand-pound handbag revealed that her hippy credentials were as fake as Tempest's disability."

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

The defining trait of the Bourgeois Bohemian (Bobo for short) is that, while they belong to the upper or upper-middle class in socioeconomic terms, their values are often inherited from the New Left and countercultural movements of the 1960s. Expect very open attitudes towards issues such as religion, sexuality, and recreational drugs, as well as support for liberal or progressive political causes. A fondness for state-owned/funded media — e.g. NPR (National Public Radio, USA), PBS (Public Broadcasting System, USA), CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), and The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) — is also common, as is a tendency to shop at places like the USA's "organic" Whole Foods Market chain.


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. Sympathetic portrayals will usually suggest that socialist principles and wealth aren't incompatible, and may in fact invoke such ideals as the "Gospel of wealth" or noblesse oblige as a justification for it.

The trope originated as an insulting depiction in the 1890s, and among Socialists rather than the nationalists, with Populists in the United States and Labourites in Britain using it to mock their more bourgeois liberal/socialist counterparts. These people have also been called "champagne socialists" in the U.K., "gauche caviar" in France, and "limousine liberals" in the U.S. Anti-liberal and anti-socialist nationalists and 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 given their sympathy towards 'the right kind' of liberalism. The term itself, however, comes from the 2000 book Bobos in Paradise by The New York Times's conservative columnist David Brooks. Brooks identified "bobos" as Baby Boomers like himself who had grown up with the individualistic, do-it-yourself ethos of the 1960s counterculture, but now found themselves in The '90s as well-off middle-aged professionals. It's significant that in Brooks' conception, the "bourgeois" is the dominant element rather than the "bohemian".


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.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • In Runaways, Frank and Leslie Dean are an extremely cynical version of the Bourgeois Bohemian, pretending to be reformed hippies in order to disguise the fact that they're actually alien criminals.
  • Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, has become the main superhero comics representative of this archetype over the years. Quite how rich and powerful he is, and quite how sincere and thoughtful his politics are, tends to vary with how sympathetically the writer views him.

    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.
  • Vitriolically parodied in John Fardell's Viz strips "The Modern Parents" and "The Critics". The protagonists of both are wealthy, privileged cultural leftists with shallow, ignorant politics, who are massively socially and intellectually snobbish.

    Fan Works 

  • 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).
  • Ben Stiller's real parents in Flirting with Disaster, played by Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin, are a pair of aging, affluent hippies who still use drugs recreationally.
  • Jane in It's Complicated, though her ex-husband seems to be more of the businessman type.
  • Everybody in The Big Chill, having been part of the '60s counterculture while studying at the University of Michigan.
  • 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.
  • Dean and Missy Armitage in Get Out are a villainous example. Upper-middle class suburbanites who go out of their way to present themselves as progressive and non-racist people, this doesn't stop them from being incredibly condescending towards Chris, treating young black people like human props, and ultimately stealing their bodies so they can enjoy extended lives with the "physical advantages" of being young and black.
  • Trumbo: Dalton Trumbo is a wealthy screenwriter as well as an unashamed Communist, as was Truth in Television.

  • 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, 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).
  • Young Jolyon from The Forsyte Saga is very much a political liberal by the standards of the time. He left his first wife and his eldest daughter to live with another woman, start a family with her and become an artist. And even after he inherits his father's fortune, which makes it possible for him to raise also his younger three children in an upper middle class lifestyle, he sticks by his ideals and remains the antipole to his conservative cousin Soames.
  • In Madicken, Madicken's father is a newspaper editor, so he's rich enough to give his daughters a priviledged upper middle class upbringing. And the family belongs to the upper crust of the small town. Even so, he is proud to be a socialist and gets really angry when other rich people treat poor people badly.

    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.
  • thirtysomething also lives for this trope. All of the main characters first became friends as part of the '60s counterculture, and have become standard-issue '80s yuppies.
  • 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 (although he does show notable resentment whenever he's aware this is happening and usually only plays along because not doing so would be catastrophic on a potentially world-or-universe-ending level, which the Time Lords of course exploit).
  • Frankie of Grace and Frankie, is a combination of Hippie, New Age and far-left stereotypes. But she is also clearly accustomed to the high standard of living she enjoyed as a lawyer's wife and has a history of making expensive purchases, ironically intended to help her get more in touch with the spiritual and less with the material.

  • 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."

  • Phil Ochs' "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" attacks this type from the left.
    I go to civil rights rallies
    And I put down the old D.A.R.
    I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
    I hope every colored boy becomes a star
    But don't talk about revolution
    That's going a little bit too far
    So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
  • 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.
  • The Pulp song "Common People" is a Take That! to one of these.
    Rent a flat above a shop
    Cut your hair and get a job
    Smoke some fags and play some pool
    Pretend you never went to school
    But still you'll never get it right
    'Cos when you're laid in bed at night
    Watching roaches climb the wall
    If you called your Dad he could stop it all
  • Mocked in the Dead Kennedys song "Holiday in Cambodia"
    Play ethnicky jazz
    To parade your snazz
    On your five grand stereo
    Braggin' that you know
    How the niggers feel cold
    And the slums got so much soul

  • 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 and right-wing critics as a pejorative term for the type of people described here.

    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 typically portrayed as an Upper-Class Twit, Bruce Wayne's (platonic) friend, Veronica Vreeland, on Batman: The Animated Series had donated much of her family's fortunes to various charities (mostly stuff relating to animals and the environment, but especially animals). Selina Kyle (aka, Catwoman), who doesn't consider Veronica to a be a "real" animal rights activist, argues that Veronica's only doing what she's doing for appearances and possibly because she feels guilty about all the endangered species her ancestors shot when they were big-game hunters. Bruce Wayne (aka, Batman) has come to Veronica's defense at least once, pointing out that whatever Veronica's motivation is, she's at least doing something responsible with her family's fortune (something that ultimately benefits society). And that's still way more than what can be said for most of the other rich people in Gotham City (at least from what's seen on the show).


Video Example(s):


Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier

The Princess means well, but she's just too spoiled to really comprehend anything.

Example of:

Main / BourgeoisBohemian