Follow TV Tropes

Following

Bourgeois Bohemian

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_1rsz_franke2.png

"These are highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success."
David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise

The Bourgeois Bohemian (or "BoBo") is what the Hipster or Granola Girl often turns into once they've hit middle age and joined the management team, or what the New-Age Retro Hippie might have become had they not dropped out.

The defining trait of Bourgeois Bohemians is that, while they belong comfortably to the upper or upper-middle class in socioeconomic terms, their tastes and values are often inherited from the counterculture and New Left movements of The '60s. Expect for them to have very open attitudes towards religion and spirituality (or the lack thereof), sexuality (free love, LGBT+), and recreational drug use, and to champion liberal or progressive causes (such as saving the rainforest or protecting endangered species in remote places).

They are avid consumers of culture, particularly from left-of-center, state-owned or funded media — e.g. PBS (Public Broadcasting Service, USA), NPR (National Public Radio, USA), CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), and The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). They love organic, locally sourced, hand-crafted, and artisanal products but will also often buy expensive high-end tools, appliances and gear to pursue their hobbies.

Typically disdaining conventional suburban tract housing, their home might be a unique mansion in an affluent old neighborhood or a swanky condo right in the heart of the big city, but it's always decked out in exotic handcrafted decorations and art from around the world, often from their globe-trotting trips.

Unsympathetic examples of the trope will often be portrayed as being hypocritical about their wealth, criticizing other wealthy elites while sharing much of their income bracket and lifestyle, including carbon dioxide-producing air travel to far-off countries. Sympathetic portrayals will usually suggest that progressive 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. They may even be portrayed as a Cool Old Guy or Cool Old Lady.

The trope originated in the 1890s as an insulting depiction of well-off city dwellers. The trope emerged 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. The term changed a bit over the 1900s. These people have also been called "champagne socialists" in the U.K., "gauche caviar" in France, and "limousine liberals" or "latte liberals" in the U.S. Anti-liberal and anti-socialist nationalists and conservatives began to co-opt it in the mid-20th century. The term itself, however, comes from the 2000 book Bobos in Paradise by the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks. Brooks identified Bourgeois Bohemians — "bobos" for short — 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, often in creative or technology industries.

Often someone's Hippie Parents, and often Self-Made Man and Nouveau Riche, having earned their comfortable living after a poor and rebellious youth. A bobo could also be a yuppie if the young urban professional is politically left-leaning.

See also: The Man Is Sticking It to the Man, Rich Kid Turned Social Activist, Rule-Abiding Rebel, Fox News Liberal, Upper-Class Twit, and Girlboss Feminist. If the aging character becomes conservative rather than retains their counterculture values, they're a Former Teen Rebel. Cool People Rebel Against Authority may motivate young Hipster Bobos.

This has nothing to do with the upper-middle-class citizens of a region in the Czech Republic.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Underground Comics artist Mary Fleener met some of these people. Like an ex-hippie girl turned stereotypical 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • Most of the original main characters in Doonesbury are this, to the point where it actually becomes a plot point in the Animated Adaptation A Doonesbury Special.
  • British cartoonist Posy Simmonds spent much of the 1980s satirizing 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 
  • Anywhere But Here: Unlike the rest of her family, Pink had aspirations of joining the arts (singing mostly) and had various negative things to say about her family's company, both in how it exploits its workers and how much it damages the environment. When it was made clear that her parents and grandmother did not care whether she wanted to join the family business or not, she ended up running away with Pearl, faking her own death, and becoming active protester Rose.
  • Mary Parker in Lies of omission has a love of crystals and holistic healing and is a firm believer in them, though Peter claims that it's all a part of her life-defining habit of controlling everything, in this case her health.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Everybody in The Big Chill, having been part of the '60s counterculture while studying at the University of Michigan.
  • Varying degrees in the main characters in The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions, by Quebecois director Denys Arcand. They like to talk about sex and left-wing politics and the emptiness of conventional morality, but they're all super-bourgeois types that drink wine and eat fancy salmon dinners.
  • 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 an 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.
  • Knives Out has Joni Thrombrey and her daughter Meg as another negative example. Joni is a lifestyle guru who was married to the wealthy Harlan Thrombrey's son before he died, while Meg is a college student majoring in an obscure social science major at an expensive liberal arts college. Both of them espouse progressive, left-wing views while relying on Harlan's money to fund their expensive lifestyles. Once it's revealed that Harlan has cut them out of his will after discovering Joni was embezzling him and plans on giving everything to his underprivileged, in-house nurse and friend Marta, the two of them show their true colors and attempt to blackmail her into giving the inheritance to them by threatening to get her mother deported so they can continue to live their comfy, superficial lifestyles.
  • Irresistible: A Democratic mayoral candidate for a small Wisconsin town must fly to Washington DC to have a fundraiser luncheon with wealthy liberals who will ultimately donate millions of dollars to his campaign. The main character, a Democratic political strategist, is himself an example, being liberal as well as culturally out of touch with working-class America.
  • Father of the Bride (2022): Adan is from a rich family but is a vegetarian and enough of a hippie to want his guru to officiate the wedding.

    Literature 
  • 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 she is a college professor.
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying: In a period-accurate version of the trope, Gordonís friend Philip Ravelston hails from an old-money family, yet publishes the melodramatically-named magazine Antichrist which espouses radical Socialism. Ravelston is rich enough that he can afford to crank out this obscure publication, overpay Gordon and several similar writers and lead a relatively sumptuous lifestyle, all the while lacking any actual job.
  • 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 privileged 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.
  • Sir Henry Merrivale is the 1930s equivalent: from an aristocratic family, he's nevertheless a Socialist who enjoys an evening in the pub playing darts with the proletariat.
  • Gary Karkofsky AKA Merciless: The Supervillain without MercyTM from The Supervillainy Saga eventually becomes this. Gary starts off as having a strongly anti-capitalist angry punk view of the world that he is fighting "The Man" as a supervillain against. However, he then actually succeeds (at least in Falconcrest City) and wipes out the establishment (that turned out to be an evil cult) before stealing their billions. From that point on, he uses the money to help the have-nots in the city but is still extremely wealthy.

    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 that 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.
  • Beef: Jordan, the home improvement chain store owner Amy is hoping to sell her small business to, expresses interest in the art and philosophies of other cultures and has an otherwise 'zen' (read: wishywashy) personality.
  • Nora Walker in Brothers & Sisters 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.
  • Jonah in Super Store is a college-educated metrosexual leftist who is the son of two psychologists, working for a dystopian mega-corporation with most of his fellow workers being high school educated at best, and due to their workload and personal problems, unable to care much about anything more than living paycheck to paycheck. The other employees constantly give him shit for it, Garrett especially. This part of his personality eventually develops into leading the attempt to unionise the store, and later he decides to run for city council.
  • George in Bored to Death, played by Ted Danson, is a pot-smoking hippie 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 are 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.
  • Dickinson: Thoreau came off like this. Despite his claims about "living alone in the woods" he was actually right near civilization, his mother doing the cooking and his laundry. He's a well-off man who can quit whenever he'd like and is only indulging in this haphazardly to make a point of valuing nature.
  • Schitt's Creek: David Rose and his whole social scene are artistic bohemians from extremely wealthy backgrounds. His photographer ex-boyfriend Sebastien Raine is a specific example, being a globetrotting, pretentious artist who looks scruffy but, as David puts it, "is wearing an expensive sweater that doesn't look expensive."
  • The White Lotus plays with this trope:
    • Tanya is a 60-something wealthy white woman who loves holistic wellness and is impressed when she thinks a date is involved with Black Lives Matter. However, she ultimately falls short of her ideals when she convinces a working-class black woman, Belinda, to believe that she's going to bankroll a business with her only to abandon Belinda (with a huge tip) to work on herself.
    • Olivia is the daughter of a wealthy family and expresses left-leaning political beliefs in conversation. However, she's also a sociopath and is probably just being fashionable. Her friendship with the non-white and less economically advantaged Paula is shown to be a predatory relationship.
  • The social circle of Granola Girl Love Quinn in You (2018). Her parents Ray and Dottie are old-money Californians who started a hip, ethical grocery store named Anavrin (Nirvana backwards); Love manages one. Ray and Dottie are introduced at their 30-year vow renewal (called a "Wellkend"), where guests dress in linen, affirm each other, do weed, "confront their inner id", the works. However, they turn out to be abusive parents. When Joe meets Love's friends, the type of pattern-wearing, wealthy Angelinos who are concerned with things like reiki and Ayurveda, he scoffs at the privilege they have to be making such ethical choices but grows to like them anyway.

    Music 
  • Phil Ochs's "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" attacks this type from the left for only supporting left-wing aims as long as it isn't personally inconvenient to them.
    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
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead", a Take That! to the bourgeois bohemian, hippie, and yuppie lifestyles:
    I don't care about your karma, I don't care about what's hip, No space cadet's gonna tell me what to do...
    I can't stand the smell of incense, I don't really like to jog, No Joni Mitchell eight-tracks in my car;
    I hate anything organic, even health food makes me sick, You won't catch me sipping Perrier down in some sushi bar.
    I don't want no part of that vegetarian scene, I won't buy me a pair of designer jeans, No redwood hot tub to my name...
  • 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 became ironic when Black Flag singer Henry Rollins started pitching 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
  • The Rolling Stones's "Salt Of The Earth" from Beggars Banquet is sung from the perspective of affluent liberals who lionize the working class as compliant underclasses who they have never have to interact or deal with personally:
    Let's drink to the hardworking people
    Let's drink to the lowly of birth
    Raise your glass to the good and the evil
    Let's drink to the salt of the earth...

    When I search a faceless crowd
    A swirling mass of gray and black and white
    They don't look real to me
    In fact they look so strange...

    Theater 
  • 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 the play, his Bobo mannerisms are contrasted with the bogan-like tendencies of both his predecessor Bob Hawke and his successor John Howard.
  • 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 
  • The show-within-the-game Impotent Rage in Grand Theft Auto V is a mocking parody of this trope. Its protagonist Braxton Hunter is a billionaire liberal CEO who moonlights as the titular superhero like a mix of Bruce Wayne and Ted Turner, and whose efforts to help the world inevitably make things worse. His Arch-Enemy, the Uberman, is an ultra-libertarian Corrupt Corporate Executive who destroys the environment simply because it's fun and frequently thwarts Impotent Rage largely due to the latter's own incompetence.
  • Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077, is a downplayed version. He's a Bomb Throwing Anarchist who frequently criticizes people for being part of the System and not standing up to the Man, which is perfectly valid considering the dystopian setting, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that Johnny is anything less than absolutely sincere in his beliefs considering he gave his life for the cause. But unlike most of the people he yells at, Johnny is also a wealthy rockstar, edgerunner and investor for whom money was never an issue, making it easier for him to oppose the system when he has nothing forcing him to be a part of it.
    • Jackie Welles' girlfriend Misty Olszewski is implied to be this. While her exact economic status is never made clear, it's implied that she's a lot more well-off than she looks since she makes references to having made trips around the world despite the fact that her day job is running an esoteric goods shop as well as being a Ripperdoc nurse. Unlike Johnny, however, Misty is a genuinely kind-hearted and empathetic woman who does what she can to help the people around her.

    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.
  • The "SJW Sally" meme is all about this kind of person, decrying all sorts of perceived injustices that she embodies.

    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 fortune to various charities (mostly stuff relating to animals and the environment, but especially animals). Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman), who doesn't consider Veronica to 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 (a.k.a. Batman) has come to Veronica's defense at least once, pointing out that regardless of whatever Veronica's motivation is, she's at least doing something responsible with her money (something that ultimately benefits society), which is 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).
  • In Justice League Unlimited, when defending Cadmus' preparations against the Justice League, Green Arrow refers to himself as "an old lefty" and says that "the government must do for people what people can't do for themselves." While he's ultimately proven wrong about Cadmus, he's still portrayed as sympathetic and sincere. Other episodes openly bring up his left-leaning political leanings, though he never gets as vocal about it as his comic self, and it's primarily kept tongue in cheek.
    Captain Atom: (meeting Green Arrow for the first time) I'm not flesh and blood anymore, just living energy.
    Green Arrow: That wouldn't be nuclear energy, would it?
    Captain Atom: With a name like "Captain Atom" what do you think?
    Green Arrow: I think you're what I marched against in college.

 
Feedback

Video Example(s):

Top

The Princess

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

How well does it match the trope?

4.9 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / BourgeoisBohemian

Media sources:

Report