The hipster grifter: Harbinger of a new world?

Robin Hood, if he ever existed, has been dust for centuries. However, his legacy -- the myth of the populist criminal -- continues to thrive. In the 1930's, rural bandits like Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger were folk heroes to poor farmers who felt abused by the banks. A few decades later, marijuana-toking free spirits were the order of the day for 1960's and 1970's anti-establishment types. These, in turn, were replaced by slick, well-educated corporate criminals like Ivan Boesky, Martha Stewart, Michael Milkin and Sam Waksal. Each generation seems to choose its criminal avatar to represent its ideals and desires.

Today, the popular anger at Bernie Madoff, Dick Fuld, Allen Stanford and John Thain suggests that the era of the corporate criminal is coming to an end. Whereas the ability to defraud thousands of investors was once perceived as the prerogative of clever money men, it now smacks of unfair privilege and anti-social abuse. The question is, if the master schemer is out, who is going to replace him?

One likely candidate is the hipster grifter. Young, urban, sophisticated and amoral, the grifter lands somewhere between Charles Bukowski and David Bowie, and seems to view his (or more precisely, her) crimes with ironic attachment.

Exhibit A is Kari Farrell, a young Korean club dweller with great taste in music, a tenuous relationship with the truth, and an awesome collection of tattoos. Farrell is from Salt Lake City, where she managed to get herself on the town's ten most wanted list through a combination of retail theft, forgery, and check fraud. In 2008, she pulled up stakes and moved to Brooklyn, leaving behind a slew of angry lawmen and a passel of broken hearts.

Once she got to New York, Farrell found the offices of Vice magazine, where a combination of a trumped-up resume and a lot of attitude got her hired on the spot. As Gawker has noted, it seems strange that, in the middle of a recession, a con artist with nonexistent references was hired so quickly. Another site, Jezebel has suggested that Farrell's Korean heritage may also have had something to do with her immediate popularity: "as anyone who's been to a Williamsburg [New York] art opening knows, for a lot of these dudes, having an Asian girlfriend is some kind of weird fetish [and] Vice has never made any bones about its love of hot Asian women."

Regardless, Farrell quickly wore out her welcome at the magazine, where her extremely aggressive sexual behavior and abuse of her employer's name led one of her co-workers to Google her. He quickly discovered her Salt Lake City wanted poster, and Vice informed her that her services were no longer needed.

Reading through the accounts of Farrell's victims, one is quickly struck by the number of hyphens involved in her circle. Writer-bartenders, about-to-make-it-musicians, and could-have-been-doctors abound, and all seem inclined to wax poetic about the petite Korean girl with the hard come-ons and the unorthodox banking habits. With page after page of first-person accounts filling up the internet, it seems that Kari is well on her way to becoming a legend, at least in the hipster demimonde. Can a movie -- or at least a couple of really bad songs -- be far behind?
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