Wednesday, April 23, 2008

That Is So Emo!

There are many different definitions and descriptions for the word "emo"; usually referring to the word as a subculture or music genre. Here are some descriptions I have heard over the years:

1. Punk music on estrogen.

2. Angsty teens.

3. 16-year-olds who don't smile.

4. Melodramatic white kids.

5. Male singers in their twenties whose balls haven't dropped yet, causing them to have ridiculously high pitched voices. Or, if their testicles have in fact dropped, their pants are so tight that they cut off the circulation in the singer's testicular area, therefore raising his voice.

Over the recent years, "emo" has become a negative term. Why? What did emo ever do to you?

Here is the real problem with "emo". Nobody actually knows what it really means! There has never been a set definition for the term. It has been used to describe a genre of music, people with hair that covers half their faces, suicidal teens, and more. In 2008, however, it is mostly used as an insult accusing people of being over emotional (because god forbid a person actually feels something). Before I go into the analysis aspects of the term, let me give a brief description of the history.

The term "emo" was originally used in the 1980s to describe the hardcore punk scene in Washington D.C. (and that music does not sound like the stereotypical emo song does today). The uprising violence of the hardcore scene in the area cause some of the hardcore band leaders to experiment with a new sound (this being the starts of emo). The term has been used in many different ways since the 80s; now it is mostly used in fashion and in describing those who are shy, depressed, angsty, and suicidal.

Now for the analysis:

This country's obsession with emo is spread by things like this:


Obviously this is ridiculous. And there have been several news reports like this on television. I went to school with so-called "emo kids" and they turned out just fine. Here's another shocking revelation: an older brother of a student at my high school committed suicide a few years ago and he was an athlete!!! I know it's shocking, but it's true.

The bottom line is, being a teenager is hard, no matter what stereotype you fit in to. Adults see a "phenomenon" such as emo and overreact. "BUT WE MUST NOT REACT WITH FEAR!" Haha. Sorry. Anyways, they see this group as an "other" and react badly to what they do not understand. As a culture, we tend to reject what doesn't fit into our mold. If there is an uprising of something that is "outside the box" the mainstream culture feels threatened by the differences (hence the term sub or counter-culture). When this threat hits, the mainstream tends to focus on the extremes. For example, that news report focused on self-harm and self-mutilation. I am not denying that there are suicidal teens in the United States; but they aren't just part of this "emo culture". Here is another example of focusing on extremes: a man stood outside my work one day protesting the legal marriage of homosexuals. As my homosexual manager helped escourt him off the premise he asked the man why it mattered to him. The man's response went something like this, "First comes same sex, then comes bestiality." It is this extreme nature of our society that gives things like homosexuality, emo, and Britney a bad reputation.

Well, maybe not Britney.


theDestroyers said...

Poor emo's kids they are usually kids that need help and have been hurt just like some of the goths who feel like outsiders and prone to drug abuse and depression. while emo seems like a weird subculture it just might be a scream for attention help from the adults around them.
Lets help the Emo's not make fun of them

Jessica S. said...

Just to clarify, this post was not meant to make fun of the emo subculture. There was an element of sarcasm to my writing, yes, but not directed towards these teenagers. I focused on drawing attention to the stereotypes (hence the list at the beginning) and how the image of emo has transformed over the years. The view society has of these kids is due to videos like the one on my post. It is a stereotype. Yes, emo kids have issues, but so does every other teenager. Some kids just have different ways of screaming for help.

Jessica S.

Rod said...

Well first let me go off and say yes, the emo subculture did arise from the 80s Washington D.C. hardcore scene, specifically from Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Fugazi, but not out of the violence. In fact emo as we know it today is a far cry from those bands. In fact Ian MacKaye which is associated with all those bands explicitly did not appreciate the term "emo". I dug up this link of a video where Ian shares his feelings on emo (turn it up, its kind of low)

What we have here is
Incorporation in action. Bands such as "My Chemical Romance" and "Taking Back Sunday" are, lets face it, just not appealing to a lot of people and especially the punk community. Its a incorporated culture that, I think, annoyes a lot of people because the members think themselves as excorporated. Maybe Im overgeneralizing, but through my experience this is what I found to be evident.