Friday, April 25, 2008

On the Existence of "Emo" - part two

I had another post on the nature of "emo" in the works. About whether a such thing as "emo" exists or if it is indeed a creation of the mainstream media. About an occurance this morning that was ironically hypocritical. But let's put that on hold, along with the Allman Brothers post and all that good stuff.

But speaking of emo and the mainstream media, this article's [link] a bit old, but it's essential reading. It's essentially a TV newscast's "explanation" of emo to scared parents who are eager to buy into wide, sweeping generalizations.

Some quotes out of it:

"Part of the guiding philosophy of emo kids is pain"
"Happiness is a sin to emo culture. In a state where the number two cause of teen death is suicide, experts say parents need to know emo culture and understand it. "
"One site instructs, dye your hair black. Style it in the gunshot wound and never be happy. "

Making things even worse, it's called "Emos Exposed". Yes, that's the name of the article. But as anyone with even the smallest bit of intelligence would ask, what is there to "expose," as you put it?

But this is, in a way, exactly the story I said I was going to postpone. Just in the convienent form of, uh... what should I call it?... "Journalism."

I attended a workshop today (loooong story) about, to quote verbatim, "Deconstructing Cliques". The idea they were trying to teach us is that we had to look beyond superficial things like race, fashion style, socioeconomic class, and appearance in grouping ourselves at school. The first thing we did was analyzed various so-called subcultures that might exist in Hollywood's Token High School. You know the type as much as anyone else - The Breakfast Club would not have been made if the dynamics between these archetypical groups did not exist. Nerds, Geeks, Thugs, "Weirdos", preps... and then emos.

The lady who was teaching the workshop had only vaguely heard the term emo, so she had some students describe it for her. Eventually, she got the gist of the comments and was able to... at least in her mind... extrapolate about emo kids - that is, if they even exist.

"So we have emo kids, who basically never look happy..."

But I imagine you see the glaring irony. It's a workshop about overcoming stereotypes and she's creating her own stereotypes. Which may or may not exist.

I'm certain someone could argue that she was just trying to see how we judged different groups that were not "our own" (whatever that is), but there was still an element of hypocrisy there.

Now... let's turn back to something less rooted in reality - that being music.


Anonymous said...

"Emo's exposed"? Do they have to turn every damn title into an alliteration to make it appealing and cute? Onto my opinion, there's a miniscule probability of understanding "emo"'s true origins. I believe it was just an underground "culture" that constantly evolved until it hybridized with some other subculture to create another one. This time, it's more apparent and mainstream (i.e. those kids with the hair on Myspace circa 2003-4). People began to see their commonalities and labeled them. However, whether it was created by the media or not is something that I ponder. I agree that mainstream media has created their own outline on what it is to be "emo", but then again everyone has. These questions are more philosophical, such as "How do we know what is truly right and wrong?" It's all man-made after all. It's always going to be relative to the person. I still stand by my comment on the last post: it's meaningless to me because it's utterly hackneyed.
This post was very insightful, and I hope you post more entries along the lines of this. In other words, an entry that gives you something to think about. Your other posts would be great if I listened to 85% of the bands you talk about..

By the way, the first Pavement song I got was "Cut your hair". It sounds (keyword there) really radio-friendly imo, but the message was true. It's ironic how this was apparently one of the most popular songs by the band.

Aaron Leclair said...

Good comment about where "emo" came from. But I'm pretty certain that the name emo itself for the specific subculture came from the early '90s. Apparently there was this band called Sunny Day Real Estate that borrowed from hardcore music and shoegazer music to create a more accessible radio-friendly sound, which was labeled "emo". So the label goes back, but our stereotypes, our misconceptions about that label (those illusttrated in the post proper) are, as you say, recent.

The fact that we argue about what it means to be emo is, I guess, a reflection of how we want to pigeon hole ourslves into groups. Is there any room in society for individuality or subjectivity? Those two are ideals that people (especially that woman who taught the workshop) look up to, but do they exist? Not really - perhaps the stereotype about grouping has some root in truth: if you don't fit in a predefined group, if you're not a conformist sheep, perhaps you are "weird". And by arguing about specific characteristics to be "in" the subculture, I guess it becomes a statement about what is truly important to us.

I began a post a looooong time ago about conforming within indie rock itself. Perhaps that would segue well into this.

Anonymous said...

"Is there any room in society for individuality or subjectivity?"

This would be impossible and I agree with the statement that it probably doesn't exist. There will be groups for everything, there is no such thing as a true "individual". OK, probably a minority, but that's not the same. No matter what you do, you will always be somehow emulating or exhibiting certain characteristics of something else.

Not really - perhaps the stereotype about grouping has some root in truth: if you don't fit in a predefined group, if you're not a conformist sheep, perhaps you are "weird".

Everyone's a conformist, unless you grew up/are still feral. Also, wouldn't "wierd" be a group in itself? In a way, you can conform to that group as well.