08 May 2008

The Emo Debate - A Mini Article

It’s become a joke now that Emo is the new scourge of the music and fashion world; black and neon kaifs, skinny jeans and mascara abound and the same three chords have never in the history of radio been played so frequently on air. But why does this new fashion seem to upset so many people? For the jocks and coo-girls of this world, emo kids are just another target for ridicule, but for the goths and metal-heads these stripy, skinny-legged little munchkins seem to have instilled an all-permeating loathing. Why would these two old alternative factions, after having learned to coexist with each other for so many years, suddenly decide to turn on this fledgling fashion, rather than embrace it?

Now, I tend to think of myself as an open-minded person and have always opted for the more alternative turn when it comes to fashion, music and, most specifically, mindsets. I’ve spent my whole life bouncing between cliques – with many friends in the goth, metal-head and jock camps (although my foot is probably slightly firmer on gothic ground) – and I’m just as at home in the mosh-pit as I am writhing to Type O Negative, and yet even I am irked by this new trend.

I know my own reasons for my distaste, and I imagine that they are similar to those of others.

We need to travel back several years to when Emo first started to blossom. Back then, before the term emo had been termed, we of the gothic persuasion had names for these kids: wannabes, neo-goths and weekend goths. They were the kids who wanted to test the waters at the metal and alternative parties – where the drinks specials were cheaper – and still be able to save face at the cocktail clubs and Bourbon Street bars that they usually frequented. They were the kids who thought that Nickelback was a metal band and that Enter Sandman was the only song that Metallica ever released. They had never heard of Alice In Chains or Type O Negative, Kurt Cobain was a ghost to them and every one of them thought that Nevermind was the real title of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Some had even been known to vehemently argue this point…

Essentially, they were in it for the fashion. Metal and alternative evenings for them were like dress up parties, where they could try on all the clothes and fashions that they had often observed, often admired but never had the guts to try for themselves. You could always tell the weekenders from the second they entered the room – they were the ones wearing neon coloured, plastic spikes. Unfortunately, nothing much has changed since then. They got a new name, some new hairstyles and the dudes are talented enough now that they don’t have to ask their girlfriends to do their make-up for them, but the crux remains the same: it’s more about looking good than the mindset that it represents. Now, I’m aware how strongly many emo kids would argue this, and I realise how unlikely it is that all of them really are little more than narcissistic, pseudo-alternative, socialite fops. For this I shall allow them one chance at exemption from my generalization above: that they were born just a few years too late. I myself often feel that I was born just shy in years to fully appreciate the golden days of goth, grunge and metal – when sounding under-produced was a sign of how hard you were struggling to make it rather than that your producer had told you it sells better.

(Hell, most of the original heroes were dead of overdoses before the kids of today could tie their own corsets.)

Now, if I managed to miss the boat, these kids haven’t even seen the ocean. My point is that they don’t know any better. They wear black just like any other person of a particular mindset feels compelled to, and then they get caught up in a popular fashion culture that is as anti their ideals as rugby jerseys and stilettos. The true gothic culture has dwindled so far and become so obscure in some areas that emo kids have little other choice. The metal world isn’t much better either these days. So many metal cliques have become so intense that if you mention the name Def Leppard you’re liable to get thrown out or smacked. In this sort of sink-or swim socializing arena, it’s no wonder that kids are clinging to the next best thing.

I’d like to offer a solution to this trend, but of course that’s impossible. Like any other fashion it’s going to have to run its course and, much like after the eighties, people are going to look back in ten years time and think, “What the hell was I thinking?” but hey, that’s their cross to bear.

There are still a few places left to go for that old-school feel – Gotham in Cape Town, The Eye of Horus in Bellville and the Red Room in Jo’burg – but they are few and far between. They world just isn’t the space of free-roaming sub-cultures that it used to be and that’s sad. But it’s no excuse for that stupid hair.


  1. LoL you sound like any other older generation... years from now emo kids will be looking on the next new thing and saying the exact same thing, just as the people before you yourself. in other words the paradox of the elder generation refusing to move on basically renders your complaints and criticisms biased and null. Emo is a subculture that has grown increasingly popular, its gonna be here for a while and you will need to deal with it. now, you can react as a sensible person or you can continue to be closed-minded and whiny... Sadly im nearly 100% positive you lack the capacity to complete the former.

  2. Just go die please. All of you who bully us emo kids. We all hate you.

  3. Sorry this took a while; I had to go blow the digital dust off the top of an old Wikipedia article to remind myself just what the hell ‘Emo’ was.

    You both realize the irony in what each of you have said, right?

    To Anonymous #1: You say; ‘[…]years from now emo kids will be looking on the next new thing and saying the exact same thing, just as the people before you yourself. in other words the paradox of the elder generation refusing to move on basically renders your complaints and criticisms biased and null,’ then go on to criticize my opinion, creating a truly impressive bit of circular reasoning.

    Beyond that, the crux of your argument seems to be ‘old people are haters’ – which I totally buy. Geriatrics, sitting on porch rocking chairs, being all judgmental and shit. Where’s your shoo-wop lifestyle now, grandpa?!

    Fuck ‘em. Turn them into glue.

    My favorite part of your response, however, is where your wrote, “Emo is a subculture that has grown increasingly popular, its gonna be here for a while and you will need to deal with it,” in response to an article that was written over two years prior, about a subculture that was already over a decade old at the time (over two decades, if you take fashion out of the equation, but I think I can safely assume that you don’t).

    Well, I took your advice and dealt with it. First I mocked it, then I ignored it, and now, two years since you posted the above, Emo is dead and buried. I’ll never have to let it bother me again! You sir (or ma’am – I’m not judging) are a sage. I’m going to assume your powers come from all that youth you carry around with you.

    I appreciate your attempts to make your argument sound impressive – assuming my lack of capacity to complete a sensible reaction, and referencing the reactions of the people before me myself – but you may want to double check the correct meaning of ‘paradox’. Because that was the only mistake you made. Honest.

    To Anonymous #2: I take back what I said. Your reasoning is flawless.