Tak­ing emo to heart

While crit­ics see it as a sub­cul­ture of de­spair, many teens find shel­ter in it, writes ZARA NI­CHOL­SON

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

EACH new gen­er­a­tion faces its own chal­lenges and there are al­ways sub-cul­tures for teens to latch on to in their search for an iden­tity, and a sense of be­long­ing. Emo, a sub-cul­ture of the hard­core rock, punk and goth scenes, has been around for some time but seems to be en­joy­ing a strong resur­gence in Cape Town.

Emo, short for emo­tion, is based on emo­core, the mu­sic genre that de­vel­oped in the late 80s and early 90s.

Most emos favour tight jeans and Con­verse sneak­ers, prefer­ably in black, much like goths.

How­ever, emo kids also like red and even the odd neon burst of colour.

Stud­ded belts and black wrist­bands are com­mon ac­ces­sories in emo fash­ion. It’s also about the hair. Emo­hair­cuts are char­ac­terised by spikes and/or long fringes that some­times hang over both eyes.

Emo art is usu­ally dark in na­ture, con­trast­ing neg­a­tive emo­tions with car­toon-like im­ages.

In emo art, there are of­ten “con­sol­ing im­ages”, such as two peo­ple em­brac­ing or hold­ing hands – al­though they may be slouch­ing at the time and looking deeply un­happy.

Most emo graph­ics, paint­ings and draw­ings are black and white with some el­e­ments of red and neon colours. Many emo pic­tures are self-por­traits. Some are cute, some showoff the fash­ion as­pect, while oth­ers show the sub­ject in a state of deep me­lan­choly, with ex­ag­ger­ated tears or dark mas­cara.

Emo­core de­vel­oped in the late 1980s when some punk fans grew ex­as­per­ated with the vi­o­lence and ag­gres­sive anger that typ­i­fied hard­core punk.

Emo­core, which started in Wash­ing­ton, with bands like Rites of Spring and Em­brace – key mem­bers of which joined to form Fugazi – fo­cused on in­di­vid­ual pain rather than pol­i­tics, with lyrics that dealt with nos­tal­gia, dis­il­lu­sion­ment and po­etic des­per­a­tion.

The mu­sic was sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from hard­core, fea­tur­ing – along with the more in­tro­spec­tive lyrics – a pop-punk sen­si­bil­ity that gath­ered more com­mer­cial ap­peal.

Fa­mous emo bands that have come to the fore since then in­clude My Chem­i­cal Ro­mance, City of Cater­pil­lar, Boys Like Girls, AFI and Fall out Boy.

Emo has since be­come a full-blown cul­ture – al­though many as­so­ciate it with “pseudo de­pres­sive and histri­onic” be­hav­iour.

In cy­ber bat­tles, so-called “true” emos blame the “fakes” for what the more cyn­i­cal among them call “noth­ing more than the side-ef­fect of be­ing a teenager”.

Ac­cord­ing to the emo-cor­ner web­site: “Not all emo peo­ple are cry ba­bies or sui­ci­dal. Many emo kids come from fam­i­lies which are hav­ing se­ri­ous is­sues.”

Butwhile emo may be a fad or sim­ply a type of fash­ion and mu­sic that cer­tain teens en­joy rather than mourn, there are in­ci­dents which seem to sug­gest it pro­motes teen de­pres­sion, thoughts of sui­cide and self-mu­ti­la­tion.

In Rus­sia, a law was pre­sented to reg­u­late emo web­sites and for­bid emo style at schools and gov­ern­ment build­ings, for fear of emo be­ing a “danger­ous teen trend” pro­mot­ing anti-so­cial be­hav­iour, de­pres­sion, so­cial with­drawal and even sui­cide.

One emo source said: “Cut­ting (self­mu­ti­la­tion) is a big thing and is seen as a way to gar­ner sym­pa­thy and at­ten­tion. It’s rare to find an emo who ‘se­cretly’ cuts them­selves.”

A top Grade 11 pupil from Gar­lan­dale High in Athlone, who is from a con­ser­va­tive Mus­lim fam­ily, says she is an emo and only wants to be known by her pseu­do­nym, Mor­bid An­gel.

“Be­ing emo for me is hav­ing the sense that you are not the only one be­ing treated this way (out­cast, freak etc),” she said.

“Like you’re not the only per­son who feels as if they are alone in a room filled with peo­ple. But I’ll al­ways choose life over death, no mat­ter how bad the tur­moil in­side me gets or how in­vis­i­ble I am to peo­ple.

“I’ll al­ways know that there are peo­ple out there who feel the same.

“I come from a very re­li­gious back­ground. I am Mus­lim so there’s this con­stant bat­tle within my­self.

“I do be­lieve in God and my par­ents are very con­ser­va­tive. I’ve been find­ing God re­cently, but does that make me un-emo?

“I would say that my fam­ily is ab­nor­mal at times – I mean what fam­ily doesn’t have their mo­ments?

“I had to deal with a lot of re­jec­tion, heart­break and low self-es­teem, but I’m your av­er­age teenager. “I might be sad a lot, but I’m still hu­man. “I don’t cut my­self and I don’t want to kill any­body. All I want is ac­cep­tance and en­cour­age­ment from the peo­ple who say they care.”

Her par­ents do not know that she is an emo and the con­se­quences of them find­ing out scare her.

“I don’t think they know what it is and they would prob­a­bly freak if they found out.”

The rea­sons kids choose the emo way of life range from not find­ing ac­cep­tance in other so­cial cir­cles, or go­ing through a dif­fi­cult fam­ily is­sue, to an in­ter­est in art or fash­ion.

An­other emo said: “I think emo is just an­other la­bel, but my def­i­ni­tion of it will be for real. Per­son­ally, I used to cut (my­self) but I stopped. Take it from me. It’s hard to stop.”

Rod Suskin, a Cape Town as­trol­o­gist and psy­chol­o­gist, says re­bel­lion is a very im­por­tant part of teenagers ul­ti­mately find­ing and de­vel­op­ing their own per­sonal iden­tity.

“We should see emo as part of our cul­ture, not as an al­ter­na­tive to it.

“It is a mir­ror of our cul­tures and ad­dresses all the usual is­sues from sex­u­al­ity to gen­der to re­la­tion­ships.

“It de­serves to be ‘heard’ and recog­nised as rel­e­vant.”

GRAPHIC: ROWAN ABRA­HAMS

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