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An Essential Guide to Emo Culture
ideology n a body of ideas and social needs that separates you from your parents, the pep squad, and Dave Matthews Band fans.
So, what exactly is emo? Over time emo has been defined as a tuneful strain of punk rock with a lyrical emphasis on matters of the heart, but these days it means much more than that to its many fans. Emo is still a kind of music, sure, but more than anything it's a state of mind. It's a place where people who don't fit in—but who long to fit in with other people who don't fit in—come to find solace, and its resident ideology is something that those within the scene take very seriously.
How seriously? Well, it seems safe to say that the emo ideology affects nearly every aspect of emo fans' lives. It affects how they wear their hair and what bands they choose to listen to. It affects the way they eat and the way that they look at the history of the world. But it also affects their understanding of who they are and, more important, who they are not, which is what this first chapter is all about.
The emo ideology is what defines being emo. Even if the wrong person did one day wake up, head directly to Diesel, pick up some black fingernail polish along the way, and then buy the entire Saves the Day catalog online upon getting home, that wouldn't ever truly allow them to differentiate between that which is emo and that which is totally lame. See, emo-ness is something that you are born with, and even if emo fans do think exactly like every one of their friends, that's what makes themdifferent. Well, at least compared to the rest of the world . . .
Emo Value System
True emo-ites are born—not made—and they embody certain patterns of behavior and thought that serve to bond and unite. Not sure if you meet the criteria? Uneasy whether that prospective love interest you met on MySpace who wears a Thrice T-shirt but lists Independence Day as one of the best movies ever is really the one for you? This checklist of ideals will help clear all of this up.
Core Emo Values
Depression: More dramatic than simply being sad, depression is the foundation of the entire emo ethos. Depression serves as a bonding mechanism for those with a similar outlook on life and love. Like magnets, depressed people attract one another because moping alone is, well, pathetic. But throwing yourself a pity party? That's emo.
Effort(lessness): Being emo is all about trying really hard to look like you don't really care. Being indifferent isn't as easy as it looks. It requires effort. Why spend two hours slathering your hair with pomade, taking a straightening iron to the bangs and the back, then shaking the whole mess out and matting it to your forehead to look like you just took a nap, haphazardly slept on your 'do, suddenly rolled out of bed, and bolted out the door? Because merely sleeping on your coif would be too easy and wouldn't look natural enough. When you're emo, you're constantly looking to invent unnecessary obstacles so that you can overcome them.
Empathy: Feeling other people's pain is crucial to being part of the emo community. Whether you're a vegan and you feel animals should be loved, not eaten, or you're a member of the Overcast Kidsbecause Pete Wentz's lyrics are just like the poetry you write on your blog, it's imperative to be able to transfer your feelings or emotions onto another person or object.
Faith: When emo followers believe in something, they believe in it 110 percent. Anything is possible: A girl named Holly Hox really did inspire the Saves the Day song "Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots." Morrissey really does have his own MySpace account. Your prom date really isn't someone you're related to. And so, through struggle, strife, and tragedy, true emo types carry on. In the end, being emo is all about having the kind of unwavering conviction that allows one to face the challenges of a new day (and blog about them later in the evening).
Insecurity: There's always someone out there who's smarter, funnier, and better-looking than you. They probably have a better record collection, wardrobe, and car than you, too. We'd even bet they never go to a dance without a date and will probably have sex with at least three people by the time they turn twenty-one. But screw them: Insecurity is a fundamental value taught at an early age to emo youngsters so they can prepare for a life of middle-class averageness.
Non-athleticism: Sporting events and organized athletic activities are like emo kryptonite. Because most emo activities revolve around computers, chairs, television sets, couches, MP3 players, and beds, there is no reason—regardless of what your parents or gym teacher say—to partake in any activity that causes you to abandon any or all of these coveted objects. What if you incur tennis elbow while "hitting the ball around" with good ol' dad? Who's going to update the photos on your Flickr account? Definitely not worth the risk.
Emo fans may be born with a certain sense of ideology, but this can also be learned from those who came before them. For example, many consider the following historical figures to be influential on the emo scene as it is known today.
Make no mistake about it: William Shakespeare was emo to the core. Sensitive and sexually ambiguous, Shakespeare was also extremely prolific, writing thirty-eight plays and scores of sonnets and poems about both men and women. Not only did those works inspire a million basement poets to pick up a quill, a pen, or a keyboard, but we're pretty sure he was at the forefront of the men-wearing-women's-clothing movement. Just check out those frilly-collar shirts he's always depicted in. It's no coincidence that the members of Panic! at the Disco look like they're about to star in a performance of Hamlet.Everybody Hurts
An Essential Guide to Emo Culture. Copyright © by Trevor Kelley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.