MCW(B)_18060321102 Essay

Name: Sharika Bhan

Prn: 18060321102

Course: Multi Cultural Worldviews

Batch: B

Emo Culture

The emergence of different youth cultures and subcultures is a phenomenon that is increasing worldwide (Chamberlin, 2007). A youth subculture can be described as a group who define themselves in relation to peers who share a common life style in terms of a specific identity and who communicate using technology (Chamberlin, 2007; Cotterell, 2007). A youth subculture serves a valuable purpose for early adolescents because they define themselves in relation to the unique values and beliefs of the group and experience feelings of belonging and a shared identity (Hodkinson, 2002).

There are different types of youth subcultures that exist, such as Jocks, Punks, Goths, Emo, Skinheads (Skott-Myhre, 2009) just to name a few. ‘Emo’ is short for ‘emotional’. Many believe the term first arose in the mid-1990s as a way of defining a new musical genre, ‘emotional hardcore’: what was initially termed ‘emo-core’ was eventually shortened further to become ‘emo’. Emo emerged from the meeting between post-punk hardcore (with elements of thrash and grunge) and a softer-edged indie (or alternative) style: For the purpose of this particular cultural analysis the focus will be on the Emo culture or subculture.

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After punk (music genre) broke out in the UK in the second half of the 1970s, it gained popularity in the US, and, as an immediate result, both the supply of and demand for punk bands increased. A new variant, native to the US, was thus born: hardcore. Hardcore, or hardcore punk, was faster, heavier and more aggressive than earlier punk music. As with punk, the hardcore scene was often politically charged. It was particularly very vocal against the Reagan government (US) of that time, which was the target of raw and explicit criticism. People also believed that punk music feeds on anger and aggression.

Emo music’s roots lie in the early 1980s hardcore scene after it moved to the American East Coast from the West Coast. Three major stages of the subculture’s development can be distinguished. The first embodiment was characterized by a break with the general hardcore scene and a development of a separate identity. The second embodiment was a reasonable continuation of and an elaboration on the movement’s prior variant. The third embodiment is of the Evolution of Emo and Its theoretical implications particular interest because not only did it redefine the movement substantially, but also it finally allowed it to be fully acknowledged as a youth subculture. With time a new term was formed of ‘emocore’ which decided to make their sound more melodic and remove heavy political content from their lyrics. It should be stressed, however, that neither was hardcore devoid of any themes of emotion, nor was emocore lacking of any political content. The major difference was in how these issues were expressed. Hardcore was full of anger directed at political structures and expressed an anti-establishment stance, whereas emocore focused on matters closely related to alienation, particularly social alienation, teenage angst, as well as themes of male/female romantic relationships. Musical taste does not exist in a vacuum, but is instead developed and encouraged by many social and individual factors. Teenagers in particular under this culture have one crucial characteristic in common: they are all drawn into this emo subculture by their love for music. The connection between the emotions and instances of their lives and the music that speaks to them is undeniable for teenagers in general, but particularly for the emo subculture, for example as seen in Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower shows the relevance of music and literature in the character’s lives and has received wide support by the emo subculture.

An individual who associates his/her concept of self with the identity of an ‘emo’ person is characterised by certain rigid stereotypes or schemas, it employs certain elements of the dress styles of indie-rock fans of the late 1990s, e.g. vintage track jackets, t-shirts, black-rimmed glasses, sneakers or training shoes, mid-length hair. These were combined with elements typical of goth and punk subcultures, with their strong preference for black or neon bright colours (particularly pink), hand warmers, slim-fit trousers (often in plaid, characteristic of punk), as well as specific clothing adornments (skulls and crossbones, black and white or black and red stripes). With respect to appearance, one should also mention the tendency to dye hair (black or neon colours, or a combination of both). This extrinsic out show of certain attributes linking to a specific culture the one individual or a group associates to leads to a growth spurt in self-awareness, self-esteem, impression management, etc. However, emo does not excavate the deviant norms from the past, but rather emphasizes a certain “collective individuality” of choice that subcultures are “internally homogenous”. According to some critics the emo subculture was also named under na?ve realism or was seen just as a matter of immature self-pity. People enduring involvement with the emo culture are labelled as unstable with their emotions as well as personality. One of the biggest question to ask here is that are more emotionally unstable teenagers more likely to identify with subcultures in the first place, or does associating with a subculture lead them to become unstable? Social media plays a huge role in bringing this community together as it provides means to express themselves and a space to identify with others of their kind. Social bonds are strengthened due to the mutual sympathy seen in this culture. Focusing on the personality factor teenagers associating themselves as ‘emo’ tend to depict particular observed behavior of being an introvert, self-loathing, melancholic, etc. The emotional sensitivity of the emo culture has led some to argue that it glamourizes and encourages self-harm, and even suicide. These are the areas which subconsciously lead ‘emo’ to be more than just a genre and asses its claim to be a subculture. Both the music and the visual style went along with a particular emotional approach, and to some extent with a blurring of gender boundaries. Both males and females wore similar clothing and hairstyles, and boys would sometimes wear make-up. Boys (as well as girls) were encouraged or permitted to be openly emotional, in a way that seems to go against predictable ideas of masculinity. In some circumstances, this meant that they ran the risk of being accused of homosexuality, which would lead to unwanted name calling and even bullying or apparent physical violence. To show masculine toughness self-harm has been argued to be merely a form of exhibitionism. While they are certainly not gender-bending in a way that indicates transsexual or transgendered identity, a distinctly androgynous look is to be found within the subculture that allowed for boys to dress so androgynously that it both bordered on femininity and eschewed traditional masculinity. The emo culture is ambivalent about consumerism but hold a strong non-conformist stance. its members pay less attention to the authenticity of clothing. They are more concerned with the look than the brand, which has to do with the ways emo expresses the turmoil of adolescence and teenage angst. They sometimes contradict their own anti consumerist stance by their affinity for certain electronic devices and gadgets, very often of specific brands, such as Apple products that included computers and iPods, hand-held game consoles and computer games. These were the tokens of their ambivalence about their own social position: on the one hand, they rejected certain notions of conformity, but on the other, they often chose products that were specifically targeted at the middle class as a consumer group.

All in all youth subcultures are a growing phenomenon and play an increasing role in the development of an early adolescent. It is hard to say whether emo was any more or less fictitious or authentic than any of the other youth subcultures that preceded it. However, I would argue that it was more intensively facilitated, both within the widespread culture and among emos themselves. This gave it an air of self-consciousness and self-awareness, that made it both easy to recognize, yet also very difficult to pin down.


Chamberlin, E. (2007). Pin-up punks: The reality of a virtual community. In P. Hodkinson, & D. Wolfgang (Eds.). Youth cultures, scene, subcultures and tribes. (pp. 187–199). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.

Hodkinson, P. (2002). Goth identity style and subculture. Oxford, United Kingdom: Berg.

Skott-Myhre, H. A. (2009). Youth and subculture as creative force: Creating new space for radical youth work. Canada, CA: University of Toronto Press.

Cotterell, J. (2007). Social networks in youth and adolescence (2nd ed.). East Sussex, SXE, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Muggleton, D. (2002). Inside Subculture: The Postmodern Meaning of Style. Oxford and New York: Berg.

Muggleton, D., & Weinzierl, R. (23). “What is Post-Subcultural Studies Anyway?” The Post-Subcultures Reader.

Ryalls, Emily (2013) ‘Emo angst, masochism and masculinity in crisis’, Text and Performance Quarterly 33(2): 83-97

Peters, Brian M. (2010) ‘Emo gay boys and subculture: postpunk queer youth and (re) thinking images of masculinity’, Journal of LGBT Youth 7(2): 129-146

(PDF) The Evolution of Emo and its Theoretical Implications. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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