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Suicide solutions? Or, how the emo class of 2008 were able to contest their media demonization, whereas the headbangers, burnouts or ‘children of ZoSo’ generation were not

Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2011) Vol 6, No 1/Vol 6, no 2 (2011)

Journal: Popular Music History

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v6i1.19


This article offers a comparative analysis of press mediated morality scares, concerned with the influence of types of heavy metal music on incidences of teen suicide, in two different periods. On the basis of this comparison, I argue that the campaign against heavy metal, in the 1983–87 period in the United States, is an example of a successful moral panic; whereas the attempt to generate a similar scare about the emo sub-genre, in the UK in 2008, is an example of a failed one. So why did one succeed and the other not? Debating Critcher’s ‘make-over’ of the moral panic model and its critics, I suggest the answer lies in a number of factors, some of which support the model, others undermine it. First, while sensationalist press coverage on behalf of ‘parents’ characterized both panics, in the UK this lacked endorsement by elite/professional bodies, so societal ‘solutions’ were never clearly posed. Second, the enhanced role of niche/subcultural media in contesting the emo panic. Third, the ability of emo fans to ‘speak back’ to their demonizers, exemplified by the march on the Daily Mail, which was widely reported. Finally, to the extent that emo is a middle-class defined subculture, with a pronounced female profile, it is not viewed as a threat to societal norms as that of the working-class, male-defined fandom of 1980s heavy metal.

Author: Andy R. Brown

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