Friday, May 09, 2008

Suicidal mendacities: The Mail gets to grips with emo

It is a story with a horrible and tragic waste of a life at the centre of it: a 13 year-old girl hanging herself. Who can understand the complexities of a mind in so much distress and pain that a person sees death as preferable to living?

The Daily Mail, that's who. It's all My Chemical Romance's fault.

To be fair to the Mail, it's terrible journalism at least has the excuse of a comment from the coroner Roger Sykes to provide some sort of justification for its article:

Recording a verdict of suicide, Mr Sykes said: "The Emo overtones concerning death and associating it with glamour I find very disturbing."

For the Mail, the clincher is the dead girl had been listening to My Chemical Romance. For all of two weeks.

It explains emo to its readers:
The Emo phenomenon began in the U.S. in the 1980s. It is a largely teenage trend and is characterised by depression, self-injury and suicide.

Followers wear tight jeans with studded belts and wristbands. Their hair is dyed black and worn in long fringes to obscure their faces.

Emo - from the word emotional - is a reference to the angst-filled lyrics and melancholy themes of the rock music central to the culture.

One of the foremost of these "suicide cult" bands is My Chemical Romance, from New Jersey.

Watch out for people in tight jeans, then. They're almost certainly going to kill themselves.

There was, by the way, a very similar piece on this morning's Today programme, where the suggestion that Emo is, in some way, sinister of itself (rather than a teenage affectation). Nobody seemed to think it worth even worth raising the Nick Hornby question ("Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"); nor asking how many of the millions of fans who listen to emo don't, actually, kill themselves or do anything more sinister than misuse eyeshadow.

How many years is it since the Judas Priest case? And we're still getting poorly-conceived kneejerk articles like this. A heartbreaking story, yes, but does anyone really believe that owning a copy of The Black Parade really is the cause, rather than a symptom, of the misery at the heart of it?

[Thanks to Mariam for the tip]