Originally created 01/03/06

Better think twice before labeling someone 'emo'



They rock to the bands Taking Back Sunday and Hawthorne Heights. He wears uncomfortably tight pants and flips his hair every five seconds. She gets her clothes from a thrift store and writes in her blog every day.

They sport all the telltale signs of emo. Strangely, they deny their emo status as though they have been accused of communism or leprosy instead of membership in a pop culture group.

Before I go any further, let me explain this "emo" thing. Emo culture is based around a style of music, also called emo, and is closely related to punk and hard-core rock. Bands generally categorized as emo include Matchbook Romance, Story of the Year and Rites of Spring.

The word "emo" comes from the word "emotional," which certainly describes this movement. Unlike other rock music forms that express teen angst through anger and rebellion, emo focuses more on the hopelessness of the teenage wasteland.

It expresses the vulnerabilities of unhappy young people with dark colors and depressing poetry. Being emo apparently also means denying one's emo condition.

Have you ever asked someone whether they are emo? Called them emo? Or even just gently suggested that the individual had emo tendencies? Then you know what kind of Pandora's box can be opened by insinuations.

This is not to say that we always hit the mark when classifying others. We sort people into groups based on presumptions and prejudices that end up inaccurately defining them. Yet, with these potential emo teens, something appears amiss.

When a person obviously fits the description of emo, why deny the name emo so vehemently? They rebuff emo as though it is a bad thing. What is it about the emo trend that makes people who apparently buy into it unwilling to admit that they have?

I asked several and still wasn't able to get an answer.

I do not mean to suggest that no one will own up to being emo. There are some who proudly exclaim that they are emo, but the larger part of the group continues to confound us with their denunciations.

One explanation for this is that denying emo is simply part of the state of being in this group. I was told off the record that "emo kids refuse to accept and acknowledge that they are emo because of their insecurities that make them emo kids."

Emo has come to have a lot of bad associations that people in this group shy away from. Non-emo teens often use the term emo as a derogatory label for someone who is whining or complaining too much.

It also is sometimes associated with a mental state of being constantly depressed and suicidal.

Perhaps teens just do not want to claim membership in a group that gets so much bad press from others.

Is it for fear of being misunderstood that emo kids shun the label? Or, is another valid explanation the fact that if a person is so sensitive, they feel touchy even about their sensitivity?

Whatever the reason, you cannot force people to say they are part of a group if they refuse to. As long as emo kids will not claim the title of emo, they continue to establish emo as a cultural oxymoron of sorts: an unpopular fad.

Katharine Diehl, 18, is a senior at Lakeside High School