On emo

What is a meme, to make a long Wiki short? It’s essentially monkey see, monkey do. We propagate memes on a daily basis – small things like alluding to movies we’ve seen (who hasn’t worked that famous scene from The Matrix into a skit?); having a shared opinion on something e.g. fashion, the concept of “cool”, a recent movie; big things like principles, opinions, values, religion. Think about how the technology of p2p, or more specifically BitTorrent, works. Same thing.

So you’re probably wondering how this all links to emo, or rather, the concept of. Which is where my explanation comes in.

Remember how 2 years ago hardly anyone this side of the planet had heard of the concept? The term originated in America, from the word “emotional”, and it came into being around the 80’s to describe a term of music that was basically a subgenre of hardcore punk.

Today, however, the usage’s been terribly bastardized, and I’m at a loss as to what made it spread all the way here. But I’m going to try anyway.

It’s seemed to me – and I now base this view of mine on this abstract statement – that the origins of this definition of “emo” stems from the stereotypical gender archetype of men, and how society’s expectations and conditioning has lead to the propagation of this meme, this meme being the concept of “emo”. Have you heard anyone call a girl emo and have her take offense? No? What about a guy? Call a guy emo and you instantly have either a vehement no or a sarcastic yes, neither of which’s usually pleasant.

If it’s not obvious already, take this second statement into consideration — men are generally more disposed to keeping their emotions hidden, as opposed to women, whom, as a gender generally get away with shows of emotion due to the basis of their being the gender itself. If I’m confusing you, let’s have an example.

Unless your parents are both homosexuals, in turn meaning you’d have two ‘dads’ or two ‘mums’ (and seeing those who read my blog are predominantly Christian Malaysians, the answer would be ‘no’), you’ll definitely have seen your father cry less than your mother. Not everyone, of course, but the majority, at any rate.

Assuming that the first two statements are true, it’s safe to say then that males can be generally regarded to be less likely to display emotion (here emotion is defined as anything of a sad temperament), and that females are expected not to hide theirs.

Which now, after the three statements, returns to, and begs the question – why was there even a need for the existence of the genre in the first place?

The genre, firstly, would seem to have originated from a unconscious manifestation of part of the male psyche – the ID, if you’re familiar with basic Freudian concepts – a rebellion against the expectations of society, how guys should never display emotion; never have close, heart to heart talks with other guys about how they feel; how they get the short end of the stick when it comes to break-ups. For the opposite is true for all girls.

Two things have to be clarified here. The first is in defining emo, which here would denote lyrics in a song that describe the darker side of love, usually interlaced with pain, suffering; of love won and lost, cheating partners, love triangles and ex’s; and, to a lesser extent, threats, promises, and dreams of violence involving blood and bullets, death and gore – a goth aesthetic that speaks of love gone bad.

This can be explained by referring back to the concept of the ID from Freud – the ID would be the division of your internal psyche that contains primitive desires: hunger, rage, sex. Taking a step back to the hunter-gatherer society of old, and make yet another generalization about how the sexes were socialized into behaving the way they do today, and voila! You’ve got the connection.

To elaborate, assigning emotional expectations to either gender now becomes clearer in the hunter-gatherer society then, for it is there that we get a better idea as to the general consensus of society as it is now – hunters, assuming they were male, would and could only afford anger as an emotion, a visceral approach towards life as their predominant existence leaned on hunting, hunting and more hunting – and this in turn would’ve been a meme of its own, which then replicated and lasted to this day. But unlike then where relationships were undoubtedly less complicated, in this day and age relationships have seem to become even more so, partly thanks to the onslaught of technology.

For now the hunter-male has aged tens of thousands of years but still possesses the same psyche that was part of evolution many years back, how hunters could not let their emotions betray themselves while they poised, how they would lead a life of constant, violent expression, be it against prey or other people. This explains the goth aesthetic mentioned earlier, how while it may seem unsettling to women, on a subconscious level men accept the lyrics of violence without much fuss.

This then sets the basis for the genre of emo, for now men, instead of going out to hunt quarry, now play hide-and-seek with their emotions; instead of breaking a deer’s neck for dinner, now play songs from Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday. Our genes probably haven’t changed – however, our environments have.

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2 Comments on “On emo”

  1. yj Says:

    comment? ok. I’ve seen worse :)

  2. yj Says:

    ok… it’s a good piece of creative writing… conceptually you’re only scratching the surface of topics that are debated to great length, in various shapes, and in great depth (see for example, aldaily.com)… advice: read some nietzsche, try some lacan…. and don’t stop downloading memes until you’re out of a 4-year college.


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