Forget Gloomy, Pale-Faced and Self-Obsessed Goths, There’s Another Darker Cult for Parents to Worry About … EMOs
Flicing through the autumn glossy fashion magazines, I noticed that some of the models did not look very well. A few of them appeared to be dead. This is because one of the key looks, especially at the younger end of the fashion spectrum, is Goth. Faces are chalky white, eyes and lips black.
You can wear any colour you like so long as it’s black.
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To achieve that just-got-out-of-acoffin look, you need corsets, capes, Celtic crosses, an unseeing stare and a prop such as a slightly mutilated china doll dragged along in one hand.
For those of us who have lived through Siouxsie And The Banshees and the Rocky Horror Show, the look is depressingly retro. Fashion acknowledges those of us who lived through it first time round – Elder Goths, as opposed to Baby Bats, who are the under-30s. It even nods to a working population, permitting Corporate Goths, who wear black trouser suits.
There is a also a term which is new to me and amounts to a much more dangerous teenage cult. The Emos short for Emotional – regard themselves as a cool, young subset of the Goths. Although the look is similar, the point of distinction, frightening for schools and parents, is a celebration of self harm.
Emos exchange competitive messages on their teenage websites about the scars on their wrists and how best to display them. Girls’ secondary schools have for some time been concerned about the increase in self harm.
One governor of a famous boarding school told me that it was as serious a problem as binge drinking, but rarely discussed for fear of encouraging more girls to do it. Although it is invariably described as a ‘secret shame’, there is actually a streak of exhibitionism about it. The internet has many sites dedicated to Emo fashion (dyed black hair brushed over your face, layering, black, black, black), Emo bands (Green Day, My Chemical Romance), Emo conversation (sighing, wailing, poetry).
The Instant Emo Kit site gives advice on identity. Wear a child’s T-shirt with a slogan such as ‘Unhappy Chick’ and drive a Vespa. Above all, ‘show your inner despair by looking like you are too sad to eat. Obesity and emocity do not mix.’ Adult Goths refer to the Emos disdainfully as ‘the spooky kids’ or ‘moshers’.
The Emo song, by the American band Adam And Andrew, has cult status on the internet, appearing on many personal websites. It is called Dear Diary and is both witty and alarming.
The chorus goes:
Stop my breathing and slit my throat, I must be an Emo.
I don’t jump around when I go to shows, I must be an Emo.
Dye in my hair and polish on my toes, I must be an Emo.
I play guitar and write suicide notes, I must be an Emo.
The courting of misery and death is a long-established teenage tradition.
How many bedroom walls have been plastered with posters of drippy pre-Raphaelite heroines, or Marc Bolan or Kurt Curbain?
When death is a long way off, you can afford to be more morbid about it.
Filmmakers note that horror films are now more popular than romance among young women. In particular, Goths and Emos are a rebellion against sporty, manly cultures – which is perhaps why they flourish particularly in North European countries or North America.
The androgynous nature of the Goths is appealing to the young because it is sexually unthreatening.
Teenage girls are frightened of manliness: they like boys who look like girls. Kate Moss, the girl who never grows old, understands youthful taste completely.
There is also a deadly glamour about the Goths.
The word femme-fatale is Goth based.
Many of the alluring women of our time – Nigella Lawson, Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Lily Allen – have a touch of the Goth about them.
They have a sophistication and depth lacking in the blonde, bouncy chav faces which dominate our television screens and nightclubs.
Who are the male pinups for young girls? Johnny Depp and the comedian Russell Brand, who is about 90 per cent Goth. Lord Byron, of course, was the greatest Goth of all time.
Emos have a strong arts graduate bias and are among the few that read poetry (if only of the romantic, morbid kind).
Some pretty terrible Emo poetry is offered on websites.
A cartoon of two Emos has a bubble which says: ‘What rhymes with razor blade?’ BUT compared to the music, the poetry is positively cheerful. The Gothic bands have names such as Bloody, Dead And Sexy or Colder Than Death.
There is a genre, popular in Germany, known as Death Pop. Bands include The Knives In The Attic and Love Equals Death.
Although Goths are from the same family tree as punks, they are a lot less fun to be with. While I loved punk for its energy, Goths were too bloodless to lift a finger.
One of the most annoying characteristics of teenagers is their refusal to open their curtains. Their world is dark and airless.
If this environment is coupled with the psychological traits of self-pity, introspection, self-dramatisation and hormone imbalance, you have a fully-fledged Emo, even without the small Tshirt and black hair.
The wondrous thing about being an adult is that you have so much more to worry about that you stop striking poses and get on with it.
Unless you are an Elder Goth – in which case you have fashion on your side and everybody else against you.
What worries me is that teenagers are less equipped to manage strong emotions and a cult of suicide could have real and horrible consequences.
It is irresponsible for the fashion and music cultures to encourage it. If you want retro style, I recommend Ian Dury’s song Reasons To Be Cheerful.