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The Truth About Goth and Emo

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When I was in high school, I didn’t know anything real about teen stereotypes, because well, they were stereotypes. It wasn’t until I befriended a goth girl, became labeled a nerd, and read books and a couple of teen newspaper articles about teen stereotypes that I became more knowledgable. Over time, I realized that while stereotypes can be a way for teens to identify themselves, they could also be used to misjudge others. While I was a nerd in high school, I also developed a goth and emo side to myself. Yet, others didn’t know about these sides about me for two reasons. The first reason is that I didn’t look goth or emo; I only looked like a nerd because I was smart and wore glasses. The second reason is that there were little to no goths in my class. The only reason I befriended a goth girl was because she was in a different grade from me.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I did most of my self identification alone. Because of this, I didn’t develop my goth and emo sides until after I graduated high school. It was during this time that I was starting to figure out what the goth and emo stereotypes were. Goths seemed to be kids who were happy, wore all black, worshipped the devil, and were extroverted. On the other hand, emos wore all black with bits of color and were depressed kids who wrote dark poetry, self injure by cutting themselves, and were introverted. Emos and goths were also outcasts in school;  goths take pride in it, but emos hate themselves. It is the style of emo and goth that causes teens to confuse goths with emos and vice versa. During this time, I was more emo than goth. While I didn’t dress like one or self injure,  I was depressed and insecure and I wrote poetry as a hobby and outlet.

Another thing that defines a teen as emo is the music they listen to. The music is usually rock and contain lyrics that show hurt & comfort or upbeatness. Some examples of bands that have been called emo are My Chemical Romance, Black Veiled Brides, and Tokio Hotel. As I developed my emo side, I began listening to Tokio Hotel. Most of the songs I listened to were hurt and comfort, but I also listened to a couple of upbeat ones too.

It is the hurting side of emo music as well as the self injury that causes the emo stereotype to become controversial. It causes emo kids to be seen as “whiners” by their peers and dangerous to themselves by parents. While the hurting side of emo music can cause some emo teens to wallow in self pity, it doesn’t mean that all emo music is bad. In fact, it is the upbeat emo music that makes things better. A year after I got into Tokio Hotel, I started listening to another band called FallOutBoy. While their music covers different rock sounds, their album Infinity On High has an emo vibe to it. However, the songs I listened to were more upbeat instead of self pitying. Songs like The Carpal Tunnel of Love made me get up and dance. They also made me feel better about myself.

As for the self injuring, depressed, and self-pitying side of emo, these things have been around before this stereotype appeared.  As I’ve already stated, a person can have these issues without looking like they are emo. Self injury is just an unhealthy way for teens and other people to find release from overwhelming emotions or circumstances. Emo teens, like any other teen, can feel depressed and overwhelmed for a variety of reasons. It can be as a result of school problems, family problems, personal problems, or any combination of issues. If they are not dealt with properly, then the teen can have a pessimistic outlook on life, which is what causes them to be seen as “whiny” by their peers. They feel as if they are stuck in whatever circumstances they are in, and that nothing they do can change it.

Not long after I got into FallOutBoy, I began to develop my gothic side. First, I started listening to gothic music. Most people think gothic music is just heavy metal with screaming, but that’s not the case. While gothic music is usually a sub- genre of rock, it can also be classical. An example of this is the music of Adrian Von Ziegler. Furthermore, the goth I befriended in high school played cello in the school orchestra. In addition, classical music and rock music have formed a genre known as symphonic metal. Since most of the bands in this genre are international, it isn’t well-known to most people in the United States. Some examples of symphonic metal bands are Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Apocalyptica. According to comments I saw on YouTube, some people who listen to symphonic metal are called goth or emo.

Another thing I did to develop my gothic side was read gothic literature. Most teens today count paranormal books like Twilight as gothic literature. Some teens even go further and call fans of the series goth or emo. While I did read a similar vampire themed series, I do not count neither this nor Twilight as gothic literature. By gothic literature, I mean the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I loved his poetry the most, but his horror stories were entertaining as well.  Even the goth I befriended enjoyed his dark poetry, and wrote some of her own as a hobby.

It is the music and literature of the goth and emo stereotypes that contain the true definitions, my definitions of goth and emo. Goths or gothic things find the beauty in darkness through creativity. Emos or emo things are introspective and self-aware. Depending on your definition of words such as “beauty”, “darkness”, and “creativity”, these two stereotypes may overlap each other. Yet, both of these stereotypes have valuable characteristics that teens need in adolescence and beyond. It is these characteristics that identifies a teen as a person instead of a label.

Music Links:

Tokio Hotel-


Adrian Von Ziegler-


Written by Serena Zola

October 8, 2011 at 11:18 PM

Posted in Youth Op-Eds

Tagged with , ,

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