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Calling Out Utah – In Defense of Emo

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Be afraid. Be very afraid. Yesterday newscasters in Utah suffered an extreme bout of ridiculous stupidity, gullibility, and fear mongering. If you still inhabit your parents home and live in this state, please carefully guard your parents. Be alarmed if they display any of the following symptoms and behaviors of having watched the “Emo segment” on the ABC 4 news: grounding, forbidding use of the internet, unprovoked prodding into your musical tastes, and a ransacking of your iTunes.

The segment opens with the two anchors stressing the importance of the “investigative report,” on Emo culture done by Reed Cowan. Suicide and self mutilation are brought up, along with statistics to add a quantifiable dose of fear. A warning is given to viewers to be prepared because some of “what they are about to see is disturbing.” And disturbing it is, if only because people may take it seriously.

This unintentionally hilarious segment smacked of satire and parody. It would have been a clear front runner for placement on a “Best of” DVD had it been aired on Saturday Night Live. Watching it, one can’t help but anticipate the moment when Andy Samberg runs into the shot al la the great ‘50’s docu-drama “Marijuana” and throws himself out of a window after listening to My Chemical Romance.

But sadly, this was not parody.

The report begins by stating Emo as “sadness, rage, and pain.” It came from the internet and can be found all over the web, as well as in music and even Spider-Man 3. A video montage of Emo imagery follows and includes visuals of broken hearts, eyeliner and a page of words defining generalized negative emotions including “agony” with the "g" written backwards as if Emo also causes dyslexia. Reed Cowan warns in dramatic voiceover to “not react with fear,” because “advanced” Emo kids cut themselves and may commit suicide.

Sounds kind of serious, right?

Cowan then goes on to discuss fashion and a picture of an orange striped polo shirt pops up, thus incriminating everyone from the preppy-jock on the football team to even my sixty year old father. Next, a pair of jeans that look like they could be from the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen collection for Wallmart are shown, decorated in pink and neon green cartoon flowers, accompanied by the warning that Emo boys may wear “girl pants.”

Are you laughing yet?

He also brings up “the Emo Quiz,” which allows takers to see if they are in fact, Emo. This is a cute little addition to the report and belies the lack of research done. Type in “Emo,” “Emo fashion,” and even “what is Emo?” onto Google, or even and the same sponsored link comes up. What is this link?, natch.

I decided to take this quiz to provide proof that I am not Emo to avoid any potential backlash from parents in Utah who may be led to believe my statements are a part of a larger emo conspiracy (although I will admit that in my day, I did listen to R,E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” an inordinate amount of times). It is obviously tongue-in-cheek with questions like “How tight are your pants?” with answer options including “So tight I think I am going to cry,” and “Tight enough to chafe a little.” The apparent lack of seriousness was completely lost on Cowan who reports the question “What color best describes your state of mind” and its answers “Black (like my soul” and “Red (like my blood)” with the utmost gravity. Screen shots of the quiz itself play on the screen followed by a shot pulled from Wikipedia, notably the most mistrusted information site on the web.

You almost have to hand it to this guy for utter stupidity. I am guessing he does not have kids. If he does, my condolences.

Finally, parents in Utah, please read carefully: Emo is not about self mutilation. Emo is about music. It stands for emotional and should not be discouraged. This is your children expressing themselves, dealing with their problems through song, identifying themselves to a group in a healthy way, and discovering their feelings communally through a musical genre which is not on the fringe of some dangerous subculture spawned by evil internet minds, but instead birthed from ‘80’s punk and accepted in mass culture to the point of being seen everywhere on the internet and included on the soundtracks of billion dollar Hollywood blockbusters. Emo is, in comparison to your day, the new folk music and vilifying it as your parents did the so-called hippie generation is just plain alarmist and misinformed.

For everyone else, please enjoy a good laugh at the ABC 4 website.

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About Brewed Fresh

  • High Heels

    I was laughing long before the emo boys in girl pants, but that was the last straw for my mouthful of coffee. Very amusing article, thanks. :) HH

  • Graham McKnight

    Very enjoyable read!

  • Katie McNeill

    great article!

  • Jesse

    The naivety is amusing and disturbing, like it is in so much media sensationalism. I think I’ll have to write about this one, as well… especially about the failure of Fox-4 to distinguish between sarcasm and seriousness, between norms and outliers, and their own culpability in stigmatizing these poor kids (Mr. Tanner, whose name was read on-air?)

  • Mara Siegler

    Your so right, Jesse. I was really surprised that they read out Mr. Taner’s name considering he is a minor, but I guess you have to assume his father gave permission as his legal guardian. His case was heartbreaking. The segment completely exploited him and belittle his very serious problem of cutting himself. Instead of seeing it as a deep psychological issue or cry for help,they made it seem like he was merely self mutilating to be part of a larger trend.

  • Jesse

    Retrospectively, I find it interesting that I keep having the urge to blame this on Fox, instead of ABC. The fact that it’s appearing on a slightly more respected public network makes it even more disturbing, in a way.

  • Aiden

    haha stupid utah. i hate you utah for this everyone stares at you funny if you wear stuff like that i know i did it before and still do it but i would never hurt myself … and its gotten way out of hand like a new sterio type i hate it! it did make me laugh though.

  • Nurse

    I’m a school nurse & you wouldn’t believe how many of the “emo” kids cut. They call themselves “emo,” by the way. We’ve sent at least a dozen kids to the local psychiatric hospital for self-injury and suicidal ideation just during this school year. About 90% of those kids were self identified “emo” kids. I was pretty confused about the whole “emo” thing until one of the kids showed me . Once I saw that site, I understand the issue much better; please take the time to view this and protect yourself and your loved ones.