It is our task this week to choose a popular music genre from the culture and analyze how it informs us about the subculture that most identifies with the genre. I was excited to take on this theme as I identify with the heavy metal subculture. Upon research I began to find a lot of negative ideas about the people who make up the heavy metal subculture. It seemed to me to be a predominant theme that they are seen as a group of people doped on antidepressant medications dressed in denim with long tousled hair (straw, 1984, 117). I also found the astonishing view that heavy metal supported “glorified drug use, advocated teen sex, supports sexist and pornographic values, carried hidden messages, and caused violent lawless behavior (Lynxwiler and Gay, 2000, 67).
Music has always been an aspect of our culture, which has been highly analyzed. Encountering the genres of music of many greats like Elvis and Jimi Hendrix have come under scrutiny to go against the grain and do something outside of what society deems acceptable. Lynxwiler and Gay (2000) found that “the intensity and frequency of these efforts increased as patterns of music consumption began to shift towards younger audiences” (66). Young people with rock music as a form of protest and power-up on fear in conservative adults and religious groups that reacted with record burning. These groups eventually took these morally corrupt devils to worship metal gangs at court.
It was quite scandalous that these affected adults were alleging that listeners were devil worshiping, sexists, racists, and drugs making people upset with long hair. But they were also more likely to be murderous and have suicidal tendencies. More shocking of these lawsuits was the assumption that “heavy metal lyrics caused teen suicide” (Wright, 2000, 370). Blaming teen suicide on metal music is not an exaggeration when you think adult reactions to issues that do not match their ideologies and religious groups. However, there is no evidence to support a relationship between teenage suicide and listening to heavy metal music (Wright, 2000, p. 372). What is visible in the research is the relationship between social context,
I have always asked why society is so quick to demonize something that is not yet understood. What is not discussed are the lyrics in metal music, some of which challenge restrictive ideologies our hierarchical system imposes on us and offers a release from the pressure that experience of these restrictions on our lives. The following quote from Wright (2000) articulates this idea that says:
“The clinical evidence on adolescent suicide confirms what common sense has been suggested from the beginning: sometimes obsessive identification of young people with violent theses in rock music is in any case symptomatic of a much deeper psychological and social dislocation in their lives. That supporters of censorship continue to confuse a passion for dark music with a willingness to commit suicide is a measure not only of their ideological tenacity but even more regrettable – of the more widespread refusal to admit that the lives of young people are highly stressful, and that his problems have really become critical “(381)
Young people turn to metal music as an expression of the frustration and pressures they face in their lives? Yes. Is the metal subculture presented with a lot of doping, Satanist, murderer and suicide? No. It is too easy for society to demonize something that is not easy to understand. Metal music and its subculture come under fire because it challenges the systems in place to maintain class quota and power.