Sunday, March 25, 2007

POSER GENERATION

The Ugly Face of "Suicidal" Goth Teens
Written by Al Barger
Published March 25, 2007


Blogcritics' groovy Retro Music Chick wrote a pointed little satire a week ago

called "Teen Suicide - What's Stopping You?" It focused specifically on the

music and personae of Gerard Way and My Chemical Romance and their grand crusade

to provide the voice and courage to the afflicted and misunderstood teenagers

who go around cutting themselves. Message boards and Gerard Way will tell you

their music has help snatch back countless teens from the edge of suicide. Retro

Music Chick ain't buying it.

It has gotten a lot of predictable indignant responses from cheesed off MCR

fans, most of them in typically illiterate teenage chat room style - like we're

even supposed to consider the opinions of folks who aren't serious enough about

their thoughts to at least attempt writing a legible sentence.

I note that she never actually used the word "Goth" in her story, but this

modern Goth youth culture goes back to the 1980s. Without over analyzing and

categorizing, a lot of this "Gloomy McMopeypants" (RMC's term) stuff comes from

the Smiths and the Cure from back in my college days, who inspired the "unearned

unhappiness" of Ben Folds' classic "Battle of Who Could Care Less."

The Smiths and the Cure, and now stuff like My Chemical Romance, don't entirely

sound that much alike stylistically, but are basically inspirations in mopiness.

Upping the ante from mopy Morrissey and Robert Smith, Gerard Way and such have

become more morbid, dealing frequently in suicidal shtick like "Bury Me in

Black."

They have a big, new morbid audience of faux-suicidal teens as a market niche.

We've got some whining, narcissistic teenagers these days who like to go around

cutting themselves for attention and such. There are teens who go to school

showing off their self-mutilation for attention and sympathy.

As some have pointed out, it's unlikely that truly deeply troubled, actually

suicidal kids would be showing that stuff off. They would more likely be hiding

it in shame and quietly planning their personal end of days. That's sad, and you

can only hope that such kids seek out help and find some relief, but that's only

a relatively few young folk.

Essentially though, a lot of this modern self-mutilation and carrying on is a

huge and incredibly abusive bluff. Most of these kids are not that truly sad,

and are never really even considering killing themselves. They talk about it for

attention, sympathy, and manipulation. If Mom and Dad don't try harder to please

them, then they might do it.

This showing off of self-mutilation and threats of suicide is a particularly

ugly form of narcissistic attention grabbing. Kids carrying on this way need

beaten. Worrying your parents this way is a horrible form of abuse, worse than

most child beating. How evil is it to make the people who gave you life and

raised you waiting for you to snuff it? Kids can be just as evil as parents. If

you carry on like this to your friends at school, milking them for sympathy,

then you're no kind of a friend.

The ugliest part of it is how these little wankers, at the likes of

ImNotOkay.net, are crassly exploiting the tragedy of the truly suffering. There

are always a few poor lost souls who, from bad situations or bad medical

depression, absolutely go out and kill themselves. Then a bunch of heartless

little bastards use the fallen to buy credibility for their attention ploy and

ward off the obvious criticism.

This jumped out at me reading the same type of comments over and over in the

thread for RMC's piece. How can you judge? You don't know what people are going

through! Quit whining about your job at Cinnabuns? Yeah, you tell that to a poor

girl being beaten and raped by her stepdad every night.

That's true enough. I don't know the personal histories, much less the internal

emotions of these anonymous posters on the RMC article or the message boards. I

strongly suspect 99% of them are morally ugly suicidal pretenders, but maybe

there are a couple of sincerely distraught folks drawn into such things. Again

though, it seems unlikely that the really distraught, a Kurt Cobain say, would

be carrying on with these kinds of displays.

Others of you are ugly little bastards merely exploiting the suffering of others

for sympathy though, and that right there is one of the ugliest and most morally

depraved things you could do. What you need is some real hardship and suffering

more substantive than having to work a double shift at Cinnabuns. Maybe some of

you whining jackasses could use a few weeks trying to live in North Korea or

Darfur. Then you'd have something to bitch about.

Since I am speaking fairly harshly, let me prune it back a bit. For starters,

this is an if-the-shoe-fits thing. It doesn't apply to just any kid who likes a

certain band or to any band that might be designated as Goth. It certainly

doesn't apply to any teenager who just takes a spell at dressing in black,

generally trying to look cool and put off the straights. Personally, I tend to

find a lot of that cute and endearing, particularly if it comes off as more

rebellious rather than mopey.

Heck, I'll even say a few words in some defense of Gerard Way and My Chemical

Romance. The shtick behind song titles like "Bury Me in Black" and "Welcome to

the Black Parade" is clearly some cheesy niche marketing, but that's pretty much

marketing to these cheesy fakers. Screw 'em. Let 'em work an extra shift at

Cinnabuns to pay for some overpriced concert tickets and posters. They need to

be exploited.

In my never-ending quest to be fair and balanced like Fox News, I've made a

point of actually listening to some My Chemical Romance, even now on the first

Sunday morning of spring as I'm writing this. (Thanks to the nice folks for

their suggestions of what to hunt down.) I'm not overly impressed with most of

this corporate music food product, but I've definitely heard worse. Just as

songs separated from all the marketing, "Famous Last Words" is pretty good,

"Welcome to the Black Parade" strikes me as definitely their best thing

musically, in significant part because of the creative nuances of the

orchestration.

If you're actually seriously torn up inside, you don't need any of this teenage

foolishness. I would suggest instead for your meditation the Roger Miller

classic "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd": You can't rollerskate in a

buffalo herd / But you can be happy if you've a mind to / All you got to do is

put your mind to it / Knuckle down, buckle down - do it, do it, do it."

Thing is though, that knuckling and buckling down is the hard part. It takes

real work and effort to actually do something for yourself, rather than just

whining and looking for sympathy. Just from my point of view though, the more

effort I see you putting out for yourself, the more sympathy I'm going to give

you. By doing something for yourself, I do not mean taking a trip to the mall to

buy more cheesy Goth paraphernalia.

Let us close this meditation with a bit of understated homespun wisdom from a

classic Wilburn Brothers song, "The sun is going to shine on anyone who's got

enough sense to get out in it."

You know, this is now the first Sunday afternoon of spring - and that's just

what I'm fixing to do.


Unreformed hawkish Hoosier hillbilly and sometimes candidate Al Barger runs the

still squeezin' down the psychodelic Kentucky moonshine at MoreThings.com, what

with the paranoid religious visions and the Pentacostal music and visions of God

and anarchy running amok and such. Somebody oughta call the cops. Drop Al a

note, and try to talk some sense into him, will ya? gadfly at morethings.com

Comments
#1 — March 25, 2007 @ 15:20PM — diana hartman [URL]

"As some have pointed out, it's unlikely that truly deeply troubled, actually

suicidal kids would be showing that stuff off. They would more likely be hiding

it in shame and quietly planning their personal end of days. That's sad, and you

can only hope that such kids seek out help and find some relief, but that's only

a relatively few young folk."

The young people who do seek mental healthcare know little of the ways in which

to do this. Unlike their adult counterparts, their resources are limited and are

often poorly prepared to recognize, much less deal with or refer a troubled

young person appropriately. Young people are not privy to their own medical

records, they don't pay for their own insurance, and they aren't schooled in the

etiquette of mental healthcare and the chain of command, as it were. They are

instead (uselessly and sometimes tragically) subjected to the judgment of those

who would simultaneously dismiss their cries of help and "hope that such kids

seek out help and find some relief."

Heads-up: Those who engage in attention-getting behavior are trying to get

someone's attention. (If you just said "duh," you didn't really understand that

last sentence.) Give a young person attention when they're engaged in a behavior

you don't like (negative reinforcement) and they will offer up more of the same.

Give it to 'em when they're engaged in behavior you do like (positive

reinforcement) and they will offer up more of the same. It would be appropriate

at this point to challenge the author (and those who frequent chat rooms of

teenage angst) to tell of experiences in chat rooms where teenagers post about

the ways they found through their troubles.

Because teenagers are not adults yet, they still equate any attention with the

end goal: positive attention. (This is why abused children will insist on

returning to the abusive parent regardless of more positive, alternative living

conditions made available to them.) Teens often labor under the delusion that

negative attention, being better than none, will eventually result in positive

attention. It doesn't matter that this isn't true because it's what they

believe.

Decry narcissistic behavior if you will. The bottom line is that anyone

displaying narcissistic behavior is likely doing so because they are

narcissistic. Look it up: it's a diagnosable, treatable personality disorder

with an onset in adolescence or early adulthood.

Teenagers are, for all their angst, drama and free-for-all histrionics, still on

the cusp of a child's resilience to disorder, disease and trauma such that yes,

something as simple as lyrics from a song could very well pull them back

(temporarily, or set the stage for permanent resistance) from that which they

simultaneously fear and crave (loss of dependence) and enable them to face head

-on that which they also simultaneously fear and crave (independence).

There is an irony in one spending so much time stalking the expressions of

today's youth and decrying their lack of substance when, if that same amount of

time were spent with befuddled, confused youth, it would bring about the very

thing so tirelessly thought to be youth's greatest lack.

Ironic, too, is that any adult would specifically seek out and/or explore

expressions of teenage angst when clearly one finds it so distressing. Me thinks

thou doth protest too much.

#2 March 25, 2007 @ 18:22PM Retro Music Chick

Thanks for clarifying my essay for the satire impared. :)

#3 March 25, 2007 @ 18:46PM Al Barger

You're welcome, Ma'am. You had a lot of folks very carefully not getting the

point, so I figured on trying to make it as straightforward and crystal clear as

possible.

2 comments:

justfortodays said...

I run an Emotions Anonymous blog. Give it a look.

henry_allen said...

Ok, my emotions are hardly anonymous, but...cool.