Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Rant in E Minor

Remember that scene in Garden State when the cutesy Natalie Portman tells the conflicted Zach Braff to listen to "New Slang," for it would "change his life?" Yeah. I thought that was lame too. I mean, really--we're all adults here. How can MUSIC, of all things affect your life in any way? Any substantial way, that is. Sure, we derive enjoyment from it. Even a comfort in those shady parts of the day when you just know you are the only person in the universe listening to that exact piece of music at that exact moment, getting a specific feeling from it that you know is unique to your own personal being. But, in the grand scheme of things, you need to be grounded in reality in order to take objective looks at the elements in your life to make significant changes, right? The tingly feeling I get when I hear the chorus of "Gigantic" is admittedly unforgettable, but what is it really going to do for me when I look back at the choices I've made. When I'm lying awake trying to figure out how or why I've ended up where I've ended up. Where is the reality? After all, reality is what we deal with, correct? It's where we live, it's where we breathe, and it’s where we fuck. Music is art, and art (above anything) is a comment on reality--not reality itself.

You see, I know all of this; in my heart of hearts and my brain of brains I possess the power to understand when reality takes a backseat to my emotions and pleasure centers. What I have learned, however, is that I don’t care. Fact: When I am in a bad mood, a good song can bring me up. Fact: when I am feeling “blue” a sad song can commiserate with me and tell me it will be okay. Fact: this may mean I have a generally weak constitution and may not have the ability to truly come to terms with reality in many, many aspects. Fact: Fuck reality.

When you take music too seriously, be it because of your tortured existence, your bad parents or even your bitch of an ex-girlfriend, you are called emo. It's a stigma as unwanted as a bad case of lice, and a mental image most could do without. In my twenty-four years on this rock, I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time embracing labels. There, I said it. I try to be honest with you, my brothers. I’ve been a drummer, a geek, a Goth, a rude boy, a skinhead, a punk, a…moron. This all probably has to do with my striking lack of self-esteem matched with my ridiculously large need to be a part of group while still feeling like I am “outside” of society. As I’ve gotten older, this part of my psyche has mostly softened. These days, I am mostly content in having people pay as little attention to me as possible. The point is that labels have never bothered me. This “emo” title, on the other hand, does.

Let's forget, for a moment, the obvious homophobic connotations associated with such a term. Unlike any other label mentioned, it is only really used as an insult. Now, I’m not at all defending the merits of being emo, or emo music. I think the “correct” use of the term has largely disappeared or, at least, certainly lost any relevance. My problem is with the fact that such a label, which was once solely associated with a specific type of music, is now almost exclusively used as a euphemism for being gay. Which, of course, brings about a larger issue involving why exactly being called gay is still considered an insult this day and age.

Showing emotion is seen as a weakness. I believe this is true. Say all that you want about the progression of society from the alpha-male mentality of the 40’s, 50’s, etc. Men don’t change that much. Not really. So when I close my eyes and sing along at the Cat Power show, I am weak and I just might be gay.

This fact became clear to me recently at a Cursive show. It was a free show on campus in Gainesville, FL. Since anyone could walk in…anyone did. Most were fans, but a lot just wanted to see what all the fuss was all about. Towards the middle of the show, a few larger gentlemen in the 18 to 21 year old range in my general vicinity simply started laughing and walked off. Not before declaring us all “Emo faggots” of course. I got to thinking about it. It doesn’t bother me that someone who I don’t know, don’t care about, and will never see again implied that I was gay; I’ve certainly been treated worse by people I know. It was the use of that term again that was the compelling factor. Is it the way you enjoy music that makes you emo? When I jump in the pit at an Every Time I Die show, am I not getting emotional about the music? This is something that bothers me, but with every word I type it does so less and less.

If the reality of using music as a tool for escape, as a blanket of comfort, is that you are weak, that you are less of a person, that you are emo…well, then I suppose I can add one more title to my stable of labels. It just sucks that I don’t enjoy having hair in my eyes or wearing female jeans that show off my package…or bad music. But, you roll with the punches I guess.


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