Goth vs. Emo

So. Goth vs. Emo. Oh yes, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners has been receiving quite the flurry of mail about this topic. And the Lady of the Manners must admit that at first, she had no earthly clue why. But then the Lady of the Manners did a little poking around, and discovered that some of the sullen looking babybats that the Lady of the Manners had been smiling at were very likely emo kids. (Or so the Lady of the Manners was told by others.)

And then the Lady of the Manners did some more poking around, and discovered that very few of those kidlings would describe themselves as emo. That “emo” was frequently used as a derogatory term to be hurled at someone who was being open about their emotions, usually of the Woe, Pain, and Suffering variety.

Well. All of this poking around did was further befuddle the Lady of the Manners. Was there indeed an emo subculture? Or was it a handy buzzword that was being slapped on everything that could be related to black-clad kids? And how on earth was the Lady of the Manners supposed to be able to tell the difference between black-clad, eyeliner-smudged gothlings and black-clad, eyeliner-smudged emo kids?

Some handy history: According to the very informative “what the heck *is* emo, anyway?” website (run by Andy Radin), the short version is this: emo (short for “emotional”) is a rock genre. However, it’s often used to refer to a style of dress, a kind of (usually bad) poetry, etc. And like any subculture or scene that springs up, there is a particular look or style that seems to go along with it. In the case of emo, that means tight black jeans, tight t-shirts, layers of hoodies and/or thrift store jackets, asymmetrical hair (usually dyed black and loaded with product to make it even more asymmetrical), and eyeliner on everyone.

You see, at first glance that look isn’t too far off from the sort of appearance that a lot of young Goths present. Especially if they’re aiming for the punk/deathrock side of the Goth scene, instead of the more historical-inspired fashions. And because emo is the buzzword of the moment, that label is being applied to just about anyone who wears black, a lot of eyeliner, and doesn’t present a Shiny Happy demeanor to the world at all times.

There are many differences between Goth and emo, even if the casual observer can’t spot them right away. One of the Lady of the Manners’ friends, Allyson Beatrice, author of “Would the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby”, once asked the Lady of the Manners if “goth = getting laid in a coffin and emo = listening to sad music while crying about not getting laid in a coffin” was an accurate summary of the main difference. And while the Lady of the Manners winced a tiny bit at the stereotypes that were screamingly front and center in that statement, the Lady of the Manners also had to admit that for a flippant, off-the-cuff summary, it did sum up the core difference. Goths are spooky, emo kids (the Lady of the Manners just can’t bring herself to write “emos”) are angry and depressed.

(Of course, if we’re going to talk about bad stereotypes, Goth supposedly leads to violence, and emo supposedly leads to cutting and self-harm. Neither of which are true, but you knew that. You did know that, didn’t you? There is no subculture the Lady of the Manners can think of that requires violence and harm toward yourself or others. Why some people seem determined to believe otherwise, the Lady of the Manners isn’t sure.)

Goth, as the Lady of the Manners has said before, is in many ways about finding beauty, romance, and decadence in dark or unexpected places. While, to the Lady of the Manners’ eyes, emo seems to be more about expressing (or, in fact, wallowing in) one’s own sad and angry emotions rather than looking for the darkly beautiful.

Because emo seems to be all about wallowing in the Woe and Grrr!, emo has become an easy target for mocking. Deservedly so? The Lady of the Manners doesn’t really think so. In fact, when the Lady of the Manners sees other Goths mocking or making fun of people from the emo scene, the Lady of the Manners gets a bit annoyed. Goths are rather infamous for Looking Different From Other People and have to deal with fear and suspicion about ourselves; mocking other people because of how they look or because you think they’re whiny is a touch of “pot, meet kettle”. Besides, the Lady of the Manners remembers when Goths were the ones labeled as whiny, depressed, and a danger to themselves; not to mention the fact that Goth kids are still getting bullied and picked on. How is picking on the emo kids any better than what bullies are doing to our own?

For those of you Snarklings that have written asking what to do about people who call you “emo”, the Lady of the Manners has a very simple piece of advice. Ignore them. Don’t get all huffy about how you’re NOT, and don’t get defensive. The Lady of the Manners has no idea if the people calling you emo really think that you are, but suspects that they’re just trying to get a reaction from you. That if they weren’t calling you “emo”, they’d be calling you “vampire” or asking if you know that it’s not Halloween yet. They’re trying to upset you, and trying to get a rise out of you. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Ignore them. Act as if whatever they say is of no importance to you whatsoever.

With that last bit of advice, the Lady of the Manners thinks she’s blithered on about Goth vs. emo enough now, and is going to wander off to try and organize the Lady of the Manners’ boxes of black lace trims. Upcoming posts to Gothic Charm School include book reviews and advice on how to deal with gossip about one’s romantic and sexual habits. If you have a question or a book recommendation for the Lady of the Manners, please, Snarklings, write!

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