Saturday, March 29, 2008

Subcultures, their uniforms and their histrionics

I came across both of these facts a couple days ago. Apparently, there are riots in the streets of mexico between "emos" and "punks". I can't understand all of the broadcast. I get a "punk' saying something about "they're copying our style". A friend suggests that they're just teenagers blowing off steam. I find it staggering. The similarities between the two groups are many more than the differences. Both have intense devotion to a musical genre, some flavor of angsty world view that goes along with it and a rigid wardrobe and hairstyle scheme. (The strict rules of 'cool' have always been in opposition to the 'rebellion' it touts). All the more well matched, I suppose. A sort of civil war; brothers probably know the best ways to get their brothers in a tizzy. Music and style have overcome world politics in terms of what will get people out on the streets hollering at each other.

The very same day, I was reading a chapter in Boorstin's book 'The Creators' (an entire history of humankind's creation; creation myths to picasso. I've been chipping away at it for three years). This chapter was about Goethe and his first smash hit "The Sorrows of Young Werther". This book not only made him a lit-star but touched off an absolute craze in Germany at the time. The story of this passionate young melancholy chap offing himself drove hordes of people to dress like him in the signature pale blue coat and yellow trousers. The ladies could collect china telling the story in pictures and wear themed jewelery. (apparently there were a fair amount of copy-cat suicides too). I'm not sure if those Werther-lovers ever went up against other sub-sects of sturm and drang literary fans or not. But, I can't help but see the roots of emo and goth and punk and indie rock and their devotees in this. Amazing that something based on so much mopey-ness can breed such communal action. Perhaps political leaders should pay more attention to their clothing style and theme music, the merchants have known the importance of that sort of thing for ages.

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