Emo: How Fans Defined a Subculture
Author: Judith May Fathallah (Emmanuel 2005)
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
For many, the word “emo” calls to mind angsty teenagers, shaggy black haircuts, and skinny jeans. A popular music phenomenon in the early 2000s, emo is short for “emotional hardcore,” and refers to both a music genre and a youth scene notable for its androgynous style. Judith May Fathallah pushes beyond the stereotypes and social stigma to explore how online fandom has shaped the definition of emo, with significant implications both for millennial constructs of gender and for contemporary fan studies.
First laying out the debate over what emo is, Fathallah walks superfans and newcomers through the culture surrounding the genre’s major bands, including the emo holy trinity: My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! At the Disco. Next she examines fans’ main mode of participation in the emo subculture—online communities such as LiveJournal, Tumblr, MySpace, and band websites. Taking a hard look at the gender politics that dominated those spaces, she unearths a subculture that simultaneously defines itself by its sensitivity and resistance to traditional forms of masculinity, yet ruthlessly enforces homophobic and sexist standards. Fathallah demonstrates fandom’s key role in defining emo as a concept and genre after 2001, with probing insight into its implications for gender constructions through popular music.