Fandoms, Subcultures and Cult Media #3

Exploring Subcultures

Although I would consider myself a member of various subcultures, they are all based around music. My favourite genres of music are rock, metal and indie music, as well as pop-punk, pop and alternative. Music is one of the most important things to me, and although I actively engage with other fans and musicians and feel as though it has been a major factor in my life up to now, I am aware that many people and would not see me as a member of these subcultures. There is an idea among many that members of subcultures dress and act in certain ways, and I don’t feel that I personally conform to these expectations. An example of this would be in 2008 when The Daily Mail described ‘emos’ as people who ‘wear dark clothes, practice self harm and listen to ‘suicide cult’ rock bands.’

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In Resistance Through Ritual (1975), Hall and Jefferson suggest that subcultures are formed by people who are trying to ‘resist’ the mainstream. This was the basis of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies’ idea that ‘Juvenile Delinquency’ came from an attempt to oppress Capitalism. I personally don’t think that the reason I listen to music not considered ‘mainstream’ is because I am trying to resist being seen as ‘following the crowd’ or wanting to be ‘indie’ or a Hipster, rather than because it is the music I enjoy more than the repetitive, manufactured, overly-produced music that seems to dominate the Top 40. Despite this, I regularly see fans of previously unknown artists who waste no time in accusing them of ‘selling out’ and ensuring the rest of the Youtube community know that they were fans when no-one else was.

This theory has also been criticised for placing too much emphasis on the working class who supposedly create subcultures through their lack of acceptance into other areas of society. As well as this, I remain hopeful that I am amongst the majority of music fans who are more interested in the actual music, rather than how many others are listening to it. For these reasons, I feel that this theory needs updating to accommodate the ways most people find new music and become part of subcultures: the internet.

I have found that the subcultures I am a part of have allowed me to meet and talk to other people with similar interests to me, often just because they are wearing a t-shirt of a band I don’t know anyone else who likes. Dick Hebdige discusses how subcultures are formed in ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style’ and suggests that when first formed through a ‘common resistance,’ subcultures are seen as radical by dominant society, but as the style of clothing or music that defines the subculture become commodified by large media industries, it will eventually become more mainstream and accepted by homogenous masses. A recent subculture this theory can be applied to is ‘Hipsters’ whose way of dressing is now recognised, as well as mocked online.

Overall, I find that my participation in musical subcultures gives me a common interest with others. Although I often do not dress typically of the subculture, I often wear band merchandise to express my interests. Also, though I find certain genres preferable, I do listen to a wide variety of music that means that even if other people do not share my main taste, I will usually still be able to discuss music with them.  I think that like myself, many people who do not look or act as a stereotype of the subculture are still just as active, enthusiastic and interested in it than those who do.

Bibliography

Hebdige, D. (1988), Subculture: the Meaning of Style, London, Routledge.

Jefferson, T., Hall, S. & University of Birmingham. Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (1976), Resistance through rituals: youth subcultures in post-war Britain, London, Hutchinson in association with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham.

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