Thursday, 19 June 2014

Alternative subcultures and the glamorisation of sadness

Another post??? Yeah, so as a quick update, I've got three jobs, which essentially means I'm working full time. It's tiring, but I'm enjoying it so far. Yes, I know I missed World Goth Day, Friday the 13th + full moon AND Red and Black Week, but I'll try to post whenever I can. If I have time, I'll even write several posts and queue them for future publication.

During one of my ever decreasing free moments, I stumbled across this post: Soft Grunge, Mental Illness is Not a Style.

I would highly recommend you read through it, but in case you don't, here's the basics: the author explains her concerns about the popularity of 'soft grunge' and its glamourisation of sadness, depression, etc.

Here she defines soft grunge as essentially a way of finding beauty in tragedy, but not necessarily in a good way. Soft grunge has also been used interchangeably with pastel goth and nu goth, although it is more of an ideology than a style. Hard to tell though, as they all seem to blur into one on the internet.

Emo is another one of those subcultures that really okayed the mopey, depressed  mindset. The more scars on your arms the better.

The author makes an interesting argument - "Soft grunge is okay, but the consequences might not be". It's okay to seek comfort and assurance, but it is important to understand the impact of your actions.

And so here begins my two cents.

I have had mental illness, and you know what, I reckon almost everyone has. research throws around statistics like 1 in 3 adult Australians will experience depression yada yada but I don't believe it for a second. People keep their mouth shut about this kind of thing. People are very good at hiding things.

I wasn't the best at hiding it, but as my friends weren't entirely certain, they'd sort of half-seriously, half-jokingly comment about how 'depressed' I'd seem, and then I'd join in the 'joke' and they'd all feel better. And that was what I wanted.

I know people who have seen depression as this glamorous thing. Scars on your wrist are so cool, you guys.

Okay, maybe that's a bit nasty. Let me rephrase.

The intense desire to be a part of something, to make sense of the world, to be able to deal with pain, can sometimes encourage people to believe that being depressed is a mature and necessary thing. You're struggling with pain and able to hang on. You're an amazing human being.

I'll admit I've been guilty of this kind of thought before, especially when I need affirmation. I'd make a martyr of myself which was completely unnecessary, despite my depression. I held onto this stubborn belief that I would be a much more awesome person if I could struggle on by myself, bothering no-one, writing poetry (legit), crying into my pillow.

There is no doubt I was depressed, but I definitely could have dealt with it better. Rather than glamourise my depression and essentially hang on to it, I should have realised that it didn't make me any better, any more mysterious and amazing, just because I was stuck in this cycle of misery that could be alleviated, just a little, by changing my view.

You might say: yeah, but you were depressed. It's not that easy. And you're right. Partially because of this glamourised view of depression which is becoming increasingly projected.

Now I can look at pictures of Wylona Hayashi, Felice Fawn and all the rest of those depression-chic types and appreciate the beauty of the picture, but not desire those feelings of struggle and martyrdom anymore. If they want to do that, that's fine. I'm over it.

I expect that there will be some controversy over my comments. Go forth. Let's hear your views.

On a final note, please take these words. They are accompanied by cute owls.


  1. Oh god. It's so lame I feel like my head is going to explode. I come from an older generation and I have never heard of "soft grunge" until today. It just looks like a bunch of Courtney Love fanatics with pastel hair, who literally sound emo but look different. When my friends and I were teenagers we had to deal with the birth of emo and we dreaded it. Nothing but a bunch of runts feeling sorry for themselves and listening to god awful music. One kid had a swarm of girls following him around because he cut himself one day and they were all like "ooh we're so worried about you." And what impression did that give to other emo childs? That cutting yourself gets you chicks...

    I self mutilated a lot in high school, along with four of my friends, and although we shared our experience in our close circle, we never paraded it around like it was something hardcore or cool. In fact we were repulsed by those who did. I recall my friend coming home one day and complaining about this girl at NY Fries with cuts all up her arm and she was like "cover that sh*t up!" It's about self respect and common sense. If you show off your self-harm it makes you look emotionally unstable and people will ridicule the crap out of you for it, only furthering your stress (especially true for those who struggle with social anxiety). How many of these stupid soft grunge kids are getting bullied and harassed for these images? Sure in their scene they look like hot sh*t, but the reality is not everybody contributes to or supports these ideals. I remember getting slammed for dressing in all black, I can't imagine the stuff these girls go through. They're probably told to kill themselves every day.

    It is possible to look hardcore, dress alternative and not be an emotional basket case. It doesn't make you look stronger or more badass to be showing off your self-mutilation or bragging about your mental illness, it makes you look stupid and weak. Soft grunge kids can hate on me all they want, I don't care, because I was there for real grunge and this is just laughable.

    1. I feel there's a very fine line to tread when dealing with mental health issues. On the one hand, it's definitely not good for a person to suffer. On the other, demonising it and/or sweeping it under the carpet is also a bad thing. It is important to find that healthy point where you acknowledge that the feelings are real and painful, not something glamorous, but also not to make it 'okay' and 'normal'. Accept it as an issue which must be dealt with calmly and rationally.
      For some people, this means displaying their scars as a recognition of where they've been and what they've achieved. On the other hand, I know people who have had tattoos to cover the cuts.

  2. I agree with you. I have noticed this glamourisation of 'depression/sadness' as well and I don't think it's a good development. I really don't like the idea that there are people out there who feel like they have to be depressed, or feel bad about themselves, to belong to a certain group of people.

    1. I remember back in high school I was told that I couldn't possibly be a "real goth" because I didn't act depressed all the time and cut myself. Fact was, I HAD been suffering from depression, but I didn't let it rule me. I didn't wear it on my sleeve for people to see.

      I'm still struggling with anxiety and depression. It's a constant battle, but I'm gonna keep fighting. There's no glamour in being miserable and wanting to die. It's just sad.


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