I’m not sure how I feel about Leslie Simon & Trevor Kelley’s book Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture. They try to walk the line between reality and satire [or at least I hope that’s what they’re doing] and it doesn’t always work.
Some of their mocking works well, like the illustrated guide to emo sub-types (in general Rob Dobi’s illustrations are one of the book’s highlights), the trend of not looking at the camera when pictures are taken, and the general musical obsession that tends to accompany the genre.
Some of their mocking, however, starts to border on insulting. The book has been tauted as being “funny because it’s true” – and if that’s the case then you’re agreeing that emo kids are friendless, lacking in social skills, unintelligent, and illiterate among other things. If this guide is the truth, as an emo kid I should be following it like the Bible because it’s stamped with Chris Carrabba’s (Dashboard Confessional) and Matt Rubano’s (Taking Back Sunday) approval.
I realize that lodging these complaints will probably only serve in painting me as the emo kid the book describes – oversensitive, unable to take a joke, ready to cry about it, and letting out these frustrations via blog post on the internet. It’s a catch-22.
And who knows – maybe my friends and I are anomalies. The emo kids I know are smart, friendly, and got into the scene through the music. We’re also old, checking in at our mid-twenties. We’re too young for the early wave of emo (I was two when Rites of Spring hit and was still playing with Barbies when Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary came out), but were at that magic high school age when what is popularly considered to be emo was blossoming but was still somewhat underground (Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World, Saves the Day, etc). Now that emo has become mainstream, maybe the bulk of fans are just trendy followers who got into the music through the scene and do care more about their clothing, haircuts, and number of MySpace profile views.
My final contention is that I’m fairly certain that the authors are not and never have been emo. Some tip-offs: the endless references to Good Charlotte and the Madden twins (wearing eyeliner, whining, and liking Tim Burton do not get your music classified as emo), and dropping Fall Out Boy into the mix as often as possible without ever mentioning their best disc – 2003’s Take This To Your Grave.
The overall feeling of the book is more the authors cashing in on a current trend than actually trying to understand and explain a musical genre and the people surrounding it.
All that said, the book was enjoyable overall. It does have some good recommendations as far as movies and music, and parts are really quite funny. For those who consider themselves to be emo, I think it plays well. As far as being an actual insight into the scene for those who want to learn more or are looking for musical guidance, I’d advise you to look elsewhere.