The "Non"-Conformist Metalhead
Have you ever heard anyone say this?:
"I'm so metal, I shit steel!"
"I'm so metal, I shit studs!"
Or perhaps my favorite,
"I'm so metal I listen to troo underground metal like Lamb of God, Slipknot and Disturbed."
Perhaps you have seen individuals dressed mostly in black wearing a studded belt, faded t-shirt with some obscure (or not so obscure) band, tattoos, with dyed tresses?
Would it be safe to naturally assume such individuals listen to or partake in the metal or even rock culture? I would even say that the metal/rock culture decrees a certain 'look' to ascertain that such individuals are practically wearing a name tag stating 'Hello my name is___, and I'm into metal."
(Mind you, I said assuming. I suppose it could be interpreted as stereotyping)
I also believe that these individuals wouldn't be caught dead at, say, a Lil Wayne concert? And, on the flip side, I'm sure you would not witness a Timberland/BabyPhat donning, gold chain swinging, corn rowed person at a Cradle of Filth show, yes?
(Hopefully no one is at that show-but that's just my opinion. Sorry to the CoF fans out there)
I know many a folk who proudly explain to me why they are non-conformist and give me a 25 page dissertation on their reasons. And you know what I usually say?
"YOU LOSE! GOOD DAY SIR!" (*cue dramatic finger pointing)
...I really don't. But I should. Usually I listen to the self fulfilling dribble while in my mind I make my own list of reasons why this is absolute bullshit.
I rarely meet anyone who are non-conformist in the true sense of the word. That doesn't make them better or worse. Of course they never know that they are.
I'm not saying I'm innocent. Far from it. When Pokemon was huge in my youth, I flocked to see the show, movies and even got a gold plated Mew Two card complete with a pokeball stand from Mc. Donald's in my happy meal. Didn't you?
But most people generally have a 'follow the flock' mentally because to be outside of the flock is considered bad.
When examining the metal culture there are three main facts that remain true. Metal is male dominated. It is mostly straight and inherently white. Again, not a problem.
The issue is for the people outside of that.
The female metal head.
The gay metal head.
The non-white metal head. (Not only blacks, but Asians, Latinos, etc)
All minorities who have been persecuted in one way or another.
I received an email from Micheal Zinkowski, a lecturer at UNC Greensboro, who is writing a paper related to this topic called "Discarding Macho Posturing, Maintaining Sonic Devastation: Disidentification in Extreme Metal Subculture." I read the bit that he presented and was amazed because he illustrates exactly what I wanted to say in this post but couldn't find the right way to put it. Thankfully, he does:
"...The majority of the metal community remains white, straight, and male, who by and large live normative lives and whose identities are hegemonically powerful already. Rallying against the powers that be while refusing to acknowledge the inherent privilege already granted to many of its members leaves metal looking like a space of contradiction. Within this contradiction women, people of color, and queer folks may and do situate themselves as metal fans in order to access and reshape the power the genre promises, sonically and hegemonically."
"How do those in the extreme metal community who are not white, male, cis-gendered, straight, or able-bodied negotiate their identities within and against an individualist culture that effectively re-presents and re-affirms Western normative standards of masculinity, whiteness and heteronormativity and simultaneously performs as a counterpublic? How can the minoritarian subject claim a metal identity, thus “be metal,” without completely conforming to majoritarian standards of identity formation enacted by the metal community?"
The metal community is, lets be honest, a boys club. The controversial issues in metal generally focus around the female, gay, or ethnic presence in metal that is scene as the 'un norm'. How can a community that prides itself on being different alienate those who flock to it for that reason? Or even, abide by such rules as what the listener should wear/look like.
The individuality in this scene should be celebrated-not scorned.
(Again, not everyone does but many do)
I believe the answer is because metal was intended for one audience only. But now that globally its this huge subculture-it cannot be restrained to the normalcy that it once was contained by.
What that means is that all types of people are now enjoying metal music and are not necessarily bowing to its creed of what metal looks like, acts like, or even performs like.
I believe I've said something to the similar effect in a different post. Metal is already a minority so the community really doesn't have a choice to be picky in who is included or not.
(Thank you Mr. Zinkowski for letting me use your words/thoughts.)