Dear Steff Metal
Love your blog! I’m a younger hesher (15) and I’m trying to learn everything I can about metal, the different genres, and listen to all the “essential” albums. The thing is, any time I try to talk to other metalheads, either at shows or online, they act really superior. I get shot down for having an opinion on anything. It seems as if you can’t be a true hesher unless you’ve liked this music since you were three. Are all metalheads elitist?
Deal with it.
Sorry, that was probably not a very useful answer.
This topic has been coming up in conversation and on metal blogs a lot lately, not sure why. So I figure it’s probably time I had a little chat about it here.
What is Elitism?
Elitism is an important part of any social group. In simplistic terms, it comes about because humans automatically like to sort themselves into heirarchies, and then constantly strive to move up the heirarchy. And those at the top are trying to keep themselves there. This is called social stratification.
Any society has an elite – even communists and anarchists and other models that strive for ultimate equality. The elite come either from pre-determined societal rules (such as being born into certain families, having certain professions, or living in a certain location) or entry into the elite is earned through feats of bravery, strength or wit.
The elite in a particular society get the best resources, and often their opinions are weighted more highly in matters of politics or resource-management. Those in the elite have a greater influence or authority within the community.
This is an overly simplistic anthropological/socialogical evaluation, and is not based on philosophical views of elitism, since that is not my area of expertise, and I’m not going to pretend it is.
How does Elitism Manifest in the Metal Community?
If you view metal as a subculture, the community as a whole conforms to the rules of a society. This means, there is an elite – a class of people who have more authority based on the perception that they hold more value to the society as a whole. Since the metal community holds little interest for monetary wealth (except in its relation to how many metal t-shirts it can buy you), the markers of the metal elitists are very different:
- Usually, they are older fans who have been in the community for longer.
- Usually, they are deeply involved in the community on a high level, perhaps as a touring musician, a producer, a promoter, or a writer or blogger who is helping to spread the word about music.
- Usually, they have extremely diverse tastes, not just within metal but in music in general.
- Usually, they place a lot of emphasis on knowing a lot of trivia about a huge range of bands.
- And usually, they will act like complete douches to younger members of the subculture.
Is This A Problem?
I don’t reckon it is. Why? Well, first of all, crying about someone being mean to you or talking down to you because you’ve never heard of The Ocean isn’t going to get rid of metal elitism. Secondly, because we’ve all been on the receiving end of someone who thinks they’re better than us for whatever reason, and the best way to deal with that shit is to either ignore it or to learn more until you’re an elitist yourself.
Metal is a fandom, and fandom is all about elitism. We’re an exclusive club. You’ve got to like metal to be a metalhead, to even want to be a metalhead. It’s not exactly something you aspire to be, you know? But we’re proud to be in this club. We’re fiercely protective of it. We’re habitually terrified it will get invaded by “the mainstream” (whatever that is) and all the awesomeness will get sucked right out of it. The elite see it as their personal responsibility to protect the subculture from that.
What’s cool about being part of a subculture is that, generally speaking, it’s possible for any member of the subculture to become part of the elite. The barriers to entry are accessible to anyone – simply being a fan, being involved, being present, will eventually get you there. You don’t have to be born into a certain family, possess impossible wealth, or have a certain skin colour in order to get major metal scene points.
So that’s rad.
You are 15, which is literally half my age. Remember that when you’re talking to other metalheads – just because we like the same music doesn’t mean we’ve going to have anything in common with a 15 year old. This may be a much larger part of your issue than perceived “elitism”.
What do you do about other metalheads being dicks to you?
- Accept that, at age 15, you are probably going to be seen as annoying for at least 3 more years.
- Don’t take everything so personally. Don’t assume someone is
- Ignore them. Some people are just dicks.
- Work on your critical discussion skills. Don’t insult other’s favourite bands/albums, as they tend to respond in kind. Focus less on talking about whether something is or is not metal, or what genre it’s in, and more on what you like/dislike about it and how it stands up against other artists/albums. Accept that taste in music is subjective.
- Learn more. Listen to more music. Go to more shows. Eventually, you’ll just become “part of the scene” yourself.
Metal Elitist Resources
- Opinionated Metal Elitists Blog
- That’s Not Metal blog
- Why are Black Metal Fans Such Elitist Assholes? – NOISEY blog
- Metal Elitism – No Clean Singing (with some Antichrist – wicked Swedish blackened thrash)
- In Defense of the Metal Elitist – EGMnow
This was just my thoughts on the subject of elitism in metal music. I’d be very interested in hearing yours. Please sound off in the comments!