May 1, 2012

Metal Scholar Stands Up Against Bogan Stereotypes

Ask a Metalhead, Metal News, Tr00 Metal Life


I was going to do a Linking Horn today, but this article from the NZ Herald came across my desk today, and I thought I’d comment on it.

For folk outside of New Zealand and Australia unfamiliar with the term “bogan”, it means different things in both countries. As I understand it, in Australia it is essentially a synonym for “white trash”, and in New Zealand it means a Westie or Metalhead – usually someone who lives in West Auckland, drives a Holden Kingswood, smokes a lot of dope and loves Metallica. It’s an insult, but a lot of folk – my group of friends included – wear it proudly. A lot of metalheads resent being called bogans because the term implies you’re a bit thick.


Dave Snell, Professor of Boganology

Dave Snell, a PhD candidate at Waikato University in Hamilton (2 hours south of Auckland and a bit of a bogan-centric city) was in the news back in 2007 when he was awarded a prestigious scholarship – including $100k of funding – for his PhD thesis looking at bogan culture. His research looked at how bogans/metalheads belonged to other groups and how this affected them as metalheads, and his research has proved a valuable case study on the nature of community and identity. Well, he’s finished now, and speaking out against bogan and metalhead stereotypes.

The font of Internet knowledge, Wikipedia, terms a bogans hailing from lower-middle-class backgrounds, having limited education and exhibiting speech, clothing and behaviour that reflect their upbringing.

“I’m a bogan but I also work at Wintec. I’m a son, a brother, there are all these roles and identities that have different demands and mean I negotiate them in my life and it may mean that I dress differently in certain circumstances so we are not just one person.”

Snell doesn’t believe bogans/metalheads can be slotted into neat little groups. I think a lot of us can identify with this. I’m a metalhead, but I’m a bunch of other things, too. I’m a writer, an archaeology buff, a home-brewer, a wife a sister, daughter and Aunty, a friend, an adventurer and an eternal optimist. I am proud of my metalness but not defined by it. As metalheads I think we’ve all at one time or another felt the stigma of stereotypes – we’re considered unintelligent drug maggots or aggro Satanists. In reality, most metalheads I know are geeks of the highest order, but even that doesn’t encompass the affiliations, talents and identities of this complex community.

Together, we have a single identity that unites us – a love of metal music. But individually, we’re a melting pot of different personalities with unique opinions, passions and life experiences. It’s important to celebrate that, I think, and to each do our bit to rise above our stereotypes.

Have you ever experienced discrimination or stereotyping for the way you dress or the music you listen to? What do you say to people who stereotype metalheads and other alternative subcultures? What do you think we should be doing to abolish these stereotypes?

8 Comments on “Metal Scholar Stands Up Against Bogan Stereotypes

Dave Snell
September 24, 2012 at 2:43 am

I had to comment – laughed my ass off at being called a “tool of the international communist party”. A rather interesting definition of sociology too ha ha. Normally don’t comment on comment sections, but had to after reading that. Cheers to the person who made that remark, also cheers for the mention in your blog. Enjoyed it.

June 3, 2012 at 11:51 pm

most people seem to be able to accept young males listening to metal but dont seem to have any understanding when its a female and far too old as well…..

May 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

As someone who is super diverse (I dress in all black, knit, have tea parties, garden, love the beach, research religions, am a redneck, smoke cigars, dance to goth music, play tabletop roleplaying games, and LOVE metal music) someone is always going to make a judgment on you based on the very worst of any group.

I’ve had coffee thrown at me, people move away from me in restaurants, sneers, jeers, and dirty looks. When I was younger this used to really bother me. Why couldn’t people just be friendly? Now, I just feel sad for them. If they really feel people need to fit into a box to be happy I can only imagine that they are unhappy people.

My tactic is to always be a shining example. Especially at work, I may be the only person of alternative culture someone might meet in their life. I want their one experience to be fantastic. That way, if they need directions or a recommendation on a dish at a restaurant they won’t be afraid to ask the next metalhead they see for help. I think if more people from all subcultures started off friendly instead of defensive I think this would go a long way to changing how people view us.

Joshua Russell
May 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm

This guy is a tool of the international communist party, sociology is a load of bollocks. It’s all about supposidly eliminating conflict so we can all be slaves of the government, bugger that. I don’t want to be understood by people or whatever.
Oh yeah, people have threatened me with violence and shout crap out their car windows at me. But so what? Does’nt that mean they have noticed you?

May 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I live in the American Midwest where even in the more liberal areas there isn’t really a whole lot of tolerance for metal (or just about anything that challenges religious authority in general), so I have experienced a lot of discrimination. The worst of it has never been at the hands of the leadership or the establishment, but rather my own peers. Growing up I had all sorts of cruel rumors and names tossed my way, having been called everything from Satanist to Scum to in one extreme case Anti-American, and while all of those things hurt I powered through it by listening to music and having been fortunate enough to have had some VERY supportive science teachers in school.
I started high school as a piss poor student, but by the end I had a 3.95 gpa and was the only person in my class with a full scholarship to ANY university.
Ultimately I think that there will always be a few bad apples that make us all look rotten, but we can at least weaken these stereotypes by ignoring them and continuing to enjoy ourselves despite what society wants to call us.

May 5, 2012 at 1:31 pm

@Phil – congrats on your scholarship! You’re living testament to the idea that the best response to bullying and hurtful people is to simply do your best and live a good life. It really shocks me to hear of the things people have to deal with – both in the western world and in places like Indonesia and the Middle East – just because of the music they listen to. You’re right – the only thing to do is to support each other and keep enjoying our music.

May 4, 2012 at 8:58 am

Stereotypes have been with me as long as I’ve been listening to rock and metal – if you’re not a cheerful, easily mocked “Wayne’s World”/”Bill & Ted”-style comic figure of fun then you’re a potentially lethal, Black Metal-listening outcast, with no middle ground whatsoever.

I get tired of explaining who the band on my t-shirt is, or listening to somebody who responds “Never heard of them” when they ask me what I’m listening to on my iPod, but it’s never made me outwardly aggressive or argumentative, as that makes more problems for metalheads.

If I’m being honest, some of metal-loving friends are just as guilty of employing stereotypes when discussing people in society that they don’t get on with – it’s a two-way street.

May 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm

@ Fluffick – that is very true. I find in general we’re less judgmental of people based on race, class, sex, job, etc, but more judgmental of people based on the music they listen to. Hell, I’m guilty of this! Good on you for not letting people’s ignorance affect you – it’s definitely the more mature approach \m/

Comments are closed.