Metal Heads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation

By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett | Go to book overview

5
The Effects of Heavy Metal

Man's tragic destiny [is that] he must desperately justify himself as an object of primary value in the universe; he must stand out, be a hero, make the biggest possible contribution to world life, show that he counts. . . . The crisis of modern society is precisely that the youth no longer feel heroic in the plan for action that their culture has set up.

-- Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.

-- William Congreve, The Mourning Bride ( 1697)

One of the reasons heavy metal music has received so much public attention and debate over the past decade is that some critics hear in it not just obnoxious music but an incitement to antisocial behavior. It is not difficult to find such incitements in the lyrics, as we saw in Chapter 3. Violence, defying authority, breaking the norms and rules of society -- these are common themes in heavy metal songs, and it could be argued (as the critics do) that these themes promote behavior that is disruptive to the rest of society, behavior such as violence toward self and others, sexual promiscuity, drug use and drunkenness, and the destruction of property. Even if the songs do not specifically advocate these types of behavior, they could be said to promote them because they advocate, on a more general level, an alienated individualism that rejects any restraints on behavior.

People who suspect the songs of being guilty in this respect naturally scrutinize metalheads for evidence that their suspicions are valid. The media aid them in this process by helpfully pointing out when someone under investigation for a sensational crime is also a fan of heavy metal music. In 1991, for example, a New Hampshire schoolteacher was convicted of persuading her high school student lover to murder her husband. It was noted numerous times that she was a big fan of heavy metal, and she had once been a disc jockey on a radio station where she called herself "The Maiden of Metal." The musical preferences of the actual murderer went unmentioned.

-77-

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Metal Heads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Photographs vii
  • Preface ix
  • Profile - Jack 1
  • 1 - A Heavy Metal Concert: The Sensory Equivalent of War 7
  • Profile - Nick 19
  • 2 - Heavy Metal Music and the Socialization of Adolescents 23
  • Profile - Mark 35
  • 3 - What is This Thing Called Heavy Metal? 41
  • Profile - Brian 59
  • 4 - The Allure of Heavy Metal 63
  • Profile - Spencer 73
  • 5 - The Effects of Heavy Metal 77
  • Profile - Lew 91
  • 6 - Sources of Alienation I: Family and Community 97
  • Profile - Reggie 111
  • 7 - Sources of Alienation II: School and Religion 117
  • Profile - Jean 135
  • 8 - The Girls of Metal 139
  • Profile - Barry 151
  • 9 - Heavy Metal Music, Individualism, and Adolescent Alienation 155
  • Appendix: Interview Questions 169
  • Notes 171
  • References 183
  • About the Book and Author 189
  • Index 191
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