Metal Heads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation

By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett | Go to book overview

6
Sources of Alienation I: Family and Community

The family's importance in our society [has] been steadily declining over a period of more than 100 years. [The result, in the present, is that children learn] a certain protective shallowness, a fear of binding commitments, a willingness to pull up roots whenever the need arises, a dislike of depending on anyone, an incapacity for loyalty or gratitude.

-- Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World

In our society, the forces that produce youthful alienation are growing in strength and scope. Families, schools, and other institutions that play important roles in human development are rapidly being eroded.

-- Urie Bronfenbrenner, professor emeritus of human development, Cornell University

As we have seen, the dominant theme in heavy metal songs is alienation, alienation with respect to personal relationships as well as social institutions. Violence is pervasive in the songs, and the violence expresses a deep alienation, a sense of being at war with the world. Songs about lovers -- or former lovers -- bemoan their faithlessness and duplicity. Songs about politics and religion are invariably cynical: All politicians are liars and schemers, all religious figures are hypocrites. The singer is presented as a lone figure of integrity trying to hold out against a massive tide of corruption and ugliness. Little hope is offered for turning that tide, for ridding the world of its multiple ills and creating a society free of the ugliness of the present one. The best that can be hoped for, it seems, is to go down nobly, to be the rare voice crying in the wilderness, even with the certainty that the world at large will never listen.

Given the pervasiveness of the theme of alienation in heavy metal music, it will come as no surprise that many of the adolescents who like heavy metal are unhappy with their family relationships, express negative attitudes toward school, and tend to be cynical about politics and re

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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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