Back in the day, whenever I would read reports of teenage rock fans being singled out in public for their mode of attire or long hair, I confess that I used to roll my eyes and picture archetypal middle-class teens merely finding impediments to social inclusion and adopting tribal tropes which they would grow out of in good time.
Then, of course, I read about the case of Sophie Lancaster and I began to get very pissed off indeed.
It would appear that whilst reports of metalheads, goths and alternative kids being beaten up by gangs of teen peers purely on the basis of their dress/music preference are thankfully rare, they are by no means a thing of the past.
Take this story, brought to my attention by the splendid Femetalism blog – Teenage Metal fan beaten up by gang of 15 youths. There’s no justification for that kind of thuggery, and I find it hard to believe that one teenage metalhead could present that much of a threat to a gang of similarly aged kids.
Did I miss some act of Parliament or obscure by-law whereby it’s now perfectly acceptable to beat the crap out of people based on some spurious hatred of the music that they listen to? It occurs to me that whenever I walk through my city centre on a Saturday afternoon and see black-clad, colourfully attired, metal/goth/alternative kids hanging together in groups, what I might once have seen as youthful camaraderie and conventional teenage social behaviour might have not a little to do with the idea of safety in numbers.
This wasn’t the case in my youth – you might get a cat-call or two of “Mosher!” or “Sweaty!” from the Ben Sherman/Ralph Lauren-shirted hive-mind who despoiled the Scarborough town centre of my teen years but there was never any sense of being attacked or facing physical assault from a gang. Glibly, I’d attribute that to my being six foot two and wearing an Anthrax “Among the Living” shirt, but appearances deceive, of course – if somebody wanted to attack me, I’d be so nonplussed that the first punches would have landed before I was able to work up the gumption to run.
Let’s summarise this, shall we? Metal is pretty harmless, in the grand scheme of things. Dressing in band shirts, black boots and jeans or cyber-goth wear presents no threat to anybody other than self-appointed fashionistas (who can, frankly, get a real job).
Thuggery is unacceptable, no matter how much mainstream pop culture might glamourize it.