this last friday night i was in salt lake city, utah, home of mormonism. it’s one of the most conservative cities in america. so imagine my surprise that the 1500 teenagers i was speaking to has the highest percentage of emo kids i have ever seen in ANY city, anywhere. it was downright odd and disorienting.
after speaking i went to dinner with a youth worker. when we arrived at the rec center where the overnighter was taking place, he yelled to a kid, “hey, tim!” then he said, “dang, that’s not tim — those emo kids all look alike.”
i asked the youth workers for an explanation. they gave two:
1. mormonism has made SLC such a straight-laced, conservative city. the “mormon look” is clean-cut, all-american. by embracing emo, especially the look, kids are making it clear that they are not “that”.
2. one of the primary ways rebellious kids from mormon families act out is by embracing an alternative, not-acceptable, “look” — which, these days, seems to be emo.
i had always assumed the movie SLC Punk, which i’ve not seen, was a tongue-in-cheek look at some lone punk living in the very-n0n-punk wasteland of slc. but an older youth worker told me slc was a hotbed of punk back in the day, for the same two reasons it’s a hotbed of emo these days.
i could never qualify as an emo, even if i got the right clothes and hair and scowl (hey, i already have the right glasses). no, i couldn’t qualify because i’m… um… somewhat portly. there’s no such thing as a fat emo. they don’t exist. what’s with that? they’re all heroin-chic thin, emaciated. weird. i’m feelin’ kinda sorry right now for the chunky 15 year-old in slc who really wants to be emo.
so, it’s very interesting to me that this city of uniformity and regimentation produced such a strong and large (numerically, not body-size) reaction. but what’s really interesting is that even the reaction has so much conformity. “those emo kids all look alike.”