Make It Stop…

Tsk Tsk LA Times. I’d already done away with (500) Days of Summer a handful of weeks ago, and this is merely another exaggerated interpretation of “emo culture.” So on the one hand, I’d like to dissect it. But, I think the words clearly speak for themselves:

“500 Days” is, as far as genres go, a hybrid picture, something of an emo version of a romantic comedy: It disdains machismo, futurism, violence and volume in favor of subtlety and heartfelt, if often mumbled, emotion.

The one time Tom really runs afoul of Summer’s feelings is when he throws a punch at a guy who’s been hassling her at a bar (downtown’s highly photogenic Broadway Bar, by the way). Tom is one of a number of emo leading men to emerge from Hollywood this year, joining sensitive types in “Adventureland” and “Away We Go,” among other pictures. As Gawker noted this week, the cineplex has been full of “gentle, sensitive, geeky male outsiders with a love of Lou Reed and snug hoodies.”

With its very particular aesthetic point of view and calibrated tone, “(500) Days” shares much cultural ground not just with indie bands but with emo culture broadly defined — with journals like McSweeney’s (whose founder, Dave Eggers, cowrote “Away We Go”), radio programs like “This American Life” (whose host, Ira Glass, is Tom with chunky black glasses and a decade or two older) and so on.

Well, I wouldn’t expect an architecture critic to have a complete understanding of a cultural enigma like emo, and Christopher Hawthorne certainly proves that idea. He is, in effect, confusing sometimes fluid state of emo fans and indie culture, though all his descriptions match that of indie culture. Most “emos” – be they the Revolution Summer folks in the 80s, Fugazi’s punk-for-one-and-one-for-punk calls to arms of the late 80s through the aughts, hell even My Chemical Romance – don’t match Hawthorne’s description. Even the stereotypes of “emos” today – depressed punk youths with a fetish for self-violence – doesn’t match that description. Hawthorne’s words are of indie through and through, from a love of McSweeny’s right down to the Morrissey fandom from this quick spec on the movie.

Among the many camps, Morrissey tends to be tossed into the indie one, and Regina Spektor without question as well. Emo is always, always land of the punk, even if it is an extremely watered down version of that.

To break it down a little further and call it a night, sensitive does not always equal emo culture. Everyone has feelings, every music has some sort of emotional depth behind it (even if it is a shallow pit, there are some feelings elicited towards how hollow a music can be). THAT is one of many reasons numerous emo musicians diss the term and a reason that so many confuse the two.

Night all.

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3 responses to “Make It Stop…

  1. Pingback: Dear LA Times « Perfect Lines

  2. I get your point, it’s “indie” not “emo”, BUT it’s still a great article. I read your original post and couldn’t agree more, but as an Angeleno the weird take on arhitechure in the film wasn’t just annoying it was dumbfounding.

    I felt Hawthorne did a good job of gently noting that the main was clueless about the subject without being overly harsh. His statement about how the Tom character better get used to rejection was spot on, and after the numerous clueless national articles pointing out how the movie showed a different and “real” LA when in fact it was a ridiculous LA was good to read.

    I had one other major beef with the film and its depiction of LA. This town is brown, baby. I am white but most people here are not. It’s 65% Latino, 15% Asian and about 10% white and black.

    The suburbs are more white but still mostly Latino and why a mopey indie guy falls for Zoe Deschanel (who looked very old for the part actually) when there are so many hip, aware Asian and Latino girls I just don’t know.

    • It’s absolutely a great article – my only discrepancies were with the misappropriation of emo as a term for indie culture. I should have mentioned that in the post, because Hawthorne is a talented writer and he has a lot of insight in the greater culture (I mean, he also did admit that what he was describing was more of an indie culture than anything emo), along with his insights into architecture. I don’t tend to read too many articles on architecture, but most critics in this area tend to not only be literate, but have a hand in a dearth of different worlds (much like an architect, who must balance physics with visual aesthetics). I was wrong to say that Hawthorne didn’t know about emo culture, as he clearly mentioned in our correspondence.

      And I absolutely hear where you’re coming from on the “real” LA in the film versus reality. Granted, I can say as someone who’s never been to LA that it provided an entirely different view of LA than most Hollywood takes on the city.

      But, at the same time, I could tell that it wasn’t true to form. Partially, because the movie was, as I’ve said before, targeted at indie kids, who, in a big generalization, tend to be more affluent and, majority-wise, white. It’s so much easier to put two good looking white folks in because they reflect the majority of the audience they’re targeting. It’s a sad statement, but they certainly don’t deviate from movies in the past that they’ve followed.

      Again though, you’re absolutely right about the depth of diversity in LA… though I may not have ever set foot in the city, from what I’ve read, seen, and heard about the total population of the city, it reflects more about the generalized ideals of America than any other city in the US. Sure, white’s aren’t just a blank culture and a modern trope – pooled from various European countries – but the idea of immigration to this country is, in this day and age, from all across the world, not just Europe. From what I’ve read in David Rieff’s Los Angeles (a book that truly observes the city of LA as a mutli-national city and claims it as the future of American cities), Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop (which not only plainly states that by the time of the LA riots whites were in the minority, but goes into great lengths to show the racial divisions within the city and how they interacted around the time of the riots, the impact of gang wars, and West Coast gangsta rap), seen in documentaries like Crips & Bloods: Made In America (which details the gang wars in LA), and even in trailers for docs. like The Garden, LA is as diverse a town as any out there.

      But, as I said before, this was an “indie movie” made for “indie kids,” so, in that, it’s focus is very, very focused on a minutiae of LA and not the city as a whole…

      Anyway, sorry to go overboard there, but I agree with what you’re saying wholeheartedly!

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