(Warning: gratuitous pseudo-intellectual masturbation)
Something Corey Taylor of Slipknot (ugh…I know, but
bear with me) said during one of those lame-o history of metal shows on
VH1 struck my fancy. He said, “Metal is probably the last bastion of real rebellion,
real masculinity…real, real men basically getting together and beating
their chest.” If you ignore the slightly homoerotic implication
(notice: I didn’t include the part where he talked about guys taking off
their shirts), his apparent endorsement of archaic notions of
masculinity, and the fact that the speaker is Corey Taylor of Slipknot,
you realize that he has a really interesting point.
experience, the newer generations of male metalheads don’t generally fit the mold of
“traditional” masculinity. As I mentioned in a previous post, most fellow male metalheads that I’ve come into contact with (friends, acquaintances, bands, etc.) are overwhelmingly nice; as well as introverted, empathetic, soft-spoken, and shy. These are certainly not traits that traditional masculinity embodies, nor are they traits that are reinforced by media and society as being “typical” male traits. These are traits that in our society are seen as “subordinate” (i.e. female) traits relative to the hegemonic masculinity hierarchy. Because…you know…that’s how are lovely patriarchal society works: men aren’t supposed to have emotions because emotions are a sign of weakness, you ding dong!
However, I think through our (metalheads)
collective desire to be a part of that “traditional” masculinity narrative, we have created a hyperreal
masculinity within our music. By that, I mean a masculinity that is amplified to a ridiculous degree on steroids and fuckloads of bacon. I would say this hyperreal masculinity is reproduced in 95% of Metal. I mean, just
think of all the metal lyrics that are practically cartoonish in their
portrayals of rugged individualism, misogyny, war, physical aggression, and metal fraternity. I mean, Christ! How many different Manowar songs could I quote right now?!
“Brothers stand beside me, as I battle on
Know my words are true.
There’s a battle for true metal.
They’re marching; they’re marching on
Me and you!”
– ‘Die for Metal’, by Manowar
“Woman, be my slave
That’s your reason to live
Woman, be my slave
The greatest gift I can give
Woman, be my slave”
– ‘Pleasure Slave’, by Manowar
“Blood and death are waiting like a raven in the sky
I was born to die
Hear me while I live
As I look into your eyes
None shall hear a lie
Power and dominion are taken by the will
By divine right hail and kill”
– ‘Hail and Kill’, by Manowar
I could add about a million more, but I’ll stop here because Joey DeMaio told me to.
So I think our desire to be a part of the “traditional” masculinity narrative (and maybe even frustration from being excluded from it), we channel our energies into participating in and creating a hypermasculinity within metal. There is no place that we ritualize and perform this masculinity more than at Metal shows. For example, I believe one purpose of the mosh pit is an animalistic way to show alpha male status. How many times have you wanted to go into the mosh pit, but have been scared shitless because there is that one 6’3, 250 lb. Death Metal meathead just roving around waiting for the next person to enter so he can pummel them into oblivion?
Hyperreal masculinity in Metal, in my opinion, is also why there is a severe lack of a
female presence in Metal. Why would most women want to be actively
involved in a subculture that promotes a mega-masculinity? I mean, obviously the coolest, most awesome girls already listen to Metal (such as our very own Cate the Great), but for the other 99%, Metal is a tangled mess of man sounds.
I think as time goes on, this hyperreal masculinity is becoming less and less present in metal. While notions of masculinity have become multivarious (yet still with the patriarchy of hegemonic masculinity), Metal has become more homogenized and liberalized; as well as less worldly and more transcendental. While there isn’t really a direct connection between the two, the fact is that while “traditional” masculinity is becoming less ubiquitous within the Western world (or at least dissected and criticized), Metal bands have become more comfortable exploring the internal world (i.e. emotions) rather than the external world. Therefore, the hyperreal masculinity within Metal is also becoming less ubiquitous. Time will only tell just how this aspect of metal might change in the coming years.
And in conclusion…boners.