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3 June 2008

Emo is no suicide cult

Angry - but not morose - teenagers gather to mount a singing demonstration at the Daily Mail in Kens

By Paul Evans

Public demonstrations aren’t a rare occurrence in Kensington. Its numerous embassies often draw crowds who shout slogans at badly behaved governments. Rarely though, are they heard singing chart hits.

Last Saturday, a crowd of around a hundred protestors, almost exclusively in their teens, assembled opposite the offices of Associated Newspapers. Armed with ‘Choose Life’ flags and banners offering free hugs, they had turned out in response to criticism of their favourite band, My Chemical Romance.

Kate Ashford, an organiser and steward at the event, explained the motivation behind their protest.

“The Daily Mail has written a few articles attacking My Chemical Romance, and calling them an emo suicide cult. Recently they blamed the band for the suicide of a 13 year-old girl, and that’s what sparked us off.”

She is adamant that the band “has nothing that promotes suicide or self-harm in its lyrics,” and cites precedents such as the media scapegoating of Judas Priest in the early 1990s.

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Sarah, another young fan, agrees that there are parallels with the way other sub-cultures have been vilified, describing media denunciations of emo culture as: “just like goth culture when it started out.” And she’s clear about the danger of demonising musically driven movements, warning: “it’s really silly to start stereotyping, and it can lead to people physically attacking fans”.

Smiling protestors were keen to dispel their media image as morose and death-obsessed kids, and emphasise the band’s statements encouraging depressed teenagers to seek help and advice.

Supporters of My Chemical Romance were first angered in 2006, when the Mail’s Sarah Sands described the emo scene as a “celebration of self harm”.

Resentment among fans turned to action, when in April this year the newspaper again explicitly linked the band with suicide.

Following its publication, music forums were used to spread news of the planned demonstration, bringing teenagers from across the country to London.

The protestors’ rendition of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ brought chuckles from onlooking policemen, during what turned out to be a highly good-natured demonstration. But there was real frustration at some of the more fantastical claims made about the band. The Mail’s most recent story claimed that fans believe ‘The Black Parade’ (the name of My Chemical Romance’s third album) to be a place they will go when they die.

Alex Narkiewicz, the editor of music community website Playlouder, swiped: “The Black Parade was a concept album about someone dying of cancer. The idea that fans generally regard it as some sort of emo Valahalla is entirely the product of a fertile imagination.”

The Mail’s response, insisting that its coverage has been “balanced, restrained and above all, in the public interest,” is unlikely to placate the band’s young fans, who continue to demand an apology.