Michelle Malkin expresses concern aboutthe recent popularity of “cutting”:
Have you heard of "cutting?" If you're a parent, you'd better read up. "Cutting" refers to self-mutilation— using knives, razor blades, or even safety pins to deliberately harm one's own body— and it's spreading to a school near you.
Actresses Angelina Jolie and Christina Ricci did it. So did Courtney Love and the late Princess Diana. On the Internet, there are scores of websites (with titles such as "Blood Red," "Razor Blade Kisses," and "The Cutting World") featuring "famous self-injurers," photos of teenagers' self-inflicted wounds, and descriptions of their techniques. The destructive practice has been depicted in films targeting young girls and teens (such as Thirteen). There is even a new genre of music — "emo" — associated with promoting the cutting culture.
Mmm, not really. Emo is basically a moody/introspective/whiny (depending on your take on it) outgrowth of punk that keeps the thrashing energy but injects more depression into the lyrics. It’s gotten more popular as of late, I’ll agree, and there’s no denying that emo will be popular with some self-destructive kids. But emo as a whole isn’t that new, and doesn’t “promote” that culture any more than Pink Floyd “promoted” drug use just because a lot of people liked to get high and put on Dark Side of the Moon. An emo listener will engage in cutting behavior only to the extent that the underlying pathology led them to the music in the first place; emo won’t make a healthy kid suddenly pull out the razor blades.
Cutting isn’t really anything new, either, and the seemingly-recent upswing in it may be partly the result of a recent willingness to admit to such behavior. There may be scores of websites that promote such behavior, but there are also a few books written by therapists, and cutters who have recovered, that exist to help those. Cutting, by Steven Levenkron, is one such book. Another, Bright Red Scream, appears to have the best reviews on amazon.com, and it’s six years old. I wouldn't be surprised to see more of these types of books out soon.
I agree with Malkin that it’s sad to see famous actresses “glamourize” such behavior, but there may be a fine line between admitting to something in the hopes that others can learn to avoid it, and promoting it.
Cutting is something I have more than a passing interest in, because it does overlap a great deal with the more dysfunctional aspects of goth culture. Certainly, there are aspects of goth that do promote self-mutilation in this fashion, and that has more than a little to do with the perceived coolness of vampires and the vampiric lifestyle. I'm a supporter of goth culture, and have been goth to some extent since 1988, and even I realize that the tolerance for such behavior in that milieu is not healthy.
I'd be concerned more about the goth promotion of such behavior - and the celebrity interviews where young women talk about the "coolness" of such behavior - than about any link there might be with emo.
Update: Links are fixed now. Also, Malkin has this to say in an update to her original post:
Yes, it's true, emotional, woe-is-me music has been around a long time. But the kind of "emo" music embraced now by young people who cut themselves (Taking Back Sunday is one of the most popular cited; the Apathy Code, which depicts cutting on its album cover and in the lyrics to "No Alarms") is new. And it is cited repeatedly on kids' websites and blogs. Take a cursory look here.
Look, you can mock me for paying attention to this problem, but something very wrong is going on here--for whatever reason you want to believe--and parents have asked me to help get the word out. I hope it helps.
I don't think she deserves mocking for paying attention to the problem, nor for being concerned about the link between cutting and popular culture. When I made my comments about emo above, I did so only to correct what I saw as a misconception of the genre; I didn't expect Michelle to be an expert on emo, nor do I think she's wrong to be concerned about self-mutilation. Unfortunately, it sounds like a lot of people wrote emails just bitching about the emo part, and missing the whole point of her post.Posted by kswygert at February 23, 2005 01:27 PM