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From Hell's Heart
"From Hell's Heart..." is an editorial column written by the Metal-Rules.com team. Every other month or so we
pick a metal-related topic and share our thoughts, feelings and ideas on it.
Metal Prejudice (March 2000)EvilG's View
First of all, the whole reason why one is a metalhead is because they are an individual. Being an individual means you decide for yourself what you like and you do not let radio, TV or some top 40 chart tell you what flavor of the month is cool. If you think like this then you clearly don't give too much of a shit about what others think. I don't have a need to make non-metalheads understand. If they don't like our music, don't bother to try to understand it, ever give it a chance and simply laugh at it then why should I care what they think? They don't don't give a damn about me or you! To them, us metalheads are immature, Satan worshipping drug users. I am neither of these things!
People are not surprised when I tell them I love heavy metal. What with the hair and everything I guess it's kind of a give away. What I hate though is when they say "oh you like metal...you like Korn and Metallica do ya?" I say - fuck no!! I liked the Metallica of ten years ago and Korn are, or never were, metal. That leaves them pretty puzzled. Like the sheep that listen to Korn, they think metal is what the mainstream tells them it is. To those of us who live it, we know what real metal is about.
Another thing that irritates the hell into me is when you tell people you like metal and they are all like "oh yeah man, I used to like that when I was growing up. I used to love Maiden and Priest back blah blah blah..." Well what the hell happened to you? You think you have to stop listening to metal when you "grow up"? Metal is not about age. Look at Ronnie James Dio - he's been METAL for like 40 years! When people say they "used to like metal" I get a double meaning out of it - as if they are saying they have outgrown it and are in some way more mature or better than you for moving on. Just because metal is not as in your face now as it was in the 80's doesn't mean that it's not worth listening to! I for one am glad that metal is not all over the radio. The less trend hopping flavor of the month followers that there are in metal the better!! Some more exposure of course would be good, but keeping it non-mainstream is important.
It's not uncommon when I return to the small town where I grew up and I walk up the street or go into a store and people will look at me like "holy fuck!" It's not like long hair is something that is that "out there." Don't these people own a television!! Haven't they seen the outside world beyond their tiny little lives? If the only thing these people have to worry about is if someone is like them, then they must have quite a boring and unfulfilling life. There's a whole world out there with people that are very DIFFERENT from one another. If everyone liked the exact same things, dressed, looked and acted the same, this would be quite a boring place.
In closing, I must say that it was when I was in high school that I was made most aware of people's prejudice's towards metalheads. The more mature and intelligent a person is, USUALLY the more tolerant they are to differences. But you have to remember that there are still a lot of people out there that are so small-minded that the mere presence of a guy with long hair, black leather and a metal shirt is in some way a threat. What an advanced society we live in...yeah right!
"Are Metal Fans Victims of Prejudice?"
Of course they are. Metal is an underground form of art. Metal gets attention by the mass populace only when adverse events occur, such as murder, suicide, church burnings, riots, etc., that just happen to be the result of an individual, or a group of individuals, that listens to metal music. Of course, society being its naÔve self, blames these acts on the music. Never mind the unstable dispositions of the person(s) committing the foul acts. Never mind the irresponsibility and lack of control the parents have over their children. Never mind the individual's abuse of mind-altering substances. No, no, no. It's what the person was listening to prior to committing the crime. It is the music. Satan made them do it. It's this kind of bullshit that reporters, politicians, and parents tell to the rest of society. So it is no surprise fans of metal fall victims of prejudice.
I find that there are four different types of responses you could get when you tell someone you listen to metal:
On a personal level, I feel that I have only experienced a minor amount of prejudice as a result of my musical taste. I consider myself metal, for various reasons. But because I have a professional job, I cannot look as metal as I would like to. Therefore many people do not even know how metal I am. And I choose not to discuss my musical preference with the nonmetals, because what is the point? But occasionally I do come across someone who is not only surprised at the music I listen to, but also gives me the "evil eye", as if saying "I listen to metal" is one of the seven deadly sins.
Today, I think people in general are more open to extremism. So prejudice against metalheads is less than is has been in the past. Nevertheless it still exists. And I raise both of my middle fingers to those that just don't get it.
Are Metal Fans Victims of Prejudice?
Of all the different musical genres that exist, none are despised or ridiculed more than Heavy Metal. It's okay to like Pop music, it's okay to like Country, it's okay to like the Blues... But the instant you tell someone you like Metal, their opinion of you immediately changes. Suddenly your thought of as a wild, violent, drug abusing, devil worshiping, brain-dead sex fiend. In essence, the "Spawn of Satan." Occasionally non-metal fans will accept you despite your "horrendous" taste in music, but those kind and non-judgmental souls are few and far between.
I donít know if EvilG remembers this, but approximately nine years ago, myself and my (ex) girlfriend, along with EvilG, his girlfriend, and a couple other friends of ours (Rob and Rich) went into a local coffee shop (I wonít say the name of the place, but itís a popular franchise in Canada named after a former NHL hockey player... Can you guess what it is?). After being served, we sat down at one of the available tables to eat and have a chat. Before we had finished eating, the manager of the place came along to inform us of the restaurantís "twenty minute stay" policy and that we had to leave. While we had no objections to the company policy, we were very resentful of the fact that we were asked to leave when other customers who arrived and had been served BEFORE us were allowed to stay. But being the nice folks that we are, we took our remaining coffee and donuts and left quietly. We hadnít been loud in our conversation or behaved in any objectionable manner, so why were we asked to leave then? Because EvilG, Rob, and I all had long hair and were wearing Metal shirts and leather jackets (Except Rob, he was wearing a denim jacket.). What other reason(s) could the manager have possibly had to ask a group of well-behaved, paying customers to leave the premises? More than five years passed before I bought another cup of coffee at that place. Stuff like that tends to stay with you.
But are people really so misinformed that they think everyone involved with this type of music are trouble-makers, possibly even Satanists and potential serial killers? Yes, they are. Why? Because of that cornerstone of the modern media... SENSATIONALISTIC JOURNALISM. Remember the P.M.R.C.? (Parentís Music Resource Committee... Or something like that...) It was a lobby group led by Tipper Gore and other Washington wives that managed to implement album "stickering" (You know, those PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS stickers). They were a rather high profile group that did quite a bit of campaigning against the "ills" of Rock music, with Heavy Metal being their favorite sub-genre for criticism. For a few years back in the Ď80's you couldnít turn on a TV or pick up a magazine without having names like Ozzy Osbourne, WASP, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, etc., shoved down your throat along with the message that they were "influencing Americaís youth in a most disturbing manner" (or some crap along those lines).
Of course, once the P.M.R.C. started making headlines, every news program, talk show, magazine, etc., on the continent began doing their own stories on the subject of "evil music". Then along came talk show "messiah" Geraldo Rivera with his big "Devil Worship Exposť TV Special" back around Ď88 or Ď89. If parents hadnít already started harassing their kids about their music of choice, then they certainly did after seeing that little ratings grabber. And once the "Satan connection" had been made, every religious group in existence (or so it seemed) began preaching about the "Hell-born threat" known as Heavy Metal. You couldnít flip past the religion channel on a Sunday afternoon without seeing some self-righteous Bible thumper screaming stuff like "The Devil will use any means at his disposal to capture your childrenís souls!!!", or some young guy/girl giving a testimony about how they were "once on the road to damnation" because they were promiscuous, into drugs, and of course... Listened to Heavy Metal. (Yeah, right... Like "Run to the Hills" or "Wake Up Dead" ever made anyone sleep with strangers and stick needles in their arms. Give me a break!)
So after years of negative media bombardment, itís really not surprising why people react with such trepidation and revulsion when Metal fans "reveal" themselves. And in addition to all the bad press, we sometimes donít do anything to help our case, either. How often have you played up to the Heavy Metal stereotype just to make someone nervous after theyíve made an ignorant comment about your Slayer shirt or the Morbid Angel tunes blasting from your car? Weíve all done it at one point or another. Sure, itís hilarious to see the looks on their faces when you start acting a little psycho, but in the long run it only alienates us further by reinforcing Metalís already tarnished image. Iím not saying I ever want to be "one" with the mainstream, but if Iím going to be ostracized for anything, Iíd like it to be for a reason better than musical taste.
Imagine this scene. A man sitting have a conversation with some work colleagues when the conversation turns to what each does in his spare time away from work. The other participants are horrified to hear that the man deals in black market baby adoptions and selling teenage girls into prostitution in Asia. They conversation suddenly stops and the man is verbally attacked by the people who had been his friends only minutes before. They look on him now with utter revulsion and treat him like some type of degenerate freak. Well if you are a fan of Heavy Metal then you have possibly been treated like this man on a number of occasions. How many times have I been having an enjoyable conversation until the topic of music comes up. I state that I am a fan of Heavy Metal and the conversation stops and a look of disgust comes on the faces of the other people in the group. "How can you listen to that garbage?", "All they sing about is kill your mother, rape your sister, eat your dog", "How can you listen to that noise?", "Any idiot can bang on a guitar or some pots and pans and make that crap!". Or perhaps the worst one yet. "So you like Korn and Limp Bizkit and all those metal bands?" ARRRRRRGGHHHH!! And after that they look at you funny as if there is something not right about you in the head. I have come to realize that the people who usually are the most vocal in a situation like this are the most ignorant about metal. They don't understand it and in most cases havenít heard anything more than Korn on their local video music show.
Worse again are the people who discriminate against you because , god forbid, you have long hair and wear a leather jacket as well as listen to metal. Often I have walked into a store and been immediately followed by the plain clothes security guard. I guess in their minds they correlate long hair with being a degenerate thief. Oh well, their problem not mine. I have learned long ago that it is pointless to argue about music with people that have such a closed mind. They don't want to even understand that metal has one of the most creative music scenes on the planet. The musicians are generally top notch and the music is created just for the love of making music and not because of dreams of having their video played on music television and becoming multi millionaires. Of course every metal band wants success but they do not sell themselves commercially to attain it.
I am a metalhead and proud of it. I don't hide my preference for music from anyone. I proudly wear my hair long and I don't make apologies for it to anyone. I have become used to the fact that most people are ignorant to what metal is all about and I have given up trying to make them understand. They do not want to listen and it is useless to waste my energy on people whose ideas I cannot change. Life is too short to worry about what others think about the music I love. As long as I buy the CDs, listen to the music and promote the bands , metal will survive!
This issue of "Metal Prejudice" recalls to my mind one particular incident involving AC/DC years ago. On an off night during one tour, their publicist asked me out to her birthday dinner (along with the band) at a small, authentic Italian restaurant. From where we sat, you could see the Victorian-style bar, where several of the very Paisan-looking male employees were sitting, staring at our table. I was seated next to Malcolm Young, so I asked him if he noticed this blatant staring-maybe they recognized the band? But Malcolm immediately said, "No, they're just afraid we're not going to pay the bill." He laughed but he wasn't joking. Malcolm knew then what we all know now: The general public does have preconceived notions about people who have that HM "look." Now, if certified rock stars sometimes encounter this discrimination, and often they do (at least in the few places they go unrecognized), how much worse is it for the average metal fan on the street? Much worse, I'm sure!
I could write a whole article on the reason why this disrespect, fear, and so on, exist. Whether it's the long hair, or the leather, or the tattoos, or the denim, or the graphic T-shirt here and there, it's all associated with devils, machismo, meanness, drugs, bikers-the whole ball of wax. (Never mind that any negative associations all exist equally well in the world of Abercrombie & Fitch, or that the allusions are often false or erroneous hype.) Most of all, I think, the real condescension lies in the association Metal has with the working class. Certainly the blue-collar, industrial cesspool has provided the breeding grounds for not only the best of the best HM bands, but it is also the stronghold of most of the fans. And so those bands speak for our mutual reality. But it's something the middle class just cannot understand, or doesn't want to, as it would reconnect them with the place from whence they came, and would just as soon forget! Thus, there is only one direction for mainstream society to look, or pretend to look, and that direction is down.
Personally, I think that the average "metalhead" is someone to be greatly admired in many ways. Beyond the prodigious loyalty of HM fans--not seen elsewhere in our pop culture with such stalwart determination--it also takes a special kind of personality to stand strong in the face of this evident social disdain. And it takes more than just a streak of rebelliousness to sustain this kind of character; it absolutely requires true individualism. In all of the Western World, there is no quality more revered than that. The best of us have it in our genes-it's how the West Was Won! In the 21st Century, I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse, but I do think that having these same values in common, plus some of the common negative social experiences, are elements that bond Metal fans together even more tightly than ever. There is a feeling of righteousness in numbers, I think.
Don't we all know it's true that someone dressed in clothing associated with HM is going to get a few stares anywhere outside of a rock club or concert environment? That was always true, and it's even truer these days, even though the musical/social environment is supposedly getting more open-minded. (More than anything, it's just become increasingly fragmented.) I think some of the fans actually enjoy the negative attention, but most of us just find it a nuisance. It's just another one of those little crosses you have to bear to be your true self.
But it's also true that even if you aren't obviously a HM fan in any visible way, you still have to have the guts, or the power of your own convictions, to wear your passions on your sleeve, particularly if you work in a professional environment or other type of conservative workplace. For example, if you work at a bank, it might not be best to discourse about the new Iron Maiden album and tour while at lunch with the CEO. This you only do when she knows you well enough to respect your work--and who you really are. But once you have the personal and professional respect, there's nothing you have to hide. And the good news these days is that when you get to know that same CEO well enough, too, you just might find she's a frustrated/closeted HM fan herself. It can-and does--happen!