'A cockroach preserved in amber': The significance of class in critics' representations of heavy metal music and its fans

Andy R. Brown, Christine Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In this paper we engage with new cultural theories of class that have identified media representations of 'excessive' white heterosexual working-class femininity as a 'constitutive limit' of incorporation into dominant (middle-class) modes of neo-liberal subjectivity and Bourdieu's thesis that classification is a form of symbolic violence that constitutes both the classifier and the classified. However, what we explore are the implications of such arguments for those modes of white heterosexual working-class masculinity that continue to reproduce themselves in forms of overtly masculinist popular culture. We do so through a critical examination of the symbolic representation of the genre of heavy metal music within contemporary music journalism. Employing a version of critical discourse analysis, we offer an analysis of representative reviews, derived from a qualitative sample of the UK music magazine, New Musical Express (1999-2008). This weekly title, historically associated with the ideals of the 'counter culture', now offers leadership of musical tastes in an increasingly segmented, niche-oriented marketplace. Deploying a refined model of the inscription process outlined by Skeggs, our analysis demonstrates how contemporary music criticism symbolically attaches negative attributes and forms of personhood to the working-class male bodies identified with heavy metal culture and its audience, allowing dominant middle-class modes of cultural authority to be inscribed within matters of musical taste and distinction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-741
Number of pages23
JournalSociological Review
Volume62
Issue number4
Early online date8 Oct 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

Keywords

  • Classification
  • Constitutive limit
  • Heavy metal
  • Inscription
  • Masculine excess
  • Neo-liberal subject
  • Symbolic violence

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