New Era of Goth/Punk Teens?
The Growing E-Boy and E-Girl Subculture
From hipsters, to the goths, “preppy” kids, and more, everyone seems to have found their inner circle, their subculture. Some trends only last a few weeks, a few months or maybe even a year, while others seem to evolve and adapt with each new generation of youth as time moves forward. One large subculture that most everyone has been aware of for some time is the goth/punk subculture. Most of us tend to think back to the 90s and very early 2000s era of multi-colored hair, spiked belts, heavy makeup and slang like “rawr,” or “XD.” However, it should be no surprise that this subculture has been around for much longer and still exists today, perhaps through the new E-boy and E-Girl phenomenon.
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Moving forward to 2017, when the popular lip-syncing app, Musical.ly was bought by a company in Beijing and renamed TikTok according to the Vox article TikTok, explained. (Jennings, 2019). From the app itself, to compilations and reposts on other social media platforms, it would seem that this app is among the most popular worldwide. On this app, users of all cultures make videos of their own to share and get to create by themselves or with others. Like most social media, there are labels for everyone and over the last year one popular one that has come up is the whole E-Boy and E-Girl phenomenon. Since it is so new, not everyone knows a lot about it and even some would say they have never heard of this before.
It would make sense then to start out with the basics, what exactly is an E-Boy or E-Girl anyway? One answer would be that, “E-girl / E-boy is slang that combines the words "electronic" with "girl" or "boy." Generally, the label represents people who have a large presence online and tote a specific style influenced by skate culture, goth, KPOP and cosplay” (KnowYourMeme.com). Most of them are around high-school aged teens and they exclusively thrive best on the app TikTok. This is now what would appear to be the new adaptation of the goth/punk movement and many users lip-sync to classic bands in this genre. What’s new is that they also focus a lot on rap music and also portraying themselves sexually and are more vain than insecure. For example, one made by user @pichettetimothy, who dances and lip-syncs to “I Want,” featuring 2 Chainz.
Moving onto looks, “Girls typically wear skirts or ripped ‘mom jeans’ and long sleeved shirts under short sleeve t-shirts…fake eyelashes, eyeliner...blush with little hearts drawn on their cheeks. E-Boys generally have messy, 90’s inspired hair and worn-out jean jackets” (Humphries, 2019). The goal is to still maintain the dark, edgy, chained, bold, and rebellious aesthetic, which holds up past ideals of the goth subculture. On the other hand, the key here is that it exists more online than it ever has before, almost strictly online and in their bedroom or at least inside of their family home. Author Paul Hodkinson’s Communicating Goth, has a great connection to the overall online aspect of the goth (punk) subculture as a very social group within the online world, but also goes over how it travels to the outside world as well.
Much like in the group project conducted for this course, Youth Culture and the Popular, Hodkinson did a lot of his own searching online to end up finding an abundance of sites and links to goth content (Hodkinson, 565). In his research he would also find that the internet is an integral part of the goth/punk subculture “This is because more than any other medium the World Wide Web requires users to choose in advance what to view” (Hodkinson, 565). In the case of E-Boys and E-Girls, this is where TikTok comes into play, as well as other social media. Lauren Strapagiel of BuzzFeed News categorize an E-Girls as “a new kind of cool girl who was born and lives on the platform [TikTok]’.” and the most “visible demographic” on the app (2019).
Hodkinson goes in deeper into the online aspect of the goth/punk community and its connection to the internet by explaining just how exclusive and specific it can get. Those outside the community don’t really come across goth sites because, “keyword searches were an efficient way of guiding existing goth participants” (Hodkinson, 565). On the other hand, Hodkinson didn’t know that we would eventually have TikTok, where almost everyone who has it on their phone can access content from all kinds of subcultures. Hodkinson’s work still has its connection to the goth movement, but maybe it hasn’t aged as well because in our time is that if youth subcultures like E-Girls are some of the new goth kids, they certainly do not exist offline (Jennings, 2019).
Additionally, while Hodkinson also stresses the elitist attitude of those who had been in the community, seeing that “all these modes of access, of course, required a clear prior involvement in the goth scene” (Hodkinson, 566). While this group project has led to TikTok videos of people trying to essentially pretend to be an E-Girl/Boy, those who are actually in the community are very serious about their online presence. In fact, most who are within it, across any article found, do not necessarily self-identify as an E-Girl/Boy. Hodkinson also brings up the fact that goth involvement in the community also involved a lot of creating their own content, discussion groups, links and even emailing lists (Hodkinson, 567). This still holds up to today, moving into this new era of goth/punk where they can create whatever they want online, whether it is on platforms like TikTok or on Instagram.
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Moving forward with creating, Hodkinson also stresses the importance of participation within the goth scene, particularly in relation to subcultural capital. “Resources and forums on the internet functioned to facilitate the subculture as a whole through providing specialist knowledge, constructing values, offering practical information and generating friendships” (Hodkinson, 569-570). It’s not exactly certain how many friendships really come out of the E-Girl/Boy subculture, but through their personal posts on TikTok and Instagram, they share their personal knowledge of all kinds of trends with their followers and it seems possible that this community would have their own set of values to share. For example, how they all appear to romanticize mental illness in their videos as something to be trendy (Humphries, 2019). Additionally, Hodkinson also talks about the sort of content goths talked a lot about and shared some of the same views on, lime music and fashion (Hodkinson, 570). E-Girls and E-Boys connect to this especially as their looks and songs they choose on TikTok hold a lot of importance in their online identity.
Getting more into looks, Hebdige makes a great point, “style in particular provokes a double response: it is alternately celebrated...and ridiculed or reviled” (Hebdige, 93). The E-Girl and E-Boy subculture is still very new, many of the articles that have come out about them cannot find a solid answer as to where this came from or how it really started. However, the community seems to be growing and thriving just fine on the internet. On the other hand, from hearing a first-hand account from another group member, not everyone has such a positive response to this subculture. She had mentioned talking to the child she babysits who told her that E-Girl/Boy style is being included in their spirit week at school to sort of joke about that community’s style and taste. Not much is really heard from the adult perspective in any articles found in the research for this project in this course, but overall it would seem that this doesn’t really make a difference in the community’s behavior or values.
Another point Hebdige makes is, “in most cases, it is the subculture’s stylistic innovations which first attract the media’s attention” (Hebdige, 93). A lot of stylistic choices seem to be made within E-Girl and E-Boy subculture, drive the “cringey” or comedic responses from their peers in reference to their behavior, tastes, and stylistic choices online. Meanwhile, even though E-Girls and E-Boys appear to be somewhat unique and different “they display their own codes (e.g. the punk’s ripped T-shirt) or at least demonstrate that codes are there to be used and abused” (Hebdige, 101). They don’t want to be like the other teens and young adults they go to school with or follow on social media. Referencing the typical style of an E-Girl and E-Boy earlier in this paper, their unnatural hair colors, bold/dark makeup, layering shirts, chains, padlock necklaces, etc. seem to fall under the concept of bricolage.
Bricolage shows how, “basic elements can be used in a variety of improvised combinations to generate new meanings with them” (Hebdige, 103). A combination of old goth/punk styles (i.e. clothes), with new ones (i.e. padlock necklace) and adding their taste in music (rap/hip hop), is what E-Girls and Boys have used to create new meanings of goth/punk in their subculture. Assuming they are the new era of goth/punk, they’re no longer saying that they’re just depressed, anxious and rebellious members of youth culture. These teens and young adults are into the goth/punk aesthetic and turning it into eclectic fashion, and while they enjoy the mentally ill idea, they also like to project their confidence through the music they lip-sync to on TikTok. In conclusion, there’s still a lot of confusion with this new wave of youth subculture, but it still has connections to the work of writers like Hebdige and Hodkinson, while putting a fresh spin on their work.
- “E-Girl / E-Boy.” Know Your Meme, 19 Nov. 2019, https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/e-girl-e-boy
- Hebdige, Dick “Subculture: The Unnatural Break” and “Style as Intentional Communication,” pp. 90-112 (on Canvas)
- Hodkinson, Paul “Paul Hodkinson – “Communicating Goth,” pp. 564-574 (on Canvas)
- Humphries, Grace. “The Truth Behind The ‘E-Girl’ and ‘E-Boy’ Trend.” InFlight, 5 Apr. 2019, https://arhsinflight.com/1396/feature/the-truth-behind-the-e-girl-and-e-boy-trend/
- Jennings, Rebecca. “E-Girls and e-Boys, the Irony-Laced Subculture That Doesn't Exist in Real Life.” Vox, Vox, 1 Aug. 2019, https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/8/1/20748707/egirl-definition-what-is-an-eboy
- Timothy. @pichettetimothy https://vm.tiktok.com/HquRUo/
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