Skip to main content

Three profiles of heavy metal fans: A taste for sensation and a subculture of alienation

Abstract

Profiles of three fans of heavy metal music are presented, in order to examine the definition and boundaries of the heavy metal subculture. It is suggested on the basis of these profiles that a high level of sensation seeking can lead to a liking for heavy metal music, because the music provides such high-intensity sensation. However, fans become part of thesubculture of heavy metal music only to the extent that their high sensation seeking is combined with alienation. Although all three people profiled enjoyed the high sensation qualities of the music, their involvement in the subculture varied according to the depth of their alienation. Jack, deeply alienated, was deeply committed to the subculture. Brian's alienation was moderate, and his involvement in the subculture was moderate as well. Marvin was not alienated in the least, and was essentially outside the subculture.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Arnett, J. (1989, April). Understanding reckless behavior. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Kansas City.

  • Arnett, J. (1991a). Adolescents and heavy metal music: From the mouths of metalheads.Youth and Society, 23, 76–98.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arnett, J. (1991b). Heavy metal music and reckless behavior among adolescents.Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 20, 573–592.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arnett, J. (1993a).The voice of abandon: Heavy metal music and adolescent alienation. Manuscript in preparation.

  • Arnett, J. (1993b). Sensation seeking: A new conceptualization and a new scale.Personality and Individual Differences. In press.

  • Barthes, R. (1972).Mythologies. London: Jonathan Cape.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (1985).Habits of the heart: Individualism and commitment in American life. New York: Harper & Row.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brake, M. (1985).Comparative youth culture: The sociology of youth cultures and youth subcultures in America, Britain, and Canada. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, A. K. (1955). Delinquent boys: The subculture of the gang. London: MacMillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Epstein, J. S., & Pratto, D. J. (1990). Heavy metal rock music: Juvenile delinquency and satanic identification.Popular Music & Society 14, 67–76.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gans, H. (1974).Popular culture and high culture. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gramschi, A. (1973).Prison notebooks. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hebdige, D. (1979).Subculture: The meaning of style. New York: Methuen.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lasch C. (1979).Haven in a heartless world. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Matza, D., & Sykes, G. (1961). Juvenile delinquency and subterranean values.ASR 26, 712–719.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parsons, T. (1964).Essays in sociological theory. Chicago: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thrasher, F. M. (1927).The gang. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weinstein, D. (1991).Heavy metal: A cultural sociology. New York: Lexington.

    Google Scholar 

  • Willis, P. (1978).Profane culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zuckerman, M. (1979).Sensation seeking: Beyond the optimum level of arousal. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zuckerman, M. (1984). Sensation seeking: A comparative approach to a human trait.Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7 413–471.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zuckerman, M., Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1978). Sensation seeking in England and America: Cross-cultural, age, and sex comparisons.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46 139–149.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Arnett, J. Three profiles of heavy metal fans: A taste for sensation and a subculture of alienation. Qual Sociol 16, 423–443 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00989973

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00989973

Keywords

  • Heavy Metal
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Issue
  • Cross Cultural Psychology
  • Sensation Quality