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Straight as it seems?: Changing the Media Image of Straight Edge

Originally Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Written by: Jennifer.Abele  

Redefining Straight Edge: Beyond Violence and Misconceptions

“Things didn’t quite work out for Josh Anderson in the Mormon church. Nor did a nondenominational Christian upbringing light the way for Randy Haselton. But neither teen gave up entirely on structure and clean living in Utah. The boys hooked up with Straight Edge, an anti-drug gang of middle-class kids, and discovered new passions. Josh became a vegan and firebombed a McDonald’s; Randy enjoys beating the tar out of people.”

Straight Edge in the Spotlight: Unpacking the Media’s Violent Portrayal

Why has Straight Edge received a violent image in mainstream media? Salt Lake City had a series of incidents involving Straight Edge members that gained media attention during the late nineties. In addition to the Time magazine article quoted above, ABC’s 20/20 did a segment on Straight Edge in which they interviewed Andy Maunch, a Straight Edge member, who was charged with the murder of a 15-year-old boy shortly after the interview took place.

From Salt Lake City to Global Perspectives: Understanding Straight Edge

There was also mention of attacks on fraternity brothers. Based on events such as these, Straight Edge was placed on a list along with domestic terrorists as a group to watch during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. But is there truly a gang of anti-drug punks called Straight Edge?

Straight Edge Culture: Examining the Roots and Reality Behind the Violence

The actions of these violent Straight Edgers are by no means limited to Salt Lake City and are by no means the defining factors behind the violent image of Straight Edge and its “gang” label. Punk music itself can be viewed as violent, as the style is very fast and has been known to incorporate angry lyrics.

The Misunderstood World of Straight Edge: Separating Fact from Fiction

Older generations certainly have not taken to punk and hardcore and the general consensus among them is that these music styles are nothing more than mindless screaming accompanied by the abuse of electric guitars and drums. Compared to the foxtrot and the tango, “slam dancing,” or “moshing,” as it’s more commonly called, appears to consist of thrashing about in a senseless manner and carries with it an image of violence.

Challenging Stereotypes: The True Face of the Straight Edge Movement

Furthermore, it is difficult to find a punk show that does not have a mosh pit. The media certainly has not helped, playing up the violent aspects of moshing. “Moshing in recent times has thumped its way into the headlines because of injuries, deaths and, in one extreme case, rape that has occurred in out-of-control moshes. Injuries in the mosh are commonplace” (Whitaker).

Punk, Violence, and Straight Edge: A Comprehensive Analysis

Who could forget Woodstock 99’s now-infamous rape charges, which allegedly occurred in the mosh pit? Overall, the punk-inspired dress could be viewed as violent in nature as well. What is the purpose for having spikes on leather jackets and collars? Why so many zippers? Who needs combat boots on a daily basis?

Decoding the Straight Edge Phenomenon: Beyond Media Sensationalism

These are the questions posed by those outside this particular scene. Does this mean Straight Edge is violent because of these few incidents and the general view of the music and style? Not exactly. It should be no surprise that the public is misinformed about this group, considering the amount of negative attention it has received.

Straight Edge and Society: Confronting the Gang Label and Violence

It cannot be expected for every individual to do their own research and discover what Straight Edge is all about and whether or not it is violent. Thus, this responsibility falls elsewhere. The following will discuss the importance of changing the current violent image of Straight Edge and will make a few suggestions for doing so.

Straight Edge Under Scrutiny: A Closer Look at a Controversial Lifestyle

What is Straight Edge? It is important to remember where Straight Edge came from and its original intentions. Straight Edge is a philosophy that was born out of punk music in the eighties. Straight Edge was created to allow for all ages punk shows and grew into a clean lifestyle with punk music at its core. Straight Edge is often abbreviated as sXe, where “s” is straight, “e” is edge, and “X” is the symbol of the movement. An “X” became the symbol for Straight Edge due to the common practice of drawing Xs on the hands of those too young to drink alcohol at clubs where concerts take place. Many sXers began placing Xs on their own hands before shows to display their wish to abstain from drinking. The story goes that Minor Threat, whose song appropriately titled “Straight Edge” outlined the basic principles of sXe, started Straight Edge on the east coast of the US. The foundations outlined in the song include no drugs, no alcohol and no promiscuous sex.

Punk music appreciation is also an important factor of sXe, and as punk and hardcore grew in popularity all over the world, so did Straight Edge.

Confronting Misconceptions: The Need for Straight Edge to Redefine Its Image

The basic principles also often extend to vegetarianism or veganism. Additionally, many of those that practice Straight Edge are involved in political issues or social causes. Why those in Straight Edge should take action to change the violent image? The basic principles of sXe are what many would consider to be moral standards. Programs like DARE, which is part of many primary education systems in the US, try to promote a drug and alcohol free lifestyle while most sex education programs discourage promiscuity. There are several programs like this all over the country. “Best Men follows the lead of a successful program for girls called ‘Best Friends’ founded in 1987 by Elayne Bennett (www.bestfriendsfoundation.org). Both programs promote abstinence from sex, drugs, alcohol and violence…”(Fields). These programs, whose doctrines are comparable to those of Straight Edge, are not associated with violence and yet the media has led us to believe that such moral people are violent.

Straight Edge: A Misrepresented Lifestyle in the Media Spotlight

Straight Edge is certainly a healthy lifestyle and perhaps the more impressionable young people that get involved with it, the fewer teen pregnancies, drug addicts and alcoholics we will face in future generations. However, if the image of Straight Edge remains that of a violent gang, the fear of “joining” it may overcome and thus society’s norms may continue to control the actions of our youth. The fact is that the majority of Straight Edge members are not violent. A small portion of Straight Edgers is violent, and has created a poor image for the rest of the movement. The problem arises when the media sensationalizes stories and leaves the general public uninformed by not fairly representing the entire group. Most of the media attention for Straight Edge has centered on Salt Lake City and the violent incidents that took place there. However, Straight Edge is an international movement, and the Salt Lake City demographic is not a proper representation of the group as a whole.

The True Essence of Straight Edge: Voices from the Community

I spoke through email with several Straight Edge members, who I met through the forums at straightedge.com, from California, Illinois, Michigan, and Latvia. All of them agreed that what happened in Salt Lake City was not typical sXe behavior and that Straight Edge should not be judged because of it. Todd1 from Detroit, MI explained it using the following analogy, “Suppose a devout Catholic man beats his wife, abuses his children, etc. Does that make all followers of the Catholic faith monsters? No. Straight Edge, far be it from a religion, should be no different. The actions of some should not define the morals of the rest.” What action can be taken to change the image of Straight Edge? There has not been a lot of public criticism from current members of the violent incidents that have occurred, which perhaps mistakenly suggests that sXers agree with violence. In order to depict Straight Edge in a positive light, current members should express their disapproval of violence in general, not just what happened in Salt Lake City.

Building a Positive Image: The Role of Bands and Media in Straight Edge Culture

Straight Edge, according to those people I interviewed, has nothing to do with violence and it is imperative to let society know this. Marina Slaikovska, when talking about the Straight Edge scene in Latvia, commented that, “Everyone is real friendly, real positive, intelligent.” Positive media attention is needed to change the misconceptions of Straight Edge in the public eye. Bands have the money and the power behind them to get publicity. In addition to this, bands are very influential, especially on younger generations. Michael Daw of Arcata, CA, made the following statement, “I think it’s important for bands to claim some responsibility for their influence and try to be a little more diplomatic and egalitarian in their approaches.” Bands need to promote the values of their fans and keep them in a positive light, as well as being positive role models for those just getting into the punk, hardcore, or Straight Edge scenes. The general public needs to know that Straight Edge is not violent. Bands should seize their opportunities in the spotlight not only to promote their albums, but to promote healthy lifestyles as well.

Empowering Individuals: How Merchandise Can Shape Perceptions of Straight Edge

What can individuals do? Merchandise. T-shirts, stickers, patches, even tattoos. These items are used to promote dozens of ideas, why not pacifism in Straight Edge? In response to the following shirt suggestion: “I am sXe. I’m not going to beat you up.” Katie Loncar of Chicago said, “I think its comical while at the same time it shows people that they are wrong if they think all sXe kids will kick their ass for smoking/drinking.” If sXers begin displaying items such as these, perhaps public curiosity will rise and they can become educated on the positive role Straight Edge plays in the lives of its members.

Straight Edge: A Call for Change and Understanding

When I first began to look into Straight Edge, I found numerous articles that made it out to be a violent group based in Salt Lake City. What you have just read is to counteract all of that.

The Future of Straight Edge and Its Place in Society

Perhaps you are Straight Edge and already know most of the information contained here or perhaps you’re a parent whose child has just declared themselves Straight Edge. Whoever you are, I hope what you have just read has made you aware that Straight Edge is worthy of an image change and what steps you can take to facilitate that change.

Works Cited Daw, Michael. Personal Interview.
11 Mar 2004. Fields, Suzanne. “When teenagers say ‘no’ to sex” http://www.townhall.com/columnists/suzannefields/sf20040315.shtml
March 15, 2004. Loncar, Katie. Personal Interview. 12 Mar 2004. Lopez, Steve. “The Mutant Brady Bunch: Meet Salt Lake City’s clean-cut, anti-drug street gang–and tremble.” TIME. 30 Aug. 1999: 36-37. Martin, Kiel. Personal Interview.
16 Mar 2004. Slaikovska, Marina. Personal Interview.
13 Mar 2004. “Todd”. Personal Interview.
14 Mar 2004. Whitaker, Tobenn. “Pushing Against the Barriers” http://www.newcastle.edu.au/oldsite/nusa/opus/folds/leftart_mosh.html 1 Name has been changed per request of interviewee

Comments
Written by Guest on 2006-03-10 07:50:42wow, you are awesome
Nate Haselton myspace.com/frizzodetroit
Written by Guest on 2006-03-10 01:49:02Where the fuck did the rest of the article bout my cuzzo go to? I blazed trees wit my cuzzin..dude aint str8 edge, he’s just a Haselton and we beat ass 4 fun. cchhyyeeaahh!!
Written by Guest on 2005-06-14 23:30:08this is fucking true. andy is one of the nicest kids around, it sucks that people actually believe the shit the media puts out there even when they know it is never accurate.
Written by Guest on 2004-12-09 22:44:56how can u ppl be on the SXE side when bernardo who was a friend of mine growing up was killed. not even killed murdered. its un fucking believable.
Written by Guest on 2004-12-09 08:47:11      hi sexy plz can null
Written by Guest on 2004-11-16 13:21:18pull your head out of your fucking ass! that interview never took place! it was created to fuck over collin and andy! “maunch” isint even how you spell his fucking name! i cant believe you fall for the media twisted fucking bullshit! it wasent the straight edgers fault, the gangbangers are the ones that started that fight and just becuase bernardo repreza was killed by two white kids they were thrown into prison instead of getting charged with “self defense” them being SXE had nothing to fucking do with it

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