When you think of Emo history, you might think it only goes as far back as The Cure or another formerly “Charming Man.” But Emo has deep historical roots.* You can see it in the prose, clothes, and the stances of many historical figures. Now you be the judge: Were they Emo or just over it?
Edgar Allan Poe
Poe might get claimed by the goths but with quotes like “We loved with a love that was more than love” we think he might belong with us BUT he was pretty broke and critically underrated in his lifetime so maybe he was just over it?
She practically invented the ‘eyes up and away to the side’ look in photographs. Her pics just happened to be decades before Myspace. Looks alone aren’t Emo so we offer further evidence, she changed the spelling of her name out of pure Honoré de Balzac fandom. His 1846 novel La Cousine Bette was apparently a fave. We gotta say that’s so Emo.
Offering up Thelonius Monk outside of Jazz and Math Rock circles could be controversial but then consider that he once was called “The elephant on the piano” by another jazz musician who was throwing shade. Monk wasn’t heralded the genius we know him to be by the entire jazz community. Big time underdog vibes really feel Emo but that can also just be the state of being misunderstood. We won’t prove the Mars Volta connection but listen to the artists back to back. Still, who can be the authority? Was he Emo or just a rebel in the Jazz community.
Anna May Wong
We definitely have some photos with HUGE MCR looks for Anna May Wong, but it’s hard to know if she was Emo or just over it. She was one of the few actors to successfully transition from silent films to “the talkies” but as an Asian-American woman the only roles offered to her were either as servants or “exotic” seductresses. She was routinely cast opposite white actors in yellow face and never received an Oscar, even when clearly deserving. More candid photos show her as smiley and maybe even a little sporty, so it’s hard to tell if she was Emo or just over the “yellow peril” oppression rampant in Hollywood at the time.
We can’t force you to vote James Joyce for Emo – BUT COME ON – his middle name was Aloysius, he played guitar, wrote poems about nature (among other things), and looks like every hipster from the mid-2000s. Here we have to ask, was he Emo or just hella Irish?
Mary Todd Lincoln
It had to be rough being the first lady when good ol’ Abe took office but that’s not why we think Mary Todd Lincoln was probably our Emo in the White House. Mary was known for being on the moody side and there are more than a few pictures of her in black. But these could be attributed to the tragic passing of her son William Wallace Lincoln from Typhoid fever. It’s rumored she held seances, just hanging out with the dead, which throws her into goth territory but it’s all speculation and we Emos like skulls a lot too.
Legendary chicana artist, Frida Kahlo was known for her surreal paintings, sartorial sensibilities, and pet monkey – maybe that’s just us. She had fantastic style and had to have spent at least a little time on her signature hairstyle. And, even though it wasn’t flat ironed, we dare to say she was definitely Emo. Kahlo turned her pain into art and endured, as a beautiful icon, inspiring people worldwide. We say: Emo Idol Disruptor. You?
*Emo does not have deep historical roots