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Marty (1955) and Emo Night (2019)

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair in "Marty"

A phenomenon called “Emo Night” has recently sprung up in bars and clubs around the world. At these events, adults in their 20s and 30s gather to relive their teenage years, aided by a DJ playing emotionally charged “emo” rock music from the early 2000s.


I recently attended one such event in Connecticut. While it sounds fun on paper, it’s really kind of sad— and not in a glamorous, emo kind of way.


It wasn’t just sad because these adults were trying to relive their teenage years. It was sad because it lacked any semblance of a communal experience.


Several attendees seemed to have come without any friends. Among those that did, some were sitting down, eyes glued to their phones. Even if you wanted to speak to someone, it was all but impossible due to the immense volume of the music. For the people who came alone, there was little chance of getting to meet anyone new. There also was no opportunity for dancing in any meaningful way, unless you see mosh pit chaos as dancing.


The next day, I happened to watch the 1955 film Marty, the story of a quirky 34-year-old bachelor who, at his mother’s urging, attends a dance and meets a nice woman named Clara.


In a particularly moving scene, soft music provides the perfect ambience for genuine, intimate conversation between the pair as they dance. They spend the evening opening their hearts to each other.

In fact, this innocent evening is much more intimate than the evening that Marty’s friends spend. Their night of debauchery, including casual hookups, is hardly intimate at all. In their superficiality they reveal little of their true selves to their dates.


It’s unlikely Marty’s friends were proud looking back on their night. It’s unlikely the attendees of Emo Night were fulfilled in any meaningful way either.


But sadly, I’m not sure the attendees of Emo Night were even aware they were not having fun, or that there is something better out there.


If only we could live more like Marty:


“Well, all I know is I had a good time last night. I’m gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together I’m gonna get down on my knees, I’m gonna beg that girl to marry me.”

This piece originally appeared in the fall 2019 issue of Out of Style, Out of Mind.

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© 2020 by Andrew Butler