sickly little guy

  • they/them

boo we hate your immunocomprussy | icon by wellnoe on tumblr

I have been attempting to describe to friends the importance of the 2000s pop-punk/emo* scene to many queer people my age (mid to late 20s). For a lot of us, seeing emo musicians was the first exposure to a mainstream expression of queerness, contested and contradictory as the landscape of band guy sexuality was. The whole "stage gay" schtick hit as part anti-homphobia statement, part artistic provocation, part appeal to fans, and for some of these guys, part exploration/expression of their actual sexualities, and all those were intriguing to kids like me for various reasons. Some emo figures are still deliberately ambiguous in terms of sexuality and gender, some have since come out as we contemporarily recognize it.

Max Bemis, lead singer and songwriter for Say Anything, is one of the scene guys who is unambiguously out, but feels rarely cited as an important figure for teens in the same way. He's undoubtedly an influential pop-punker. Bands like the Front Bottoms and Proper.** cite Say Anything as a major influence. Their 2007 album In Defense of the Genre featured guest vocals from the likes of Hayley Williams and Gerard Way, and indeed did a bit about defending pop-punk.

I suspect what makes the difference in Max Bemis not reaching the heights of emo queer canon is that teenage girls were not the main Say Anything audience. I do not say this in derision of teenage girls; their influence on the shape of the band scene is to be respected.*** For whatever reason, Say Anything just didn't catch on. Many of their earlier lyrics are derisive towards women, but "silly girls just don't GET it" style homoeroticism is no detriment to teen girls who love gay shit. (See Fall Out Boy.) Maybe it's because their sound was pop-punk, but their influences leaned toward post-hardcore. Maybe it's because Max Bemis didn't fit the pretty mold and looks like just some guy.

In any case, I am fascinated by the thread running through much of Say Anything's queer material: Wanting a guy in a band to be mean to you. The Truth is, You Should Lie with Me has the thesis statement: "You're a party boy, you should like me/I want to get used by you." Less Cute features the lines "Mountain man, brag about your band to me/You got me hot with all the snide remarks about my poetry."**** The most obvious example here is their final album, 2019's Oliver Appropriate, the album that Max Bemis made an official coming out statement before releasing. It centers on the aging cruel band guy who toys with a boy out of internalized homophobia before fixating on said boy as a symbol of realness and then killing him upon rejection, a plotline which makes me stare into the distance and go "ah." The boy fucks the mean band guy because he reminds him of being afraid of his father, by the way.

Maybe why Say Anything never hit emo stardom is because fundamentally, the girls and gays of emo fandom want to imagine guys in bands being nice to them. Or they want to be mean to guys in bands.

"He's like a less cute version of you, but he'll have to do"

*Yes, I know they're different, please do not @ me

**It's a sign of how much emo has changed that Proper.'s Erik Garlington can simply make a song going "my internalized homophobia is why I am Like This" in almost as many words.

***It was my adjacency to teenage girls that got me into My Chemical Romance and gave me, as they say, genders. (And I do wonder how many teen girls I knew who are no gay transmascs for similar reasons.)

****At the time, Max Bemis claimed that this song was from the perspective of a woman. I think he was simply lying.

The next edition of Songs for the Dusk, the post-apocalyptic science-fantasy tabletop RPG about building a better future, is going LIVE on Saturday in two weeks!

What's Songs?

Songs for the Dusk is a Forged in the Dark tabletop game set centuries after the fall of Earth as we know it and the rise of a new set of societies on our planet. In the world of Songs, ancient and advanced technologies collide and coexist with new forms of supernatural power. In Songs, you play striders, adventurers who strive to make the world a better place and to help other people survive the beautiful and dangerous new world they live in.

What's coming in v0.6?

A lot of things! v0.6 includes:

  • book layout!
  • maps for every region of Tamaris, including landmarks, all by the inimitable @dancynrew
  • full-featured factions for every region
  • the integration of Clockwork crafting
  • and more!

If you still go on The Bad Website, you can find Songs' Twitter account at, but hopefully it won't be too much work to crosspost previews here as well. Please look forward to seeing more of this, and to the game's next version release in two weeks!