- Spoiler Alert
This article references and spoils the documentary “Three Identical Strangers“.
Three Identical Strangers is a 2018 documentary that tackles “Nature vs Nurture“, an ongoing debate about what determines us (behavior, character, etc) more, genes (“nature”) or the environment/experience (“nurture”). The film examines the case of triplets who were adopted by three different families, after their (allegedly) mentally-ill biological mother abandoned them at birth. An adoption agency purposefully split the triplets into separate families, as part of a secret scientific experiment that tracked the development of identical siblings in different environments. As the experiment’s purpose, data and findings are still undisclosed, one theory says that the scientists wanted to determine if mental illness is hereditary or if it’s a direct result of the environment and upbringing.
This documentary made me wonder: are Lebanese Metalheads determined by nature or by nurture? Is Metal written in our DNA, unavoidable and destined, or is it just a result of our history, environment, friends, family, society?
In Lebanon, Arabic music is the most popular one, and Metalheads are an unsurprising minority (a maximum of 15,000 is less than 1% of the population). Lebanese Metalheads come from different social classes and are immune to their environment’s most popular music genre.
From a physiological perspective, music triggers dopamine neurotransmitters in our brains, which is synonymous with pleasure — “That distortion sound gave me goosebumps“, most Metalheads would always say, without a reasonable explanation to why non-Metalheads aren’t triggered just as much. This is a hard question, and psychologists have yet to understand this connection between different music and different emotions (check The Psychology of Musical Preferences).
Today, as far as genes go, Lebanese Metalheads’ parents were born during the 50/60/70’s, and were exposed to some Western culture and music (different forms of Pop, Rock, Punk, Psychedelic and maybe but unlikely some Metal). However, they were mostly exposed to Arabic music from Lebanon and its neighboring countries. Since Metal took off globally in the 80’s and most Lebanese Metalheads were born in the 80’s and 90’s, it’s unlikely that parents passed down their “Metal-loving genes” as they weren’t Metalheads to begin with. If Metal wasn’t directly passed down by genes, then how about indirectly? How about its recipe and ingredients?
Metalheads share many personality traits and emotional responses, mainly using Metal as a ventilation method for anger, stress, pain, and frustration. They are naturally programmed against control, oppression, injustice and social norms and taboos. Is this triggered by the environment and its history? Every Lebanese Metalhead would relate to this argument, as Lebanon’s ongoing history produces the perfect ingredients that fuel Metal music — War, Corruption, Injustice, Survival, Religious and Sectarian Tensions, Control, Social Taboos, etc! Metal’s unrelenting energy and socio-political lyrical themes resonate so closely with what Lebanese Metalheads consider as everyday life.
Finally, we can safely rule out “the Metal gene”, at least for Metalheads whose parents grew up before Metal existed and flourished worldwide. Also, debating the case for Nurture is highly flawed — similar to the other 99% of the population, Lebanese Metalheads grew up hearing their parents’ stories of war, experienced first-hand exposure to its impact and destruction, and were raised in an environment afflicted by sectarian hostilities, social issues and geopolitical tensions. The actual unsolved debate should be: how isn’t every Lebanese a Metalhead?