'Do We Look Like Boy Racers?': The Role of the Folk Devil in Contemporary Moral Panics

Karen Lumsden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article addresses the failure of studies concerning moral panics to take into account the reaction of those individuals who are the subject of social anxiety. It responds to the suggestion by McRobbie and Thornton (1995) that studies of moral panic need to account for the role played by the ‘folk devils’ themselves, for a moral panic is a collective process (Young, 2007). The paper presents findings from ethnographic fieldwork with the ‘boy racer’ culture in Aberdeen, qualitative interviews with members of ‘outside’ groups, and content analysis of media articles. The societal reaction to the ‘boy racer’ subculture in Aberdeen is evidence of a contemporary moral panic. The media’s representation of the subculture contributed to the stigmatization of young drivers and the labelling of the subculture’s activities as deviant and anti-social. The drivers were aware of their negative portrayal in the media; however their attempts to change the myth of the ‘boy racer’ were unsuccessful. Although subcultural media can provide an outlet of self-expression for youths, these forms of media can also become caught-up in the moral panic. Ironically the youths’ own niche and micro media reified the (ir)rationality for the moral panic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2009


  • boy racers
  • car culture
  • ethnography
  • media
  • moral panics
  • subcultures
  • youth


Dive into the research topics of ''Do We Look Like Boy Racers?': The Role of the Folk Devil in Contemporary Moral Panics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this