Thursday, October 05, 2006

13 Things About Being A Goth

Goths just might be one of the most misunderstood subcultures. Although I don't dress like a goth these days, I was a vampire in my youth as a young single mother and artist. A few years ago my boyfriend, Stagg, gave me a bumber sticker for my car it said, "I'm so Goth I'm Dead". Yes, I crossed borders with that thing on my 1990 hand painted silver Suzuki Swift. Many a border guard had a good laugh about that one. Stagg and I weren't dating then, we were friends and when he came to Canada, we would take him to the goth bars. Mainly because Chicago at that time didn't really have anything like them. In fact, Toronto was a kind of international goth destination. Once, there were three goth bars and several goth oriented clothing boutiques within walking distance of each other. Tourists would often walk in to visit and see what was the big deal. We were freaks and proud of it.

1)Dressing up for Halloween is a cakewalk. Yes, I love Halloween, I love Halloween maybe more than Christmas. I love the season, the costumes the mystery and all the fun trick or treating. Halloween for a goth is an opportunity to reconcile fashion and style barriers that occur for the rest of the year. At Halloween, everyone is a goth. You blend. But a goths costume always looks the most professional. Like you attended Beverly Hills 90120, remember how they had the best costumes?

2)Goth Literature? It's not just about reading Anne Rice novels. Goths tend to be very well read individuals. Shelly, Dante, Poe and Emily Dickinson, Byron, and Tolstoy are staples. Goths have massive attention spans for reading long winding passages about facing mortality, seeking the sublime and experiencing rebirth. Many goths in their youth can be found in the English Literature programs of major universities defending the value of Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy,Poppy S.Brite and Stewart O'Nan as the new Edgar Allen Poe for their generations. See, they even know who Stewart O'Nan is!

3)Goth Music? It's a commony held notion that goth's listen to "satan music". Uh uh. We listen to all kinds of music. The goth subculture was born from punk but transformed itself incorporating so many styles and issues and themes that it grew into a helthy strong subculture. Like punk, it was a response from when the music business was turning into a biig money market and over produced cocaine snorting corporate inferno. Goth was often a rejection of bands like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones who were seen to sell out and write emotionally shallow music. Goth's tend to be attracted to deeply haunting and emotionally challenging music. Bands with richly layered sounds and unusual lyrics and love stories about death and life: Bauhuas, Souxie and The Banshees, The Cure, The Cocteau Twins, Nick Cave and Alien Sex Fiend opened doors for more alternative rock like Jesus and Mary Chain, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and P.J. Harvey. Ironically, bands like the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles did have a few songs that could be iconically classed as goth. Gold Dust Woman, Rhiannon, Sympathy For The Devil and Desperado do cross over into the kind of storytelling and pathos appreciated by subcultures like the goth scene. I've known a few women who were decked out in corsets and platform boots and studs and chains who has nostalgia for Rhiannon and Gold Dust Woman. Maybe somewhere in her heart Stevie Nicks was an original goth?

4) Goth's have often felt like the nerd or the outsider in school. They tend to use this social rejection to be kind to strangers and others. Goths have compassion from these tramatic experiences as children. Gothstend to be surprisingly gentle and polite personalities.

5) Good dressers. Goth's still believe in treating life as a special occasion. You won't find them going to a fancy restaurant dressed in sports wear or running shoes. They will be dressed to the nines, and make you proud. They still know that life is short, and one should seize the day. Sometimes, since many goths felt weird or were treated as freaks...dressing like a goth says "Oh you tought I was weird or scary? Well, look at me now" . Incorporating bondage wear into their high fashion statements symbolizes the slave mentality of popular culture. If we are slaves to the dominant culture, goths have co-opted slave gear to represent their freedom from conformity. They will look better than most even doing their laundry. Hair will be styled, and their casual clothes are likely black All Stars, black slacks and a shiny or simple cut silk t-shirt. Make-up is often inspired by silent film era beauties, Varga girls, and film noir. Goths put the todays trend of lazy cheap slobs to shame. Life is short people, dig out some sweet shoes and act like you care that you are alive!

6) Goths can be afficianados of the horror movie genre. Not only will goths have seen the original vampire movies, they might be able to entertain you with their understanding that Lon Chaney based his Make-up Arts on the soldiers who returned home from the First World War. Due to medical advances, more and more soldiers were surviving brutal battles and coming home with extreme burns and damage to posture and souls. When they walked through cities, people often stared at their horrific injuries and healed skin burns. Lon Chaney saw a parallel between these survivors, their social outsiderness and the horror they provoked in the public and used his skills in special effects to create some of our most iconoclastic and tragic horror characters. Goths also might be able to tell you that the rise of popularity of vampire movies in the 80's and 90's was due to our fear and awareness of AIDS killing so many young and talented young people of potential with a blood related disease. I suspect the popularity of the movies Saw and SawII are related to the medical and military armour advances that are bringing Iraq deployed soldiers home surviving multiple amputations. The Walter Reed Veteran Hospital has built a new wing, almost 30,000 square feet annexed, to help rehabilitate these survivors, many of whom have not been released into society yet because their healing and amputee costs are in the millions. The hundreds of Vietnam homeless veterans panhandling in the streets, fighting substance abuse and depression may be a fraction compared to what we might see in the next ten years. Bless them, and bless us all.

7) Some off-the-beaten track goth movies? Sure goths love vampire movies. But there are many movies that are goth favourites that don't just sit within the horror category. The fragility of life and the artistic temperment are important motifs for the goth personality. Movies like Amadeus, Donnie Darko, Immortal Beloved, Elizabeth, American Psycho, Before Sunrise, Girl Interupted, Frances, Full Metal Jacket and Blade Runner exploring complex personalities and individuals in the struggle for souvereign authenticity within a smothering society are likely to be found among many dvd collections in the homes of goths.

8) Animal lovers. Again goths personal history with alienation, being treated with intolerance transfers on to their view of animal life and protecting innocent creatures. Often goths have a variety of pets, including cats, lizards, snakes, ferrets and give them considerate respect and caregiving. Often goths are commited to animal protection activism.

9) Night Owls. This is obvious...isn't it? But why are goths late night folks? It's about the magic and fraility of life, and the night allows a little heightened artistic lighting and protects against the jocks and brutes, usually in office day jobs, who teased them as children. Plus, humans look better at night, the dark flatters all imperfections, perhaps hiding them or perhaps enhancing our best features. Restaurants know this and that is the popularity of candle lit rooms to serve food. Women feel more confident and sexy in a candle lit atmosphere. Our senses are thrown off and we might see ourselves in a different way at night. Shadows suggest possibilities...which stimulates the imagination. Harsh daylight may be life enhancing but it also is not condusive to dreaming...sunlight clears up mysteries. The dark promises romance, mystery and self-discovery of profound ideas.

10) Goths are tolerant. Social injustice is a recurring issue among goth communities. Gays, women and ethnic diversity is embraced often decorated and worshipped among the poetic and sensitive individual. Again, the movies and literature popular among goths reflect these thems of tolerance and not allowing hatred and phoniness to confine happiness or love.

11) Unlikely goth music? Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen, songs by Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Elliot Smith and Nick Drake. Johnny Cash was the original man in black. His American albums at the end of his life were all goth interpreted songs.

12) Depression. Yes, it can seem like goths are obsessed with death and depression. the thing is, life is sad for many people and senstive spirits have trouble reconsoling the suffering in the world and their own mental state. Goths embrace depression and angst and raise it to an art form. The transformative potential of art and music helps goths create a fascinating philosophy about the transitive nature of existence. Goths may wear a lot of black clothing, but their spirits are purple. Goths know life sucks, let's go dancing.

13) Humour. Goths are not actually sad morbid depressing folks. Some of the funniest people I've ever met are goths. Witnessing the futility of society, the cruelty of some bullies, loss, pain, and injustice might have drawn some of the quirkiest and most well-adjusted folks to a subculture I've ever encountered. Drop down funny. If sarcasm is the lowest form of humour, I think black comedy might just be the highest.

Have you ever been obsessed with a fashion/music socio-political based culture? Greaser? Punk? Hippie? Hip hop?

Thursday Thirteen is an opportunity for bloogers to get to know each other better. Thanks for reading this rather long post about one of my passions.


Red said...

I was a Goth in my youth. The freak of my hometown, with black clothes and spiky hair, which at the time was black, incidentally! That's why I so so so wanted to move to London, I'm sure, to be part of a community of like-minded folks rather than the weird gilr with the pale face!

Great T13, Candy. And good to see a mention of my favourite, Elliott Smith. I didn't know you liked him. Makes me like you even more... if that was possible!!

Carmen said...

I was a "prep" in high school, and then in college, it was sweatshirts and jeans. Now, it's whatever i pull out of the closet. :)

Shep said...

I went out with a goth in middle school. She had the prettiest handwriting of anyone I've ever been out with. She now works in advertising.

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of Don the Vampire from Mad Mad House. He spoke about these things as well.

Darla said...

Long, but informative. Nice job! If I'd been born 10 years later, I might've been a goth... or I might still have been the terminally shy brainy girl with glasses & braces. *sigh*

Lynn said...

I shouldn't have clicked the linky.
I didnt realize it was a Thursday 13.

I am 43 and I was a Goth as well. Sometimes my avatar is a Goth.

I used to go to one night. It was about every 6 weeks at Reverb. The name highlight was different for each show.

I used to have alot of fun.
These days I am a mix of Rocker and Goth. I add some Indian flair and alot of black, and still the cool jewellry.

My Son is a Metal star so I have blended for my look. I dont want to be mixed up with emo, so I have to be very directd in my look.

Anonymous said...

I must admit I didn't know that much about goths, thanks for educating me! Your list goes very well with mine about witches. Thanks for stopping by.

Unknown said...

Interesting TT!! I think this is my favorite for today. :)

Thanks for visiting my Blog.

Uisce said...

Very educational and that's a most excellent thing!

Anonymous said...

That was enlightening. It's easy to stereotype someone based on the outward appearance. I've always been the type to let people look as they please. I don't have to like it, but I will tolerate it. That goes for suits and neckties as much as anything else.

Goths are people, too!

Anonymous said...

Shadows suggest possibilities...I love this statement...I am a night owl, suffering from insomnia...but write and do my artwork during this wardrobe consists of different shades of black, my favorite poet is Dickinson...and in the 80's I wore a fool's tail...all the rage from a band called Fool's Face. But I never thought of myself as a I have to wonder if there has been a Goth in my closet all these years...hmmm

Anonymous said...

Having been a "punk" during the 80's I know how it feels to be misunderstood or reduced to a few cliches. Wonderful insight! Thanks for the encouraging comments you made on my post for today!
P.S. I must admit, I did not know all those fascinating things about Goths either.

Anonymous said...

Now I REALLY liked that TT - it was original and informative. And gives insight into how goths perceive themselves.
My one concern about approaching goths is that, with all the talk about non-conformity, there is definitely a dress code to "being" a goth. So I guess I'm sort of white-bread outside, black (or purple?) inside - what's the opposite of an Oreo then? :-)

Candy Minx said...

Red, hi, yep Elliot Smith counts because he is good to lie in bed and listen to and stare at the ceiling. I should have known you had a goth era.

Carmen, I thought you were still incollege, you look so cute and young.

Shep, I am not surprised about the handwriting or the advertising career of your former goth girlfriend. Advertising can be creative when it is good!

Janet, I'll go check out Mad Mouse..

Darla, sorry about my long winded post today. I wanted to go as much in depth as possible because I think people are sometimes afraid of goths and punks. And a lot of peopel in Thursday Thirteen are parents...and recognizing a rebel as a kind of special person is as important as reconizing a math or science wiz I believe.

Well, Lynn I knew you were a cool chick!

Tink, yes, I thought there was quite a crossover with the witch post of yours...another misunderstood subculture. With all these subcultures who is "normal"?

Skittles, thanks! right back at ya!

Uisce, well good, and I enjoy your post today very much!

Anthony, I should have said that in my post, good on you, and very funny too! thanks for stopping by!

Silverwillow, you most definately have a gothic heart within! Even your name suggests poetry to me!

Monish, ah, a felow 80's survivor, I loved that decade! Except for the padded shoulders, oops.

Alethea, Well, yes, there was always a dress code for goths...but remember when I said tourists used to pop by all these nightclubs...I would say they got a very warm welcome. I would like to believe that anyone who was thoughtful wouldn't judge people on appearances, but I'd especially like to think that those who suffered alienation would try to be even kinder to odd ones out? Also, in some ways this post was about thinking about one aspect of our society that divides itself...clothes and style sometimes divide people into class, or gender...and maybe it's a good thing to see it as what is is...a skin deep phase? We shouldn't judge books by their covers sort of deal...and that should go for reverse too huh?

BlondeBrony said...

Sounds like being a Goth is fun.
Thanks for all the information.
Happy TT!

* (asterisk) said...

I did my goth thing for a few years. I guess around the ages 14-17 ish. Bauhaus and The Cure were staples. The band I had at the time would play these bands songs over and over, as well as those we wrote ourselves. Fave covers were "A Forest", "Bela Lugosi's Dead", and the wonderful "Crowds". Those heavy bass lines and doom-laden vocals are still great.

Cool T13, Candy.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I think I had my own subculture when i was in high school. I still do. I love Siouxsie and Peter Murphy and Morrissey. Mustn't forget the Moz!

Great list!


Timmer said...

Hi Candy!
That was a cool read. I put together my list on my blog.
I hope that you like it, I had fun!

Anonymous said...

Voodoo, Twilight Zone, Pariah... Good God, I can't remember all the place I used to "haunt"... and I still remember pre-goth "blitz-kids" and/or "death punks"!

Darn, I'm gettin' old...

My wife finally asked what I listened to "way back in the day" (even DJed at one place who's name eludes me near Dundas and Yonge... with my then girlfriend and a buddy... the name escapes me but it was one of Ivan's clubs...) and I played her a selection of Sisters, Siouxsie, Cure, Bauhaus... and what did she, who was never into the underground thing... say???

"My God! That's elevator music! I thought you people listened to weirder stuff than that!"

I did explain that Puppy, KMFDM, Front Line Assembly... heck, Einsturzende Neubauten... okay, Virgin Prunes... were a lot more "dark"... but she scoffed.

I don't know what she was hoping for, but I think I demystified the whole thing for her.

Then again, I could NEVER stand the ones who thought a "fun night" was reading Anne Rice by candlelight!

...can you tell I was a bit of an outcast in an odd sort of way?

I parted with my overly long and dead dyed black hair at 29... but had maintained (more or less) the same look from 15 up to then...

I'm 39 now... and I still find myself smirking at certain "gothlings" when they try to pull off "The Crow" look...

...but then I remember... I'm old enough to be their parent now!


Anonymous said...

I dated a guy when I was in college who desparetly tried to be Goth. I guess he probably was. I was just annoyed by him because he wasn't a very nice person after a while. I think he got really wrapped up in the whole thing, and when I wouldn't dye my hair black to match his...he gave up. :) Just kidding. I do have some interesting pics of the two of us during that time period, though.

BTW ~ I LOVE the Cure. ;) The best thing that came out of that "stage" of my life. Oh ~ and The Smiths...are they Goth?

Anyway, I would love to copy your TT and send it to him ~ if I knew where to reach him...because it's obvious to me now that he just didn't "get it"! :) He thought wearing black and having custom made vampire fangs was all their was to it...people stared at him A LOT! It didn't hurt he was the spitting image of Trent Reznor...probably why I stayed with him for 2 years or so.

Great 13 ~ thanks for stopping by!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I adore Goths. I have never been one, and yet,

despair is never having to say you are happy

The Shrone said...

After reading your list I realize I was more Goth in my youth than I considered myself to be. I miss my days of wearing all black--now I do insert a little color here and there. Thank you for your comments on my TT!

Wandering Coyote said...

Gee Candy, I see myself in a lot of these traits. I think I ama Goth at heart! Thanks for this; it was very informative!