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.