So I’ve been gone from the online side of goth culture for quite some time as I’ve been working on the store. That doesn’t mean I was cut off entirely.
Goth is a foreign concept.
And the more I go outside and go to a variety of events the more apparent the lines of goth aren’t drawn between style, but more between individual desires and the generations.
I went to a relatively low-key conventional art show. If there were “goths” there, their work was heavily designed around familiar characters, Morticia from the Addams Family and quotes you have probably seen on Instagram. (Now, as we go through this, I want you to understand I have nothing against social media. I think it’s a tool that gets used in weird ways. Social media has also changed a lot in how we get information and how much we want to actually interact with information.) As I was taking a break, sitting to the side, a woman over the age of 50 asked me about how I was dressed and what I was interested in.
Using the G-word as a label is always risky business and most people either think post-punk, as the woman did, or Halloween. If you follow me on Instagram, it’s obvious I don’t fit into either of those categories unless you squint. A lot. So of course, I have to elaborate. But then that becomes a new challenge as I’m trying to explain what makes me feel more like me to someone who has to reference points to anything I’m saying.
Does that mean I was never a goth kid to start?
Obviously not, but instead of lamenting on what other people think of my gothiness, I went in the other direction.
How much more expansion can Goth as a concept take?
Nu goth itself has now hit a balance with the witch trend but I was always curious about could get an entire generation of people to have such buying power where companies said “Hey, let’s put skulls and bats on everything.” Goth, in general, seems to be the answer to some question. Why am I so different and am I alone? Am I freak and what exactly makes me “freaky”? Something, I don’t think those are the exact questions or that there is one question every goth is asking. I’m just saying. So when there was this huge cultural shift that lasted for years, why?
Because goth has been around for a long time, it didn’t just suddenly hit the spotlight. Now, the kids who made fun of the black clad loners and/or weirdos were trying to figure out how to imitate our looks. Like they were trying to find the magic in our balance of “being a part of group” and “being an individual”.
As the trend died down, there seems to be a few stragglers not only determined to stay but to reinvent the entire thing. I have questions.
What’s the point of trying to fit in with a group if you don’t actually care about the group? The spectrum seems to have shifted from active and passive participants to a competition of numbers. Or maybe my real question is what do goths today care about?
What is the one question they want to be answered as they walk the labyrinth of what we offer? Is it time to give up the game of us and them?
Of course not because that’s not this works at all. In the slightest. Even if you squint.
If we look at the history of anyone who has ever glanced at goth favorably, curiously, there tends to be this standard movement through goth culture: Halloween, rebellion, reality. I think Halloween as the “gateway drug” of sorts is part of why goth is seen as such a “young person thing”. It’s essentially escapism and dressing up. There used to be other outlets for those specific desires in LARPing, online games, anime conventions. All of it was held under this glass of “one day, you’ll grow out of this and the next time you see it will be when you have kids”.
We’ll come back to Halloween in a second, but the rebellion phase. Goth doesn’t seem to have any overt rebellion tones. It can certainly borrow from its punk cousins and lend to its emo ones, but goth doesn’t have it built into its…anything. If standing apart is considered rebellious, that’s one thing, but it’s less “Reject what is popular” and more “Accept yourself.” If you look at what defines the culture, that “accept yourself” doesn’t even sound sickeningly sweet, self help 101, or philosophical. It sounds like hey, would like to hear something that doesn’t use the same chord progression as 900 other songs? Or maybe you would like to read a book that makes you think? Or maybe…..
Or maybe…one of us, one of us…
If I were a teenager today, like right now, I was 15 years old, I think my goth experience would be very different. When I actually was 15, the idea of goth was very…reference-heavy, let’s say, you had to fucking know things. I was terrified of socializing, of not being able to “have a place at the table” but far more scared of the idea it could be my own fault. So I devoured albums and books, tried to get into movies, and retain all this information. Now? If I were 15 now? It’s all very glossy and it’s all very accessible.
That’s the weird part. It’s all there in the palm of my hand, at a moment’s notice. So what if the value hasn’t changed because of interest? What if the qualifiers no longer apply because it’s so accessible?
Like Halloween seems to have stopped being this children-only thing because it’s competitive now. There’s a wicked market for it. Whose haunted house can go viral? Whose make up can be the most three dimensional? Who can have the scariest animatronic? The information to up your game in these regards is right at your finger tips. The products to achieve status of most dedicated and maybe sickest design are a click away.
The environment has changed and we don’t move around it.
Not saying the online side of goth should get more credit, hell maybe I’m only talking about myself. I feel like I’m trying to become this younger me’s perfectly reasonable idea of goth then. Like if I were this person 10 years ago that would have been badass. But it’s not 10 years ago and I feel stagnant even though I’m doing more. There are some notable people and I guess “Bitch of Goth approved” who also seem stagnant, like the scene from Anastasia with the dancing ghosts.
And what of my gripe with goth youtubers? Do I feel like taking any of it back in my surreal moment of clarity?
Not a chance in hell because I don’t feel like anyone makes stuff right now that resonates with people who don’t already agree with them. If no opinions or interests are stated…there’s nothing to connect with really. It’s there and then it’s not. We see it and forget it.
I mean makes stuff like a goth show or music or stories that push goth forward instead of trying to connect with the past. Does that make sense? Instead of “just” trying to connect with the past, their past, your past.