Gothic, like the Glam and Punk scenes it sprang from, is highly rooted in style. Music and fashion take precedence over other forms of expression, in fact, the newsgroup alt.gothic lists resources on bands, clubs, and dying hair, but no resources on any particular doctrine or philosophy of the goth scene. Similarly, Nick Mercer's Hex Files: The Goth Bible only lists information relevant to the consumer: CDs, boutiques, magazines, etc.
The emphasis on style, tendencies towards individualism of the subculture¹s members, and general lack of definition, therefore, make Goth difficult to place within a socioeconomic context. Goths come from all economic classes and the culture which a Goth has grown up in does not seem to be important.
The only way to place Gothic in a previously-studied context is to relate the defined elements of the subculture to the subcultures it rose from. Punk and Glam, having had more media exposure and widespread recognition, are easier to contextualize, and perhaps Goth can be defined in a limited fashion regarding its relationships with its parent subcultures
Glam, which itself is a synthesis of the Underground and the skinhead subcultures (Hebdige, 60) is a consumerist movement based mostly on self-presentation and representation. This aesthetic and the propensity of goths to play with conventional ideas of gender are highly visible in the Gothic scene. In fact, David Bowie, one of the main figures of the Glam scene, is also quite revered in the Gothic scene, reinforced by his friendship with perennial Goth favorite Bauhaus and his appearance in a popular movie in the Gothic subculture, The Hunger
Punk rock is also an enormous influence on the Gothic scene. One of the bands seen as the cornerstone of Gothic, Siouxie and the Banshees, started out as punk groupies (Hebdige, 110) and gradually created their own dark aesthetic, taking the black clothing and bondage gear of the Punk scene to the extreme and taking song inspiration from the macabre and horrific.
Goth also has similarities to New Wave (also known as "art school punk", which is itself a descendant of Glam and Punk. In fact, Goth can be seen as sort of the dark inverse of New Wave, relying on the same theatrical spectacle and artistic strategies and having similar musical structures, but relying more on a celebration of death and sadness than on absurdity and politicism.
here is a subcurrent of individualism and self-alientation that sets Gothic apart from these other subcultures, beyond the stylistic approaches. Although Goths will gather at clubs to dance and socialize, they tend to set strong boundaries and mostly do not dance with one another as other clubgoers might; they dance alone ("Spacial").
This individualistic nature is indicative of a personal sense of alienation. Alienated youth have, according to Keniston,a fragmentation of identity in which "[t]he core of their ideology is negative, a repudiation of the central values of their culture, with few clear positive values or goals." (184-185) This may be a reaction to the plethora of choices youth, especially those more intelligent than average, are expected to make, causing them to refuse all and adopt a nihilistic attitude (86-87).
Another theme of youth alienation is a strong love of fantasy and an idealization of the past (189). This is reflected in the Gothic subculture's love of Victorian and medieval/fantasy-inspired art and clothing, and in the admiration of fantasy films such as The Dark Crystal, Legend, and Labyrinth, (which co-stars David Bowie).
Women are surprisingly much more represented in Gothic than in other subcultures. They are neither absent nor invisible, as hypothesized in the studies of McRobbe and Garber (112), but occupy an equal position to their male counterparts. This may be because Gothic is seen as a traditionally feminized identity (As Hannaham puts it, "Heavy metal was aggressive, sexist and therefore 'masculine,' while Goth had a softer, more accepting, 'feminine' cast."(114)). There is more of an emphasis on reflection and intellectualism than on action, and the participants in the Gothic subculture tend to have a strong artistic bent
The primary reason for the strong female presence in Gothic, however, seems to be that traditional gender roles are not as important in Gothic society. In other subcultures where gender roles are subverted, females do indeed become more visible, as in the Hippie and Glam movements
A crucial part of representing oneself in the Gothic subculture involves questioning the adherence of others to the Goth scene. This is strange in a subculture with such a loosely defined ideology, but certainly has parallels in other youth movements. For example, rappers will strengthen their own self-image by denigrating other rappers, as in the case of the arbitrary east coast/west coast distinctions and the arbitrary rivalries they have spawned
The practice of ridiculing fellow Goths is highly visible on the internet. Sites such as "Cheeziest Goth Site of the Week" , "Goth Goose of the Week" and "Reality Check" are databases of websites which are too pretentious, too poorly designed, or not Goth enough by the standards of the reviewers.
Furthermore, Goths tend to look unfavorably upon those just joining the Gothic scene. Alicia Porter states that "First and second generation Goths look suspiciously upon the new generation, doubting their authenticity and disliking the exposure they give to a subculture which would prefer to remain underground." ("Gothic Subculture") The urge to remain out of the public eye is certainly understandable, as the media tends to portray Goths in an unfavorable ("Gothic Subculture") and frequently inaccurate ("Gothic Subculture") light
However, though there are Goths who take themselves very seriously, there are also those who represent themselves by downplaying their "gothicness" and by making light of their involvement in the subculture. The "Insta-Goth Kit" is a satirical look at the popular icons of the Gothic lifestyle - music, fashion, literature, etc. It is a response to those who those who join the subculture abruptly and without learning more about it ("Bored with your current look? So am I! Shed off those blah blue jeans, purchase an Insta Goth Kit, and enter the mysterious world of Goth easily and Cost Effectively!") It also addresses stereotypes of Gothic attitude in non-Gothic culture ("Remember, all true artists and poets were greatly misunderstood, much like the gothy people are. That is why we are outcasts! Because *hand to forehead* we are all so misunderstood!")
Although the Gothic is a difficult subculture to define, a sharper picture of it emerges through its relationships to Punk and Glam, through the psychological studies of alienated youth, and through the act of self-representation, especially on the internet. It is not simply a culture of "darkness", it has roots in an opposition to modern society and a celebration of gender exploration, a morbid aesthetic, and a dichotomy of representation by degrading self and others
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