Gothic Subculture Research Paper

Gothic subculture is a part of the modern culture which has its history. Nevertheless, the attitude of the public to this phenomenon is quite contradictive from total rejection, which often dominates, to comprehension or even participation in the Gothic subculture. At the same time, it should be said that public tastes often determine the attitude of modern Mass Media to the Gothic subculture and this often becomes a reason for negative comments in the press.

Initially, the word “gothic” was used to name the group of European tribes. The word itself originates from the name of Gottland, a territory on the Denmark coast. Gotts invaded Europe in the fifth century and ruled Europe for 250 years. Nowadays, we usually use it to identify a part of modern culture, which significantly differs from that of ancient Goths. A modern interpretation of the term “gothic” assumes a definite style of art. “Today, “gothic” is used to describe a subculture based largely on a certain style of art, literature, and music. Some forms of gothic art and literature date back to the 12th –15th centuries, however, gothic music, as we know it today, is a relatively new development and is responsible for having the greatest impact on the development of gothic subculture” (Hodkinson 12). Originally, the modern goth movement appeared in the United Kingdom between the 1970s and 1980s. It appeared as a part of the post-punk genre and quickly became popular as a separate gothic rock music movement. In the latest 1970s, several British bands identified themselves as gothic, but gothic music and culture did not become a separate subculture till the early 1980s. At the beginning of the 1980s, the followers of goth music initiated the organization of a separate movement. Being a part of the post-punk culture, the gothic subculture has got a separate life while the popularity of most of the post-punk trends has decreased substantially. Goth subculture continued progressing as a music style and part of modern culture. Goth subculture gave new revival to Victorian fashion and the 19th-century Gothic art and literature. Goths themselves have also created a unsurpassable barrier that separated their subculture from other external influences. They thoroughly protected their subculture from the influence of mainstream culture and prevented people from outside come into their isolated society. Despite these efforts, the influence of goth subculture became so considerable and serious that popular culture could not ignore it anymore.

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Goth subculture has survived longer than the rest of post-punk movements. There are several reasons, which explain such long-term popularity. First of all, goth subculture is diverse and changes in the course of time to meet the conditions of changing the environment. Also, its message appeals to the wide audience since it combines social protest and mystic motifs.

The Gothic subculture has been influenced by the Gothic literature of the nineteenth century and horror movies. This subculture has strictly-shaped fashion. In spite of minor differences, all kinds of gothic subcultures tend to dark sound and clothing style. Gothic wearing style can include death, punk, rock, androgynous, Victorian and Renaissance clothing styles. All styles mentioned above assume dark or even black clothes, hairstyle and makeup. Themes of gothic music range from light and romantic to dark and gloomy.

Despite the fact that some goth bands had commercial success, they did not become the part of pop culture and remained excluded from the mainstream. Such bands as The Cure, Siouxsie, and The Banshees have become popular among the relatively large amount of people, but they did not make any attempts to get more suitable for the pop culture audience. Goth and death rock music is the music for a limited audience and chosen people. This music is not accessible by the general public. There are several reasons for limited nature of goth subculture. First of all, sound and texts of goth music cannot be understood by an average individual who gets used to pop music, for instance. Also, the accessibility of music can also become an obstacle for its popularization. “Punk lyrics were characteristically singsong with widespread profanity and heavy social or political themes; lyrics found in gothic music placed much consideration on art and style; profanity and slang were not often used” (Kilpatrick 13). The special goth slang has become a particular and characteristic feature of the goth subculture. Goths are divided into smaller movements, which represent regional, cultural and some other peculiarities of Goth subculture.

In this way, Neogoth appeared in Western Europe and North America. Mallgoth spread their influence in the United States of America, Cucarachas performed in Spain, Goggans in Australia, Hawkins in New Zeland. Brake (1985) distinguishes three elements, which form each subculture. These elements are image, demeanor, and argot. The image is connected with clothing style and accessories. Demeanor is an attitude of subculture members to mainstream culture and vice versa, while argot is a way to deliver the ideas of subculture. “Adopting a refashioned costume, the subcultural member dons the dress and orients himself or herself toward two different audiences: other subcultural members and members of the dominant culture being challenged” (Sweet 243). All these elements are presented within the goth subculture and serve as a way to express its individuality and shape its place in the mainstream culture.

Modern media creates a close connection between goth subculture and horror genre in literature and movie. In fact, such correlation has become a common cliché widely popularized by media. Goths often appear in different horror novels and movies. The Crow, for example, is completely based on both music and style. The Vampire Chronicles by Rice also have specific gothic motifs.

Popular culture has influenced goth subculture despite it did its best to defend itself from external influence. Since it becomes more and more popular, more people become the part of this subculture. Media, being ignorant or, at least, having insufficient knowledge about peculiarities of this subculture, often attributes it to the representatives of other subcultures. To a significant extent, this is the result of similarities in appearance and clothing style rather than philosophical ideas and musical genre. The term “goth” has become extended in the course of time and gradually come to popular usage. “As time went on, the term was extended further in popular usage, sometimes to define groups that had neither musical nor fashion similarities to the original gothic subculture“(Baddeley 15).

Media does not only popularize gothic subculture among wide audience but also often convey its image in a wrong way. There are a lot of critical depictions of Goths, which create a negative attitude of people to this subculture. For example, famous cartoonist Jhonen Vasquez has created a series of cartoons, such as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, I Feel Sick, and Fillerbunny, where he depicts Goths in a humorous and ironical way. In his works, he criticizes such features as unoriginality, backbiting, and conceit, which he attributes to modern Goths. Maddox, a modern writer, dedicated a lot of critical publications to gothic subculture. He even created a website called The Best Page in the Universe dedicated to this theme. He states that Goth subculture in the modern world is inconsistent and ambiguous and its values contradict to modern aesthetic norms and values.

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