Friday, June 30, 2017

The Goth Label

Today I want to talk about something I've seen a lot in the online goth community, especially with teens - and that is the use of the goth label. What I mean here is slapping the goth label on anything and everything in your life (when they have nothing to do with goth culture), just because you identify as a goth.

I bet there will be some people who will toss around the term ''elitist'' at me now (I'm not even going to go into the misuse of that word), but if I am considered ''elitist'' by saying this, I'm fine with that.
We need someone to say that ''No, your my little ponies aren't goth just because you're a goth''.
If everything is goth, goth is nothing.
It has evolved and expanded like everything does, and of course we all have outside interests. But goth culture means a lot to many of us, and it shouldn't be watered down by external things.
People can like whatever they want, it doesn't take away your precious goth points or whatever!

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Goth is not a competition. A lot of people say they were ''born goth'' because they liked halloween, Tim Burton, Scooby Doo or whatever as a kid. Who didn't? Lots of people loved those things as a kid, and didn't turn goth. That's because these things aren't really gothic. Sure, goths can like these things, but it's definitely not the only thing that makes them a goth.
Everyone spends most of their first 25 years in life discovering who they are. Some find out sooner, some find out later. It's not always we are exposed to something that makes us feel at home from the get-go. It's totally fine! I think I really got into goth rock and all that at around age 16. I had spent the 3 years prior delving into darker and harder music, and found goth through metal / industrial. It was great to finally find out where I fit in - Somewhere inbetween. But would I change my course? No. Everything you have done in life has given you experiences to make you the person you are today. There is no need to say you have been goth for so and so long or kids to say they aren't baby bats because they liked to dress up as a witch or vampire since they were 4. Goth is so much more than that, so don't over-simplify it like that. It's no wonder that the mainstream media misuses the label! Everyone wants to be a special snowflake, but it just seems like kids today are trying too hard to be accepted. I'll get more into that further down in this post.

Goth is just a label that summarizes your interests and hobbies into a quick little package. I use it as a quick way of summarizing what music I listen to, what books I read, how I look, what I find appealing and so on. I didn't actually start using it until more recently, as the internet made it explode, pretty much. I still feel kind of weird saying I'm goth. But I am, and it's a big part of my life, so the word gets tossed in there when I / others describe me.

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The main thing that has probably led to this annoyance (I'm sure I'm not alone in this), is mainstream media, especially the past years. Fashion trends come and go, and every now and then anything dark is described as for example goth. It doesn't mean that it is. So don't be as stupid as these outsiders, and educate yourself if you are actually interested in the culture. Anyone can slap on some dark make-up and wear black clothes, it doesn't make them a goth. It's your interests that does.

Let me also mention that you definitely don't have to label yourself! You can definitely be into goth culture, but still not label yourself as such. There are several people who do this, and some (including me) joke that this is the ultimate stage of gothness; throwing away the label. Goth icons like Andrew Eldritch, Peter Murphy, Robert Smith and Siouxsie Sioux have all denied that they're goths. Funny though, they all contributed to create and define the music genre and subculture.

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Another thing I see a lot is younger kids thinking they have to ''pick a style'' and stick to it. I'm sure everyone has seen Trellia AKA Megan Balanck's illustrations of goth stereotypes. Us who have been around for a few years know that it's just a joke - Come on, we're goths! We can be so cliché that it's impossible not to laugh at ourselves sometimes. And that's what newcomers need to learn. Stereotypes are stereotypes - Not some sort of goal checklist. Being a goth is about being different and being your own person, so why would you ever do what everyone else is doing? It makes no sense to me. I know kids just want to find a group to belong in, but if you aren't yourself and try too hard, that won't happen. Your teenage years are meant to be the years where you find yourselves, and you will fuck up, it will be hard, and you will definitely cringe only a couple of years later. That's how it's supposed to be! But hopefully you could listen to my advice. Relax, and fuck what everyone else thinks. But respect your elders though (goths and others)! We were there once too, you know. We're not trying to yell at you or anything, we have just learned from years of experience.

An addition to that: Don't overlabel yourself. Oh, you don't fit a certain stereotype? So you make up your own. I get it, you're that special. But honestly, it seems like people are trying WAY too hard when they come up with these mash-up special snowflake labels. So don't do it, cause what's the point? Do you HAVE to put everything you do and like into a box? I think it ruins the individuality, once it is given a name. This goes hand in hand with what I said at the beginning of the post, because it usually incorporates some element outside of goth culture. You are allowed to like different things! You are an individual, and there are SO many things that make you who you are. Let those things be, and stay unique.

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I think that's enough for now. Finally, let me remind you that these are my opinions. Agree with it or not, take it or leave it. I don't really care, but if you at least consider it, that's great. I'm just kind of sick of seeing these misconceptions over and over again, and I really want to help the babybats of the internet! So I'm hoping (*cough* ranting *cough*) writing it all down will help at least SOME out.
If you have any questions, just ask anywhere you can find me online! I'd be happy to help.
Thank you for reading, and if I helped, you're welcome, and if I pissed you off, you're also welcome.

8 comments:

  1. You, deserve a huge applause. Seriously, well said. I mean, I used to really want to fit in the box of "goth" but now that I'm older, I realized that I don’t need too. I love it to wear goth fashion, because I think it's gorgeous, it’s all I wear honestly,but I'm not really into real gothic music. I mean, I listen to Marilyn Manson, Cadaveria and some Evanescence stuff (if that's even goth) but overall I just listen to all kinds of metal, Symphonic to Death. I die my hair in dark red and purple, because I like it, not because it's goth. I am just who I want to be and I don't let labels decide what I can and can't do/wear.
    I agree with everything you said, kudos to you.

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    1. Thank you very much!
      Those aren't goth bands no, but if you like them, who cares? Cause what I see a lot is kids who listen to maybe those bands or other unrelated bands, and they want to be goth so bad that they call these bands and everything else they like goth. I just don't understand why labels are so important - unless we're talking about product packaging.

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    2. What makes music goth?

      1. It has to be in the same set of genres that were present in 80s?

      IMHO not enough. And not necessarily. Is Fields of Nephilim still goth today? They play metal, even if some people try to deny that their music is metal.

      Plus many bands from eastern Europe back in 80s did blend western "what we call today gothic music" of that times with industrial ( and industrial evolved as separate genre ) and eastern european folk music and even Byzantine music. Macedonian legend Mizar is here a good example. I totally recomend to take a look at eastern gothic scene music and people. More in terms of it's roots in 80s early 90s. It adds more depth to reflections on "what is goth". Goth behind the Iron Curtain was different then western, I even dare to say that often more intellectual and spiritual.

      2. Having roots in post punk?
      Hmm... they are post punk influences in many bands that are not considered to be "gothic".

      3. Have lirics about Bats, corpses, death etc?.

      Still not Enough.

      4. Musicians have to dress "goth"? Many "gothic music" legends I know no longer do that. Yet they play same music they did decades ago when they did "dress goth". And there are also examples of bands "dressing like a goths" that almost no one consider to be gothic. And one can sing anthem of the USA dressed like Siouxie - does it make "White Stripped Banner" a goth song?

      Not a single point alone make music goth. Well, maybe we can say that all together do represent something that we can call a 100% gothic music. But do we need bring them all together to make "gothic music"? I don't think so. Plus many "officially approved gothic bands" don't have all those elements in every their song. Does it make their music only "occasionally gothic"?

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    3. A lot of good points here!
      Let me just specify that I meant things like 21 Pilots in this case - Apparently some kids think that's goth (or want it to be).

      Anyway, I do agree that goth music is a huge umbrella term that can be hard to define in some cases. We have bands like Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy, and then we have bands like Echo & The Bunnymen and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds that are all much loved by goths and associated with that scene.

      Personally I think it has a lot to do with the scene back in the day, but also a certain ''feeling'' the music gives - I can't really describe it, but most of the bands associated with the goth genre gives off a certain atmosphere.

      Sure a lot of these bands develop another sound later, and for some bands that definitely takes those albums outside the goth genre - But their old stuff is still there, so they will probably be associated with goth for a long time after.

      3 and 4 kind of made me laugh though. Some goth rock bands definitely are pretty cliché with their lyrics, which is fine with me, but definitely not a must, haha. Though that is probably what comes to mind for a lot of people when they think of goth rock, as well as the sound.
      At least now what musicians wear definitely doesn't matter, but it might have been important to the development of the goth look back in the day.

      So yeah, you're definitely right, not just one or ''all'' things can make something goth. And I think that's perfectly fine! It would probably be very boring if it all was cookie cutter.
      Which is also what I mean in this post, not just ''this and this'' makes you goth. That's why it's an entire lifestyle and culture, because it incorporates so many things, and leaves it open to interpretation and self expression.

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  2. Yes. This. I'm mid-40s and have always been kind of a freak but have refused until very recently, about a year ago actually, to accept the term "goth" as a label to describe myself. The connotations associated with Goths in the mid 90s really turned me off. I like what I like and that's it. And I don't really give a damn if other people think it's goth or goth enough or all the same kind of goth subtype. I refuse to chose. Thanks a lot for validating my opinion.

    Jen

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    1. I totally understand!
      It feels nice to finally write this all down for everyone to see.

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    2. I'm with you there Jen. I have been metal since 15 but moved through black metal and Symphonic into 'Goth' bands as well. I've always read the literature and liked the darker side of things but didn't realise that was Goth. I haven't changed, I just wear make up on occasion and wear different clothes.

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  3. Gode tankar om eit høgst aktuelt tema! At dette blir tatt opp i goth-miljøet, slik det har blitt gjort fleire stader den siste tida, trur eg er viktig. Spesielt gjeld dette for yngre, som føler at dei må passe inn i ein kategori og kategorisere alt deretter (ligg vel ein tryggleik i det, når ein framleis er i prosessen med å finne ut kven ein er), men trur også det er viktig for oss eldre å høyre, som lett kan miste oss sjølve blant alle forventningar frå samfunnet om korleis ein vaksen person skal vere!

    Elles likte eg skildringa av goth som ein samlepakke; den seier noko om deg, men er ikkje det einaste som definerer deg som person :)

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