November 25, 2011

When Goth is too Monochrome....

This has been on my computer for ages. I apologize for forgetting where this  comes from.
The Gothic lifestyle manages to be both my oldest and least familiar interest. Despite my long term envy of those white faced, black haired stereotypes of television and movies, I am more hesitant to pass judgement on this subculture than those other which I have researched for a shorter time. The reason for this timidity is two fold: music and age.

Music is, arguably, as important to the Gothic scene as the familiar fashion. I, however, have never been a music aficionado and don't particularly care for Gothic music. Being unable to appreciate or critique what is an essential part of a Goth makes this review naturally biased.

The second source of hesitation is the Gothic subculture's age. There are far, far better sites for researching the history of Goth, but I believe the aesthetic began in the 80's and has gone through every variation a thirty year old movement can. There are at least twenty different subgroups in the subculture to the outside observer and once in the Goth scene, I am sure there are even more.

Being ignorant of the subtle nuances of the Gothic history's twists and turns and the entire genre of music, I begin this critique with some trepidation.

Taken from

The Appeal of Goth:

The work that I believe most fully captures everything beautiful about the Gothic subculture is The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales compiled by Chris Baldick. If you are interested in Goth, or aren't but want a collection of rich and magnificent tales, go to your favorite used book store and begin searching for it. The collection spans tales from 1773 to the modern day and seeks to give a comprehensive outline of Gothic short fiction.

What I loved about these tales and see reflected in the fashion is a depth and richness of emotion that is missing from modern society. In the Gothic image there still exist decaying castles on the windswept moors where young maidens are forced to marry against their wishes or sent to convents. Questions of immorality, of death, of madness are all considered despite being shunned now a days.

I love the motifs of roses, ornate crosses, ravens, and  tombstones.

I love the curiosity and willingness to explore the decaying hallways of once grand houses, overgrown graveyards, the crooked ways of the human mind. The ability to find beauty in the unconventional, the gruesome, or morbid is a wonderful gift.

I love the depths of soul where one incident can drive a mind to madness or turn shadows into ghosts. There is a delicacy of the spirit which is not concerned with mortal drudgery which sorely missed today.

I love the awe inspiring vastness of the Church because it means there are things out there that the human mind can not know and needs protecting from.

I love the passion which infuses the work and the drama which inspires the clothing. Gothic clothing takes a brave soul to wear well. More so than the other aesthetics I will discuss, Goths need a flare for the dramatic to flesh out the elaborate garments and making the fantasy alive.

Found at
Critique of Goth:

However, this passion of Goth seems to be it's undoing. Not everyone can haunt about a castle. Not everyone can stay in the frenzy of infatuation forever. Dawn eventually reveals the shadows to be dressers and closets rather than ghosts of old.

Goth isn't about the day to day or the practical. Never in any Gothic story that I have read is the heroine's morning routine described or the running of the mansion or the minute worries about money and income.Yet we live in a world where days do pass and the practicalities must be considered.

The way I see most Goths dealing with this daily necessity is by cutisfying the motifs of the subculture and making them every day. So you find paper plates and cups with bat motifs. Prints with cute skull and cross bones to make your skirts. One would be hard pressed to find those in any normal person's home, but the passion is lost.

My second concern is the inherent helplessness of  Gothic stories. No one sits down to think how to escape whatever problems they are in; the stakes are too high. Maidens wait to be rescued or have delirious dreams of suicide. It is either financial ruin on one hand or murdering the uncle on the other. No one stops to consider practical measures to take. At that frenzy, the choice has become either or. Black or white.

But this isn't the human experience. The world is complex and we have the minds and skills to use that complexity to our advantage. If a character can only see two opposite alternatives to a problem, she is missing some third angle. We can change the world around us, that is one of the principle things which makes us human. We have tools. We look at a forest and see not only the trees but the houses and furniture and art that the wood can create. But Gothic stories would not exist if the heroine or hero were rational, practical people who sat down at talked things through.

Now some might argue that you can either be passionate, or you can be reasonable. They cancel each other out otherwise. Part of my goal in this blog and my study of Neo-Aristocrats is to prove this is not the case.

Finally and most whimsically, Goth is too monochrome. I like black. A peek into my closet is testament enough. But I like other colors as well and as more than just accents to my black skirt and coat.

Goth is not for me. I want an aesthetic that can be applied to my everyday life without losing its power, which promotes human competence and real world solutions while not killing the passion and beauty that Goth contains in abundance.

As always, if you would like to point out an error in my thinking, discuss an idea with me, or have me read something else, please let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, I really like the concept of your blog. There are various subcultures/aesthetics that I feel like I overlap with, but never completely fit into, which can feel very frustrating for some reason.
    I agree with your comment that passion and reason (or practicality) don't need to be mutually exclusive. Human beings have a lot more depth than modern culture (or subculture) currently seems to give them credit.

    I look forward to your future posts! Although to be honest I have a deep and unabiding loathing for Ayn Rand, but based on your posts so far I'm sure you will have good points to make.