the Halloween coverstory in the Carnegie Mellon University Tartan
Posted to: alt.gothic
By: Bradley W Zimmerman [EMail]
Subject: HEADLINES, i'm SICK of them....(Re: We made the front page! (last part))
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 22:34:54 -0500
(Carnegie Mellon University)
diversions splash 10/26/96
Tartan Staff Writer
If there's anything a subculture hates, it's the attempt by outsiders to explain or define it, mainly because the media just loves to either sensationalize it or make it more accessible to the mainstream public. So in the spirit of that spooky season of Halloween, I begrudgingly bring you the often-misunderstood GOTH.
As a member of this 'genre,' I'd like to get rid of the common misconceptions off the bat. People who think they're vampires and those kids that wear Marilyn Manson shirts every day are not Goths, they're lacking a grip on reality. Real Goths do not worship the devil, smoke opium, have rules against wearing colors other than black, speak in Shakespearean accents, and are not eternally depressed. We are creatively-driven, unusually intelligent, fascinated by ALL sides of the human condition, have an affinity for clove cigarettes and prefer nice boots to other types of footwear. Oh yeah, and Goths often have a wicked sense of wit and can laugh at themselves, as many people can't.
Goth is based on music and was birthed out of British Punk itself in the late-1970's. When art school students attracted to the freedom of the Punk aesthetic began to start their own bands, they fused the skeletal structure of the music with the theatrics of glitter rock (David Bowie,) and a twisted spirituality (The Doors.) What resulted was a dark minimalist sound which came to be known as 'Post-punk,' which encompassed both Goth and New Wave. The 'birth' of Goth is often traced back to the first Bauhaus single 'Bela Lugosi's Dead (1979),' although punk bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, and The Damned later appropriated by the genre were existing since 1977. Almost immediately Goths were visibly identifiable: Punks dressed predominately in black with extravagant make-up schemes versed in literature and art with an interest in the extremes of emotion.
As the legacy of London's Batcave club spread to America (specifically Los Angeles) in the early 1980's, the genre began to diversify. Rozz Williams founded the metalish Christian Death on the American West Coast along with the campy thrash of 45 Grave and the punk-influenced Kommunity FK and Psi-Com (Perry Farrell's first band) just as England birthed Southern Death Cult, the Joy Division-esque Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and the performance camp of Alien Sex Fiend. However these bands pale in comparison to the two who set the stage for the decade, The Sisters of Mercy with First and Last and Always (1985) and Floodland (1987) and The Cure's Pornography (1983) and Disintegration (1989.) These four albums are considered the decade's masterpieces. It was also during the early-mid 80's that Gothic fashion began to envelop antique; the extravagant medieval garb, lacy dresses, gypsy-wear, and androgynous bent so often seen today, and when various magazines devoted to the scene such as Propaganda first appeared.
As the 80's rolled to a close, a melding of Gothic and Industrial dance resulted in the crossover popularity of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. Reflecting this was the scene's appropriation of leather, latex, and PVC fetish-wear. Adding a counterpoint to the Industrial, 'Ethereal' music - a droning, lilting, atmospheric sub-genre - found homes on 4AD and Sam Rosenthal's Projekt label, giving bands such as Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Dead Can Dance homes and drawing growing numbers of new-agers into Goth. Across the nation, it became rare to find a major city which lacked either a Goth club or a club that featured a Goth-Industrial dance night.
The 1990's witnessed three important, if negative, occurrences in the Gothic world. The massive commercial popularity of Nine Inch Nails has not only brought unwanted exposure to the scene, but has also fostered a climate in which such poor mainstream copycat bands such as Stabbing Westward, Type O-Negative, and Marilyn Manson can cash in on the shock value and attract empty-headed teenyboppers (or 'doom cookies,')to our 'rebellious' image. Secondly, mass-media has realized the eroticism and exoticism of vampires and the 'dark and mysterious,' hence The Crow, the runaway popularity of Anne Rice and her Interview With the Vampire series of books, and the Vampire: the Masquerade 'live-action role-playing' games (which some inconsiderate sods try to play in dance clubs.) These too have brought unwanted uneducated 'elements' to the scene whom often appear on daytime talk shows, enforcing the public opinion that Goths are 'freaks of society.' Thirdly, in 1991 the Sisters of Mercy released their collection of early singles Some Girls Wander By Mistake, and Gothic Rock became bogged-down in Sisters clones such as (the admittedly good) Rosetta Stone and The Wake. Along these lines, the record label Cleopatra created a monopoly on the music by signing seemingly every black-clad band on the planet and releasing massive compilations and sickening tribute albums to the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees on an annual basis.
At the same time, Goth seems to be undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. The acceptance of body piercing and fetishwear denote a relaxation of social attitudes towards self-expression. Fashion and cosmetics companies are rediscovering the seductive quality of the mysterious, and are more willing to experiment with black and non-traditional hues. In addition to the dozen-or-so major magazines such as Carpe Noctem and Permission, there are hundreds of independent 'zines on the market. With over 50,000 readers, .alt.gothic is one of the most active sites on Usenet, a sounding board for some of the movers and shakers in the scene around the world, including band members, publicists, club owners, fashion designers, record labels, magazines, artists, writers, and the like. It has been noted that an overwhelming majority of adult Goths are college-educated, often holding jobs in either creative or computer-oriented fields. No longer is there a single global Mecca for the subculture, for national capital status can be claimed by London, Toronto, Perth, New York, and San Francisco (the East and West are radically different.) Musically speaking, in the past few years has greeted a massive diversification of talent, such as the 80's-influenced aggression of Sunshine Blind, the infectious club grind of London After Midnight, the jazzy Deep Eynde, ethnicity-laden Faith and the Muse, This Ascension's soaring guitar and female vocals, and Siddal's faerie daydream.
When it's said that Goths are drawn to the 'dark' side of life, what is meant is that mystery, irony, emotion, and beauty are what captures their attention. The concepts of antiquity, mortality, and religion they find alluring, hence the fixation with cemeteries, crucifixes, and ankhs. Usually intellectuals, they enjoy reading philosophy, various religious texts, and more poetry and prose than you can shake a dead cat at (Shelley, Byron, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and Dylan Thomas are held in high regard.) For a crash course in artistic tastes, read up on the Pre-Raphealites and Expressionists such as Klimt and Scheile. Goth homes are either decorated completely with posters, flyers, and paintings, or with loads of wall hangings, tapestries, candles, and softly lit. Due to equal parts androgyny and maturity, we tend to be more accepting of alternate sexualities than most. Goths frequent coffee shops, dance clubs, and have a strange affection for kitschy things like 80's pop music and anime, however I can't explain that Hello Kitty thing. We're fond of burning incense, but you will never find patchouli. If you're still holding stereotypes, get rid of the garlic - just wear patchouli and we'll stay FAR away.
So there. I know, you're wondering 'well, where's the spiderwebs and witches and spooky stuff?' Well, you see, it's all a big self-deprecating joke that nobody but Goths get, sorta like how Beavis and Butthead are making fun of their audience. In all honesty, a fair number of Goths do practice a harmless Celtic nature religion named Wicca, which is often mistaken for 'dat ol' black magic,' but I assure you that human and animal sacrifice is NOT part of it. In short, don't try to impress us by wearing plastic fangs, 'hey Morticia' is not a pick-up line, we are not all homosexual, and the only funeral we may be heading to is your own if you feel the need to ask.
Have a happy Halloween, and don't forget to hug a Goth today. If you don't want to do that, remember that we prefer Oreos. They're black, you know...