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Blogathon for Tricia, Hour Ten: GOTH

January 9th, 2010 (01:27 pm)

For hour ten, docmanhattan has asked me to write about GOTH.

I meant to do research on this, Doc, honestly I did. Research seemed the thing to do, since what I know of goth culture is, like, "they like black and death and stuff?"

Research did not happen, so I thought for a minute maybe I'd run with the allcaps and see if I couldn't find out if GOTH was an acronym for something. And lo and behold, Google did in fact provide me with two answers!


GOTH -- Guardians of the Heavens (gaming clan)
GOTH -- Gathering Off the Hill (Volkswagen car club; UK)


I don't... quite... know what a "clan" is in the context of gaming. I could venture a guess, but forty-seven billion people on my friends list would leap in to correct me with particulars, so I think I should stay out of that. As for the second thing... there are Volkswagen car clubs? Really? I think maybe I should leave that one alone on general principles.

Thus: goth culture.

Now that I think about it, the way I look at goth culture/trappings/etc. is actually kind of funny. I have a few things going on:

1. I am really strongly averse to our culture's fetishization/sexualizing of death and violence. I know goth culture isn't explicitly about sexuality, but it certainly does fetishize death and gore and all things generally yucky.
2. I have read a disquisition or two on how #1 isn't actually what goth culture is about at all -- how it's about the circle of life and death and drawing meaning from the knowledge of our finite existence on this plane and, I don't know, various other spiritual thingees. The problem is that if this is actually what goth is supposed to be about, no one I have ever met who is actually into goth seems to know about it.
3. I am wicked icked out by blood and skulls and so on.
4. And yet, I don't actually have a problem with goth stuff.

I make a lot of sense, don't I?

My thing about it goes something like this. When I talk about fetishizing/sexualizing death and violence and so on, I'm thinking of big cultural forces like Halloween (which I hate) and media representations of sex-conflated-with-violence (which I also hate, with bonus points for how I get to hate that year-round). I feel like we get enmeshed in that shit in American culture, and it drives me crazy. But -- and maybe I'm being completely bogus here, but I'll continue on anyway -- I don't see goth that way. I see it as a subculture, and not a particularly privileged one, which appeals to the subset of the population that it does for a reason.

You see it most in teens and young adults, obviously, and I think there's psychological grounding for that -- I think that's about the age when humans really begin to process the concept of mortality, by and large, and I see goth fascination as one way of working through it. (I've read some psych theory on that -- actually it was talking more about teens' fascination with violent video games. The argument makes sense to me, and frankly, I far prefer emo poetry to unironic enjoyment of shit like Grand Theft Auto. By the way, I do in fact know that I'm making enemies in pretty much every post I've made in the last few hours.)

I guess what it boils down to in my mind is that although it's certainly a trend, it seems to be one that often emerges from internal impulse rather than external conditioning. I recognize that in saying this, I am pretty much shooting off at the mouth with no substantial backing for my theories whatsoever. But, hell, I was invited to do that. Thus I have.

So. Rock on with your badass emo-goth selves, teenagers! Just try to outgrow it by the time you're forty or so.

This is the hour ten post of my blogathon for my aunt Tricia, who is dying of end-stage ovarian cancer and whose family is being hit with a whole lot of bills that they can't afford alone as a result. Donations can be made at the link given above. A number of topics are still unclaimed and can be bought for $5 or more.


Posted by: Doc Manhattan (docmanhattan)
Posted at: January 9th, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
smoke monster

I think you've got a good take on it. The music and culture that early goth stuff came out of genuinely had a lot of the unhealthy fixations that don't sit right with you, but soon after someone realized that the marketable part of it was the symbolic ethos for young people. And of course, the hardcore "original" goths said "You can't do that!" and every other music-based cultural movement in history said "O RLY?"

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