There's no escaping from the media - it's all around us. TV, the newspapers, magazines, the radio, blogs... everyone in the Western world is somehow influenced by what they see, read and hear. So how does the media teach society to perceive Goth?
But what about the rest? To be honest, a lot of mainstream conservative newspapers don't seem to hold Goth in very high regard. At best they seem to view us with a sort of baffled amusement; the 80s fad that refuses to die out (which, OK, is partly true...). The Daily Mail, for example, has described Goth as 'the tribe of choice for those who didn't feel punk was ugly, black or moody enough'.
Occasionally, there is a real sense of snideness - again quoting from the Daily Mail, columnist Richard Littlejohn, referring to an act of discrimination against a young Goth couple which was splashed all over the papers and internet for a while, remarked, 'My Geordie mate, Black Mike, would take one look at her in her absurd "Goth" outfit and remark: "Gi' us a stick and I'll kill it."'
At worst, the papers have a damn good attempt at scaremongering - one moment we're the bizarre but harmless patrons of Whitby Gothic Weekend, the next moment we're Satanists killing young innocents and cannibalising the bodies. Think I'm exaggerating? Well, check out these two articles - both from daily UK broadsheets. Article Number One covers WGW; Article Number Two attempts to connect the disgusting crimes committed by some extraordinarily disturbed individuals with the Goth subculture.
(You probably know, or have met, at least one Goth. If not, let's pick a popular, well-known Goth figure from pop culture: e.g. Abby from NCIS, Lydia from Beetlejuice. Or a random internet-beloved Goth - Adora BatBrat, perhaps, or Jillian Venters? Me, if you're really stuck. Now try and imagine this person actually murdering and eating somebody. No, I can't see it, either...)
After the Columbine shootings, the perpetrators were labelled 'Goth' by the media although they had nothing to do with the scene (a black trenchcoat and a Marilyn Manson CD does not a Goth make...), and Goths have wrongly endured fear and even hate from many members of the mainstream ever since.
Has anyone forgotten That Article by Sarah Sands yet? It's hilarious, yet slightly disturbing that a full-grown woman has done such half-baked research based on her own prejudices, and published it as fact. It makes me somewhat suspicious, also, that she seems to have deliberately misquoted a band name to make it more shocking - after all, Love is Colder Than Death is much less 'scary' than simply 'Colder Then Death'. (Full rant on this topic coming in the non-too-distant future.)
The middle ground? Simply the annoying mis-labelling of My Chemical Romance and Twilight fans as Goths. Hardly slander, but still quite irritating. Even the music magazines who are supposed to know their stuff make mistakes when it comes to our subculture. Upon the release of Marilyn Manson's Eat Me, Drink Me album, Kerrang! ran an article proclaiming him 'the King of Goth'.
However, the majority of articles relating to Goth, at least online, are relating to celebrities (no, not the interesting ones, I mean ones like Miley Cyrus, Taylor Momsen etc.) who have dared to set foot outside their door wearing clothing in various shades of black. (If I had a penny for every article I'd seen entitled, 'XXX goes Goth for premiere!', I'd be rolling in it.)
But there are one or two good articles popping up now and again - ones that don't try to downplay the positive aspects of Goth culture, or cultivate fear and parental worry. For example, this one, this one, this one and this one. (Enough reading material for you?) And in February 2009 the BBC ran a great radio documentary on Radio 2 called The G-Word, which played 'real' Goth music, discussed various styles of Goth and the history of the subculture, and even attempted to dispel some of the myths surrounding the scene.
On the whole, the media is neither our friend nor our enemy - it's a money-spinning machine that will cast us in whatever light it thinks will sell the most copies. So no surprise there. But more worrying is how society perceives us based upon whatever articles have made the headlines this week.
Obviously we have no way of controlling which articles people choose to believe - all we can do is attempt to subvert negative opinions by negating the stereotypes: "No, I'm not miserable, rude, angry or defiant - in fact, I'm gonna go help this little old lady across the street."
Listening to: She's In Parties - Bauhaus