Sunday, 19 December 2010

Goths don't bite! - Vampyres and the Goth scene...

One of the most commonly held misconceptions about Goths is that we all believe that we are vampires. This is patently not true. Hell, not only do we not think we're vampires, but some of us aren't interested in vampires whatsoever. OK, so that's probably a minority, but the fact remains that Goth culture revolves around music, fashion, literature, art and dark beauty - and not bloodsucking demons of the nocturnal variety.

However, many Goths do enjoy vampire movies and novels - in some cases, the cheesier the better - especially from authors such as Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite. Popular vamp films include Nosferatu, Vampyr, Interview with the Vampire, The Hunger (mostly due to its Bauhaus cameo), Underworld, various versions of Dracula, and 30 Days of Night. Please note - these vampires do not sparkle. This is not to say that some Goths have not read and even enjoyed the twinkly cheesiness of the Twilight books (myself included) but not only are those Goths in a minority but I'm sure that they have not been caught up in Twilightmania and probably don't have Robert Pattinson posters brooding down from their bedroom walls.

What is the appeal of vampires to Goths? What, you can't see how a subculture of people in love with dark romance, sumptuous velvet, candlelit castles and cemeteries by moonlight would not enjoy vampire fiction? The aesthetics associated with vampires tend to be dark, decadent, elegant and gloomy. In fact, Goths have been known to dress up in vampire costume for Halloween or other events. Some may occasionally sport fangs or red contact lenses, or read 'vampyre lifestyle' magazines such as Bite Me and Chronicles (the magazine written and published by the London Vampire Group) for entertainment. These is even a subgenre of Goth fashion known as vampire Goth. But Goths do not believe they are vampires, and most are not affiliated with the vampyre lifestyle/subculture, although there is some crossover.

Which brings me to my next subject - the vampyre lifestylers. The vampyre lifestyle is followed by a subculture of people who are fascinated by vampire lore and wish to imitate it. Vampirists commonly use the term 'vampyres' to refer to themselves, and the term 'vampires' when speaking of Dracula, Count Orlok, Lestat, et al - aka, the real deal. However this distinction may not be made by all in the vampyre community and in some cases may be reversed.

The vampyre subculture exists mainly within the Western world, and is derived from a combination of myth and folklore, popular culture e.g. Anne Rice, horror films and even role-playing games such as Vampire: The Masquerade (which, in its day, was also notably popular amongst Goths). Vampyre dress may consist of Goth, Victorian and/or fetish fashion, which is probably how the vampyre and Goth subcultures came to be associated with each other. Other visual aspects that the two scenes may have in common are the wearing of fangs or coloured contacts, sporting long or pointed fingernails, and heavy dark make-up.

Vampyre culture may also borrow from Goth music, with bands such as The Beautiful Deadly Children, Bauhaus, and those with vampire-related names such as 34 Vampires, Astrovamps, Dracul, and Vampire Beach Babes all having great crossover appeal. There are also some rock and metal bands which are popular within both subcultures such as The 69 Eyes, Type O Negative and Theatres Des Vampires.

Within the vampyre subculture there are two main kinds of vampyre - 'psychic', 'psionic' or 'energy' vampyres, and 'sanguine' vampyres. Psionic vampyres claim to feed on life force or energy rather than actual blood, whereas sanguine vampyres (who are possibly the minority) claim to physically feed on the blood of others. On the whole this tends to be role-play, although consensual blood drinking is not unknown. As vampyres obviously do not have fangs (although both vampyres and Goths have been known to have permanent or semi-permanent dental alterations made to give the appearance of fangs), they carefully draw blood with a sharp blade or needle. Safe bloodletting practices are encouraged within the community  - this includes prerequisite blood tests to ensure the health and safety of both the 'donor' and the vampyre.

So what goes on at a vampyre club? Well, I hate to ruin the mystery, but all that goes on in a vampyre club is pretty much the same as what goes on in a Goth club – lots of dancing, socialising, chatting, making out, drinking and general fun. The basic difference, in case you hadn’t already gathered, is that all the patrons are dressed as vampires, and emulating the manners and social behaviour of these immortal creatures. (Worry not - blood drinking is generally not encouraged in public.)

There are even vampyre Houses – which work like courts. Each has their own hierarchy and rules. Becoming a member is usually as simple as following the rules, or at least saying that you will. Members have titles and duties such as taking minutes at meetings or acting as ambassador to another House. A few of the most well-known Houses are as follows: The Society Nocturnus of Gotham (no Batman jokes please), the Court of Lazarus, Harlem’s Hidden Shadows, and New Jersey’s Court of the Iron Garden. In the UK we have the London Vampire Group, which organises events and publishes a magazine for its enthusiasts. Not all vampyres are affiliated with a group or House.
Source: Tumblr
So where do Goths fit in? Goths, whether or not they have any kind of interest in vampires, on the whole do not enjoy the association with the vampyre subculture and often feel that such an association reflects badly upon Goth as a subculture - contributing to mainstream misconceptions and media rumours. Whilst there is some amount of crossover relating to literature, fashion and music, there are only a very few Goths who role-play as vampires or take part in the vampyre lifestyle, although some may occasionally attend vampyre clubs or events.

For Goths, vampires provide entertainment. For vampyres, vampirism is literally a lifestyle. Goth fashion and aesthetics may have common ground with vampyre culture (as shown in the pictures in this post, for example) and it certainly isn't unheard of to find a Goth curled up on the sofa watching True Blood, or dressing up as Blade for Halloween. But Goths for the most part do not consider themselves part of the vampyre subculture (although, as I have said, there are a very few people who are part of both scenes), have no interest in blood drinking (or feeding from psychic energy) and, while they may have an interest in vampires, are largely not interested enough to want to - or try to - be one.


Thorn said...


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