Goths, on the whole, dislike being referred to or having their outfits, hobbies or behaviour referenced as 'cliched'. But we've already touched on plenty of celebrated Gothy cliches in previous posts, such as absinthe, snakebite and black, vampires, red wine, smoke machines, poetry, classic literature and of course black clothing and heavy boots - not to mention things with bats, skulls or spiders on them. And frankly, I suspect that most Goths looking at the above list will find at least one thing that they enjoy or have an interest in.
What's the difference between a good cliche and a bad one? As far as I can tell (and please throw your own theories into the mix) it comes down to two things - style and attitude.
Style - OK, so dyeing your hair black and wearing a skull T-shirt and a pair of bondage pants could be considered cliche. But do you look good? Do your make-up and accessories compliment the look - and are they unusual (balancing out the more stereotypical items in an ensemble with unusual and avant-garde pieces can often rescue you from a trite Goth-in-a-box look)? Have you put some thought into your overall appearance? In short, do you look like a Mansonite, or do you look great?
If you look downright awesome or are having a good time - who cares if it's cliched or not?
Attitude - are you drinking that absinthe to impress your equally scary friends with your uber-Gothness, or are you enjoying a tasty drink whilst giggling to yourself about the spooky cliched-ness of it?
A lot of the greatest aspects of Goth culture could be considered extremely cliched, such as (again) the black clothes, gloomy night clubs filled with fog, and pointy shoes. Recognising the cliche and seeing the humour in it draws the line between fun and hackneyed, and explains why a lot of Goth culture is deliberately tongue-in-cheek (says I, whilst wearing sparkly pink fuzzy bat hairclips... ;-) ). A lot of Goth comics and subcultural in-jokes (for example, the lyrics of some Voltaire songs) revolve around poking affectionate fun at such cliches whilst knowing that 95% of the darkly-clad audience (and the originator of the joke, probably) greatly enjoys indulging in them.
In fact, the Lady of the Manners of Gothic Charm School explains that when she finds herself doing something cliched (e.g. collecting a vast amount of vampire novels) it amuses her to refine her behaviour into an even more perfect example of that cliche (reading said vampire novels by candlelight whilst sipping red wine).
In short - if you're enjoying it, why the hell not? If you're trying to convince your parents or peers that you're a totally scary, freaky Goff person, you're doing it wrong.
Cliches are also a useful way for newbies to feel their way into the Goth scene - using basic archetypes of Goth culture as a starting point when developing one's style can be a great help (e.g. Siouxsie Sioux make-up. Robert Smith hair. Wednesday Addams outfit. Ta-da - one Goth).
The great and the good (Goth cliches we all love to love):
- Ridiculously tall platform shoes
- Picnics in the cemetary
- Reading Edgar Allan Poe by candlelight
- Spending our teen years (and beyond) writing howlingly awful gloomy poetry
- Hair so big it needs its own postcode
- Sunglasses at the merest hint of sunshine
- Stumbling home from the library with armfuls of vampire fiction
- Loving Halloween more than Christmas
- Spending an evening with a bottle of red wine and a stack of black and white Hammer Horror movies
- Signing e-mails to other spooky types with a phrase such as 'eternally yours in darkness', and (in my case, ahem) 'darkest wishes'
- Spending hours online or at the club debating whether this or that band is a 'real' Goth band
- Swooning - if you haven't put the back of your hand to your forehead in a sarcastically overdramatic swooning fashion at least once in your life, I am shocked and stunned
- Eating Count Chocula (come on American Goths, I know you do...) or drinking TruBlood
- Hands up ANY Gothling reading this who can't recite at least a large chunk of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven
Goth gossip: Whitby Gothic Weekend is getting political… after the cancellation of this year's live music at the Pavilion, Sam Hoyle of organisers Dark Daisy Promotions blames festival founder Jo Hampshire's decision to host different WGW events on different dates, saying, "We feel Ms. Hampshire's decision to split events has had a negative impact upon the scene." Ms. Hampshire recently released a statement saying that the split dates fiasco will not happen again.