Saturday, 19 March 2011

Goth cliches (and why they aren't *always* a bad thing...)

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.

Source: Photobucket
So liking something that's cliche or having an aspect of your attire, interests or behaviour represent a spooky cliche isn't necessarily a bad thing. But obviously there are negative cliches hovering about the Goth scene, like bad whiteface, Crow make-up and teenage angst (which reminds me, I saw my first actual mallgoth today - awful make-up, red and black hair, baggy T-shirt, baggy jeans with a gazillion pockets! It was some how "awww" and "God help us" at the same time...) .

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
Just to round off the cliche parade nicely, this is what I wore for my study date on Thursday:

Yes, teary-eyed make-up and 'stitches' in my eyebrows... but I loved it. ;-)

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.


MissVermilion said...

In all kind of fashions some cliches are necessary,but every single person needs to find his/her own style inside all of them.

I love your articles,keep doing the good work!

(Oh,and your outfit is sooo pretty! <3)

Emily Lynn G. said...

I am guilty to all of those cliches and proud. I get so sick of other people I know in subculture who are all "oh, no, I'm a REAL ____. ____,______ and ____ is SO beneath me and for p0serz!" In the end, I do what I want. And sometimes that includes eating Count Chocula (yes, you do know us American snarklings well),reading and reciting parts of my Poe collection,listening to my new industrial collaboration CD while shining my black boots. And sometimes I listen to Simon and Garfunkel, read C.S.Lewis and eat Italian Food.
Its a cliche to worry about the cliches. I agree; its fun to laugh at them sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Uh-oh. I must not be doing it for the right reasons--I can't recite large chunks of the Raven. Smile. I think I will go find the Librivox recording and sit and listen to it over and over and over again. Bycandlelight, and sipping soda from my horribly cheesy skull goblet, of course! I really need to move somewhere where I can actually get out and do things. Well, in the meantime, maybe P and I will take a day next week to have asmall cemetery picnic. Yikes, this totally doesn't relate to the post! Cliches are tricky--because they are so fun, but people who don't have a clue automatically assume each goth is into all of them. But that shouldn't stop anyone from being themselves--it just really makes me want to roll my eyes when someone says "But you're goth, and goths are into that, right?" Maybe, maybe not. Each of us is our own person, and we decide which cliches suit each of us and which do not. And when they do, I agree--taking it from three to thirteen is just too much fun!

Rora Monroe said...

This put a smile on my face, I am guilty of a large chunk of thouse cliches. I mean come on who wouldnt love to read a vampire novel by candlelite XD
By the way adore that outfit the skirt is killer! Keep up the amazing job.

Isis_Hathor said...

Добавляйтесь!Добавлюсь взаимно!

Follow my blog! And I will follow yours!

KatSlaughter said...

Highly entertaining post.. It's stuff like this that makes me stalk your blog -- even when it was still in its Piczo incarnation.

Cliche's are fun and incredibly amusing to pass the time with. A friend and I are planning a lovely OTT date in which we shall go corset-shopping and then visit the newly-opened Goth club. We intend to do highly improbable makeup effects and dance very oddly.

[you don't find Goth clubs in South Africa. Or corset shops, for that matter. Hence the excitement]

It's great because my friend isn't even a goth. I knew that; but was surprised anew when I suggested we listen to Goth music in the car on the way over and she said "You get Goth music??"

Yeah you know.. Like The Cure.

"But .. they're so happy."

Well, we could always listen to Marilyn Manson.


. . . I actually like Manson, so I don't mind ^^

Anonymous said...

I recently discovered your blog, and I have to let you know I am really enjoying it. I admire your dedication to posting daily, and find your posts to be well writen insightful and thought provoking.
I also am guilty of so many cliches. :) drinking absinthe, enjoying Tim Burton movies, dressing in all black, enjoying an over the top swoon Etc. But it's hilariously fun!
Keep up the awesome work!

P.s. Wicked outfit!

Ashlee said...

I loved this post. Cliches are fun! I'm actually wearing spider earrings from Halloween. And we're having pictures taken with the extended family later.

I can't quote The Raven though. Probably because I've only read it once... it's so looooong.

daisy.fiend said...

Haha, I loved this post.
But could you please E-mail me and tell me were you got you're shirt?
I saw a shirt like that on this girl in Wisconsin once but I din't have the chance to ask her we're she got it.

- Loves and Coco Bats ;)

Angel of Darkness said...

Guilty as charged for a large porsion of those cliches, but they make me happy! :) Especially reading Edgar Allan Poe by candle light!

P.S. Love your outfit! I saw a shirt similar to yours, except if was a deep blue and have tree branches.

ultimategothguide said...

@ Angel of Darkness - thank you ^^

@ Daisy.Fiend - couldn't find your e-mail so I hope this will do! I found my shirt in a charity shop, but it was originally from New Look:

@ Ashlee - you're not the only one wearing Halloween spider earrings right now... eheheh...

@ Miss Lou - oh, hello! I just left a comment on your page ^^ Thank you very much!

@ KatSlaughter - Thank you ^^ I hope you have an awesome time! Today I'm going for a picnic and am planning to wear the Alice In Wonderland-inspired outfit I recently put together, so I get the whole 'OTT' thing... XP

@ Rora Monroe - thanks! The skirt is from

@ Laurel - I have a horribly cheesy spider goblet! I tend to drink cranberry or red grape juice out of it, too *rolls eyes*

@ Emily Lynn - Simon and Garfunkel?! *swoons in horror* Well, my guily pleasures include Ashlee Simpson, so I guess I shan't judge!

@ MisVermillion - thanks very much =D

Morty Porcelaine said...

Your blog makes my work day better than it should.. and this morning I smiled like a fool in front of the computer regarding all teh cliche you exposed. Loving Halloween more than Christmas? Of course. Picnicking in a cemetary, kind of eating my lunch outside during summer does count. reading Edgar Allan Poe by candlelight? Yup,yup. Swooning, yup, yup. Vampire novels? Not so much anymore, I got into the realistic stuff (serial killers psychology = interesting!).

I might not be technically into the goth subculture since my love for the -billy is too wide but still I'm alost the complete stereotype of th gothabilly chick...DMAN who followed me?!

Misty said...

Oh you're right! I love Count Chocula!

VictorianKitty said...

Excellent article. I couldn't agree more. Some cliches are fine if you are using moderation, exercising good taste and balancing them with your own unique spin on the style.

Just following some "how to be Goth" checklist takes so much of the creativity out of it that it hardly seems worth the effort.

Sophistique Noir

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