Thursday, 22 September 2011

The downsides of Goth #1 - Elitism

Never let it be said that I don't give all the facts - or opinions, be they mine or other people's - at my disposal. I have always erred on the side of caution when talking about Goth subculture (which, as you may have noticed, is a subject that comes up quite a lot...) to avoid offending anyone, or frightening babybats and the parents of babybats. But, as many commentors have pointed out, this counterculture is not one hundred per cent sweetness and light - there are bad apples in EVERY social group or community, and Goth culture has its flaws and downsides just like any other. I thought I'd bite the bullet and try and highlight some of these, whilst providing my own, hopefully-not-too-inaccurate opinions on why I think these behaviours might occur (and of course, comments are open for you to add your own two cents).

A few of Goth's flaws are obvious - how often do you hear an upset Goth newbie or an exasperated, more established Goth complaining about the elitism of others in the subculture? From personal experience thus far, these debates are more likely to take place online, probably because it is more difficult to tell a fellow black-clad type to their face, surrounded by their friends, exactly how and why you think they are not a Real Goth. But it happens, both on and offline - not all Goths, sadly, are polite and friendly to others in the subculture, and some like to prove how hardcore and superior they think they are by casting aspersions on the 'Gothness' of others.

Maybe the person, band or behaviour they are referring to is NOT Really Goth, in which case other Goths are likely to agree (for example, most Goths will agree that the band Slipknot - whether or not any given Goth LIKES their music, I happen to - are not Goth) and they will not be thought of as being elitist for making such a statement. But if they are calling someone or something who is generally accepted as Goth, not a real Goth (are you with me?) they will be referred to as 'Gother than thou' or 'elitist'.

And whilst most of us tend to complain about this behaviour and attempt to invalidate it, as I am doing now, in many ways the majority of us are guilty of elitism in some small way. If you've ever rolled your eyes at someone in a Marilyn Manson T-shirt, muttered about the person wearing blue jeans at the spooky club, or looked at someone's preferred list of bands online and decided they're not a 'real Goth', you've done it too.

I personally like to think that this admittedly silly behaviour stems from wanting to defend the subculture that most of us feel very strongly about. If, for example, you see the bully from high school clad in black and sporting a pentacle necklace, your likely first reaction may be to assert that they are 'probably not a REAL Goth, anyway', because you don't want this person associated with the culture that you so love.

I suspect that many of us hold strong ideals about the subculture, and we tend to start rolling our eyes and mumbling 'not really Goth' when we are confronted with something or someone that doesn't fit well with our own idea of 'how Goth should be'. To use another example, many of us are nervous about hipster Goth, because we are worried that some who are interested in this style are exploiting our dear subculture as just another trend. So a lot of people slam all hipster Goths and the entire associated fashion as 'not REAL Goth', which isn't really fair on hipster Goths who genuinely love the subculture, the music and the aesthetic and are simply celebrating it in a manner that THEY prefer.

Or, when confronted with a mallgoth type in badly-applied make-up and baggy clothes, we are uncomfortably reminded of our own early years, and try to prove to ourselves that we've moved beyond such by deriding (usually mentally, thankfully, since most Goths are not actually bad sorts!) the poor misguided creature as 'not a real Goth'.

What I'm trying to say is that this tendency towards elitism does not actually always mean that a Goth, whether they have made a single comment or are well-known for having a 'Considerably more Goth than thou' reputation, is unkind or unfriendly. They may simply be feeling defensive or threatened about the subculture and/or their place in it, and their defensive behaviour and comments translate as elitism to the bemused witnesses and irritated innocent on the receiving end. So if you are ever 'treated' to this behaviour, just ignore it, because it probably means that in some way or another the person is intimidated by you.


Toxic Tears said...

" 'not REAL Goth', which isn't really fair on hipster Goths who genuinely love the subculture, the music and the aesthetic and are simply celebrating it in a manner that THEY prefer. "

See the problem I have is, most don't like any of the music or the lifestyle, nor do they know anything about the roots of the subculture. An awful lot just throw on some black lipstick, post "artsy" black and white pictures of cigarettes and coffee on their tumblr and label themselves goth.:|

That seems to be the problem most people I've come across have with them too.

ultimategothguide said...

Toxic Tears - I understand what you mean, but the point I'm trying to make is that it's not fair to assume that ALL hipster goths are the same. I have several hipster Goth readers who honestly, genuinely love all aspects of the subculture and simply prefer the hipster Goth aesthetic. Not all hipster Goths are 'fake' or 'trendy', I don't think we should necessarily judge them by the majority or isn't that just as bad as people assuming that ALL Goths are moody and miserable.

I'm not talking about the hipster Goths who ARE as you have described them; but the ones who AREN'T and get treated just the same by Gothy elitists who think they must be poseurs because they dress the same way.

I THINK that made sense...

LadyFlaneur said...

I happen to like the sleek styling's of the "hipster goth".

I also tend to be a bit open minded to newbies on the Gothic scene -be it their stay only for a short season OR for a lifetime.

It's our job as elder bats (i think) to welcome, lead the way, show grace, Manners & compassion. Because maybe those before us didn't show as much respect.

It's better to be on the side of humbleness; So that when outsiders look in on us as a whole, they see much to their bewildering selves that we Goths show a great deal of respect & discipline within the scene.

Russell said...

Amy, If you've ever read Jillian Vinters book "Gothic Charm School" she has a chapter in it devoted entirely to elitism, in it she describes in true Freudian fashion that most of the "uber Goth elitists" that like to put others down are really hideously insecure about their own gothiness and are afraid of being exposed for being poseurs and or wanna-bees themselves.

Russell said...

Oh and on a side note about the hipster Goths, the ones I've had the dis-pleasure of encountering are some of the WORST snotty and elitist bunch of wank rags I've ever met.

Toxic Tears said...

Ah see, I only refer to the ones I described as hipster goths.>O<

Anonymous said...

While we can all agree the Nu-goths who don't care about anything but the fashion are annoying, far more annoying are the people who assume that that's all there is to the Nu-goth scene and write it off completely without bothering to learn about Witch House, Zola Jesus, O Children, and so on. Part of what I love about this blog is that it's author takes the time to actually learn about the nu-goth scene instead of just assuming its all posers and fashion.

Ashlee said...

HipsterGoths/nu-Goths are like MallGoths. They're called Goth, they kinda maybe look Goth, but most of them aren't. And that's annoying.

That's my stance, anyways.

My biggest issue with them is that they tend to look like they attempted to dress Goth, but failed horribly. Black lipstick, fishnets, all black clothing, and crosses/inverted crosses DO NOT MAKE YOU LOOK GOTH. They just fail.

I hold my belief that people who aren't Goth can't dress it. They just can't.

And that was rather off topic.

Anonymous said...

Again, don't judge the whole nugoth scene just by the people who jumped on the bandwagon because of the fashion. Spend some time talking to the actual fans of the music before you write off the whole sub-culture. Trust me, the people who actually care about the music of the nugoth scene are just as annoyed by the fashion-posers as you. The nugoth scene was AMAZING back in 2009 when it was first getting started, and all these people jumping on the bandwagon have given us a bad name.

Ashlee said...

Please tell me how real nu-Goths don't fit into my "nu-Goths ~ MallGoth" theory.

Kitty Lovett; The Unadulterated Cat said...

I don't think I've ever met an elitist goth who wasn't a German Industrial style goth.

We've all heard about my alphagoth ex who was SO GOTH he had a marylin manson tattoo. :P I'm not kidding, either, he really did.

Besides, Ayms, you know me. I'm not into goth music so much. I am into being a cat, though, and having a tail and whiskers to boot. My understanding of social structures is muddled enough, so my opinions on what makes a Twoo Goff are more or less void. I just have one rule that applies to everyone - Thou Shalt Not Be A Cuntbag. Don't care who you are or what you look like or how you dress, but if you break that rule, and Be A Cuntbag, then you're dead to me. :|

Anonymous said...

@ Ashlee: The nu-goth scene is still producing a lot of goth and goth influenced music, whereas the mallgoth scene produced nothing but shitty hard rock and metal. Again, this doesn't excuse the people who associate themselves with nu goth who don't listen to any of that music, but until the scene stops producing great goth bands I'm not going to give it up completely, no matter how many trendy, vapid fashionistas rip off the style.

Toxic Tears said...

In that case I'd put it this way:

Nu goths are the one who like the music (Have to say I've never heard of it) and have some respect for the culture, Hipster goths are the annoying little bastards who just try to dress up and be goff because they're soooo non-conformist blah blah blah, without liking ANYTHING else about the goth scene.

Therefore, I do not like hipster goths. Whether or not "Nu-goths" could actually be called goth is a different matter, I've given up on trying to keep up with all of these labels.>__>

Anonymous said...

That's fair-I don't really like the term "Hipster goth" anyways, and I certainly don't like being confused with idiot bandwagon-jumpers like Felice Fawn, or worse, Taylor Momsen (ugh).

Anyone interested in finding out some of the bands associated with the nu-goth scene should check out the following links:

Even if these bands aren't to your taste, I hope I've show that there's more to the nu-goth scene than just clothes. Honestly I think it's really sad that the fashion got more popular than the clothes-the fashions alright, but music will always be more important.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's really sad that the fashion got more popular than the MUSIC"

Toxic Tears said...

Yeahh. One reason I refuse to label myself as goth or cyber or any other thing is partially because how I dress involves different styles, and partially because although I don't mind goth music, and do like some, its not really something I listen to on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

@Toxic Tears:

"See the problem I have is, most don't like any of the music or the lifestyle, nor do they know anything about the roots of the subculture."

You're entirely missing the point of this whole entry. Since we (and most likely you included) do not know "most" or "all" hipster goths (which simply boils down to a style of dress) we therefore cannot put each and every person who may appear "hipster goth" in the category of "poseur".

Secondly, you complain about them not liking them music when you have admitted to not liking a portion of it yourself. Yet, you feel justified in making sweeping generalizations about a whole group of people who aren't much different than yourself.

It's funny how talking about elitism always brings out the elitists.

InfiltratorN7 said...

I was introduced to the witch house genre not so long back by someone non-goth as far as I know) and I liked what I heard and was interested in exploring more. This was before I'd heard of all this hipster goth/nu goth stuff which I first came across via this blog. I'm glad I did hear it beforehand so I could hear it without any preconceptions about what it was I was being shown.

Thank you for posting all those links Anonymous. I'm going to check those out and give bands like Zola Jesus a listen.

The HouseCat said...

I like some of the "hipster-goth" music - Zola Jesus, for example, is somewhere between Siouxsie and the Cocteau Twins. Fits right in with the Goth stuff from the '80s that I enjoy.

I don't get this elitism, especially when people go and say "romantic goth isn't proper goth" or "cyber goth isn't proper goth" just because it's not the way the majority of Goths did things in the '80s. It's one thing to point out things that legitimately "not goth" - like Juggalos or Lolitas being a different subculture (well, at least Lolita has some connection to Goth) - or when babybats haven't got the hang of Goth yet. I think some of this is an unwillingness to let change happen. People get stuck in this belief that the stuff they did when they were 15-25 was the best, and nothing after it is "authentic" or "proper", and any evolution in the scene is bad and "Not Goth".

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