A lot of you have been worried that I am changing the name of the site because I feel under pressure to not call myself a Goth. Well, I can promise that that is not at all the reason for the change. Yes, a name like the Ultimate Goth Guide received its fair share of outrage, not surprisingly, but I'm not assuming that changing the name of the site will change people's opinions on what I have to say!
As I stated in my previous post, On Self-Identifying As A Goth, there have always been and always will be debates ranging from the intriguing to the increasingly petty on what, precisely, can be considered 'Goth'. In my younger years, around the age of sixteen or so, I spent a lot of time trying to make myself into the 'perfect Goth', and it's only over the last couple of years or so that I decided that I was going to experiment more and stop sticking so closely to 'the rules' regarding music and fashion. This led to the discovery of a whole range of 'dark alternative' fashion styles and music genres that I was interested in and felt inspired by; such a mix of influences can be accepted and appreciated by some who consider themselves Goths (i.e. you guys, most of whom I have noticed from reading your blogs and bios have an equally versatile, mix-and-match approach to music and personal aesthetic), but not all.
Which is fair enough, because when one is devoted to such a melting pot of inspirations and influences, it does push the boundaries of 'Goth culture' if you consider the original, literal, and admittedly quite narrow, definition of 'Goth' itself.
But what options does this leave someone who feels a strong appreciation for Goth music, its related culture and aesthetic? Stop experimenting and delighting in other areas of dark and alternative culture in order to better fit an adopted label? Continue exactly as you are and take flak from elitists on all sides? The second option sounds preferable to me as I am not in favour of adapting your personality to fit a social label, but in the end I find it leads to disillusionment with Goth culture and the community therein. You start to wonder what is the point of belonging to a supposedly non-conformist, alternative subculture when you feel attacked for having your own tastes and ideas.
In the end, thanks once again to Darling Violetta, I believe I have found a suitable direction, both for myself and for this blog. It's called the Schwarze Szene.
Dominion Magazine, who describe themselves as a Schwarze Szene publication, have the following to say about the movement, "There are a number of other excellent reasons to look outside this narrow definition [Goth]. Many of the bands most people would associate with goth have never identified as such, most of those 'seminal goth acts' predate the existence of the term (the etymology of which is itself disputed) and some artists, for example The Sisters of Mercy, go to lengths to distance themselves from being included under the goth umbrella.
"Goth doesn't adequately describe the music that people within the UK's Schwarze Szene are listening to, or the shows they are attending, or the music that is being played in the clubs and festivals. With Deviant UK, Devilish Presley, Faderhead, Gene Loves Jezebel, Luxury Stranger, Zombina & the Skeletones, Pro-Jekt and Zeitgeist Zero, the line-up of York's DV8 festival in 2010 contained some goth artists, yet the mixture of acts was decidedly in keeping with Schwarze Szene. The central message behind Dominion's identity as a Schwarze Szene publication is a positive message of unity."
I cannot explain how excited and delighted I was when I read Violetta's post (I highly recommend you read it too!). The Schwarze Szene sounds like exactly what I have been looking for since I realised that my love for the dark, Gothic aesthetic and culture extends beyond the actual definition of Goth. I am thrilled that there is a dark alternative movement that, in theory, should be able to transcend elitism and genre boundaries; allowing people into any and all of these subgenres and sub-sub-genres to explore and enjoy whatever they so choose without, as Violetta puts it succinctly, "the pains and internal struggle of the "not-a-Goth" syndrome."
I reiterate that I still feel comfortable to self-identify as a Goth, for ease of explaining my tastes and preferences to those not entirely clued-up on the ins, outs and social politics of alternative subcultures and because of my undying fondness for the label and all it covers. But I am utterly enamoured of the wider-reaching, boundary-free Schwarze Szene and look forward to exploring it further. I am glad that there are others out there who feel that their interests should take priority over the label they fall under and that the creativity and passion so many of us feel in relation to dark culture has led to the development of such a movement.
It's a fine line between being serious about your dark aesthetic and lifestyle and taking it too seriously. A movement like the Schwarze Szene provides those of us who don't want to argue about what is and isn't 'Goth enough' room for freedom of expression without having to compromise on our 'Gothiness', give up, and become 'normal'. Sounds pretty much perfect to me - I hope this will strike a chord with some of you as it did with me.