Monday, November 16, 2015

Dissenting Voice: On Modern Babybats, the Internet, and You-Kids-Get-Offa-My-Cemetery

I’ve been reading a lot more Goth blogs of late as I’ve begun diving back into the subculture. One thing that seems to be repeated often by my fellow Elder Goths is how “easy” modern babybats have it. I read how the internet makes them lazy, that the internet propagates only one correct way to be Goth.

I humbly disagree.

First, let’s address the One True Goth Way ™ statement. If this were true, why would we have the likes of this awesome artist with her tongue-in-cheek Goth stereotypes?


How would we have the hundreds of derivations of Goth fashion? They don’t just pop up out of thin air. They are created by Goths, new and old, to create their own personal vision of what Goth is. Look at Dark Mori. Look at Gothic Lolita. These are very, very recent interpretations of Goth, spread in part by the proliferation of manga and anime and graphic novels. Even these art forms expanded and grew to give us some seriously great gothic imagery and seriously creepy horror stories. Look at Cybergoth. Look at Health Goth—None of these existed in the 80s or even the 90s. (Maybe Cybergoth, technically, I suppose.)

Second, let’s talk about the internet. The internet is a strange place. It’s full of trolls, keyboard warriors, anonymous assholes, pictures of cats, pictures of food, awesome DIYers, awesome support networks, and young people trying to find themselves. I discovered Goth was a thing back in junior high when I admired the older black clad “early” Goths and their attire. I began to buy a few pieces in 2000, the year I became a freshman in high school. (I see you doing the math. I’m 29, graduating class of 2004.) Many of these pieces came from Hot Topic. In my small, conservative town, it was the only place to go. Even then, I had to drive to the next town over to get to Hot Topic. I learned how to customize and refine these pieces so I’d be less cookie cutter. Because heaven forbid I walk around in something that clearly came from a store in the mall.

Let’s be honest. A lot of Goth fashion is about standing out, about being different. We’d be lying to ourselves if we said otherwise. My inner Goth hipster always gets a little pissed when I see the mall Goths and Goth fashion on the runways.... after all, I was Goth before it was the latest trend. (Shakes sterling silver walking stick at the young un’s) Why else would we even care if someone was wearing an obviously Tripp skirt? We care because it’s obvious. We care because it’s easy. We care because 25 other people at our school own the same thing. We care because our inner Goth Hipsters hate Hot Topic on a matter of principle (however justified that hatred may in fact be). Really though, we care because it seems like it's just a nod to goth as a fashion statement, not goth as a philosophy.

Yes, Goth is based on more than just fashion. Yes kids tend to ignore/forget/pretend-it-isn't/don't-know-it-is about fashion. Fashion and music tend to go hand in hand, and sometimes people just connect with the fashion rather than the music. I don't put value judgments on that, personal. My first inclination is to consider such people superficial, or poseurs, or whathaveyou, but I like to think there's something in the dark little hearts that appreciates the culture for what it is. 

Without the internet I would have found no one to connect with. I wouldn’t have discovered the amazing worlds of steampunk, of Goth, of mermaiding, of art communities and writing forums. Hell, I wouldn’t have discovered there was a name for my religious beliefs if it weren’t for some old school message boards and websites.

Every single site, book, and blog I read online all shows different styles, different tastes in music, different philosophies, yet so many of them complain about how there’s that One True Way ™ to be Goth floating around. I just simply don’t see it. I accept that this could be because I’ve been out of the subculture for so long and somewhat newish to the world of Goth blogs in general.

Youtube has created venues to share new music and actually get your music heard. The internet has created photo opportunities, art sharing opportunities, forums for debate like blogs like these. I’ve seen more creativity, more flourishing of the Goth culture breaking the stereotypical mold through the internet than I ever saw in the days before it. I admit though, that may in part to the fact I wasn’t around during the early days of Goth in the 80s (I was born in ’86).

I’d go so far as to suggest that kids today have it worse because of the internet.

They have so much exposure to information that they are overexposed; they have so much to process and sift through. They prize far too much social media and how they are perceived. They think they have to be Goth all the time, yes, but that’s been the case since before I had a MySpace. If the Goth kid came to school in blue jeans in 2001 everyone asked him if he were sick. It always happens to Goths. They are overexposed to judgment, anon hate, trolls, and OMG SHES SO SKINNY AND PRETTY AND I LOOK LIKE A POTATO IN VELVET AND LACE.

Image Copyright Goth Mama 2015

Additionally, think about all the articles on the internet about how evil Goths are. OMG THIS GUY IS A GOTH AND HE SHOT A BUNCH OF PEOPLE. Or: THIS GIRL LIKED SLENDERMAN AND TRIED TO KILL HER FRIEND AND HER DAD IS GOTH OMG THAT’S WHY SHE DID IT WE FAILED AS A SOCIETY. SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR GOTHS.  It’s why some of the more extreme ministries can slander, lie, and post God Hates Goths on the internet. How the hell do you think that’s any easier than what we early Goths went through? Parents are repeatedly exposed on parenting advice sites about how they’re failing as a parent because their teen wants to wear black lipstick. (I’m sorry my sweet daughter. Black lipstick is for formal occasions only. We follow rules in this house. Dress up eyes or lips, never both. ;) )

Exaggerating a bit, but I hope you see my point. Back in the day we’d be called a Satanist and people would politely look the other way, or they’d laugh and move on. Nowadays there’s almost anti-Goth proselytizing happening everywhere we look. Granted, you tend to find what you seek. If you only look for negatives, of course you’re going to find them!

Is it easier to buy Goth clothes nowadays? Yes, and I’m thankful for that. Why? Because I can’t effing sew to save my life. I try, I really do. The women in my family are sewers and quilters and I- I am not. I accept that my talents lie in other directions. I am a painter. I am a crafter. I am not a seamstress. I love full bustle skirts and corsets and have no desire to become a corsetiere. The internet allows me to support independent Goth craftsmen and artisans and bigger box stores if I choose (Retroscope, you own my wallet). Give me my Demonias over Docs any day.

You have seen the amount of tutorials for making Goth stuff on the internet! I’ve tried following tutorials for mourning veils, fishnet shirts from tights, fingerless gloves, cat eye makeup, decorating my own parasol, replacing buttons with awesome skull buttons I found on ebay- you name it, there’s a tutorial for it.

Yes we can all diss on the Goth 101 tutorials, but everyone has to start somewhere. And if we start by complaining about babybats today, how many are we going to chase off before they can learn, grow, and become one of us Elder Goths?

Part of the Goth subculture that is so appealing to me is the almost universal way we can laugh at ourselves. In stark contrast to our somber appearance, we approach the world with humor. We see the camp and pomp in our frills and stompy boots. We remember when we used to dye our hair with Kool-Aid (ask me about the time my grandpa dyed 8 year old me’s hair purple with it) as we buy our Manic Panic instead.

Be grateful for what the internet has opened up. Be prepared to fight stigma and stereotype when we see it. I for one am not going to reminisce about the good ol’ days of Goth, back when we lived in caves and slept in coffins and had to walk up hill both ways to go the funeral in the rain.

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