Welcome To The Mainstream: Goths In The Media
By: Joan Rachel Dennis
This year, Goths have been a popular subject for irresponsible members of the media. Thanks to daytime talk shows and Marilyn Manson, the average "Goth" has been misrepresented and twisted into some devil worshipping, blood drinking, parent killing moron. I know people who have tried to explain the truth to the media, but to no avail. Let's face it: a story about kids that happen to like music that parents would describe as "they sound constipated" but really don't do anything outrageous will not sell as well as one about "the cult of Goth!"
And the people who believe this? They think their teenagers in black are sharpening the knives and hailing Satan as I type this. Media hype has a power like no other. After all, the shows where they make over the teens into "happy, well adjusted kids" show parents what they need to do so their kids will become happy kids. Ever see the tortured, pained looks on those kids faces? Don't the parents even care about what their offspring feel?? Or did they have kids so they could have showpieces at family gatherings? They would have been better off purchasing an expensive painting.
I understand that it much be hard for a parent to understand the "uniform" that comes along with any youth subculture. It's just unfortunate that Goths somehow managed to take over the worst of all labels: DEVIL WORSHIPPERS. Ooh.. that's scary. It's one of the worst things you can imagine for your kid. Of course, Goth music and style dress have NOTHING to do with devil worshipping, but don't try to tell that to the people who write and read the articles. These people can't even tell the difference between a Pentagram and a Star Of David, much less a Pentagram and a Pentacle. And I'm not even going to get into trying to explain real Satanism and movie theatre Satanism...let's just say they are not even remotely alike.
Unfortunately, a large amount of power is in the hands of journalists that are irresponsible at best. A vast majority of reporters don't check their facts as well as they could, and they report what sounds right to them at the moment. MTV started a lot of this when Marilyn Manson was put into heavy rotation. Rather than saying he is a shock rocker in *costume*, he was quickly labeled "gothic", and so the story went... Now Goths and Mansonites are The SAME according to fashion magazines, newspapers and even Spin magazine (who recently did the ugliest and most horrific fashion spread on "goth" ever). All I'm going to say is, Marilyn Manson is not goth. Good or bad? That's up to you. But ask any person who has been into goth music for more than three years and they will tell you that Manson is, without a doubt, not gothic.
Aside from the Manson garbage, there is the second wrong connotation placed on Goths. That is VAMPIRE. Guess what? Most Goths have at least enough of a grasp on reality that they know they are human, mortal and all those things. Most would puke if asked to drink blood, and certainly wouldn't kill another person to drink their blood. The words for those people can include psychopath, murderer, lunatic, deluded... but not goth. Sure, there are some Goths that suffer from these delusions. For the most part, they are also looked down upon. Most Goths don't want to be associated with such nonsense, and would much rather just go about their business, left alone by the media, talk shows and irate parents. And most self respecting Goths would never put fangs in their mouth to go out to a club. Honest.
You see, there are plenty of swarmy businessmen who have made it their business to exploit the Goth scene (or any other scene they could get their hands on) for their own profits. These people aren't good for anything other than promoting their own products, which are usually lame, boiled down versions of things that the people already involved in the subculture had to begin with. They introduce new people to a subculture that don't understand the traditions and past of what they are currently involved with. All in all, it's quite amusing, yet sad at the same time, since so many people are being hurt by this.
In all honesty, the whole issue of what is and isn't gothic has a certain amount of irony to it. In the past few years, two sub-genres (Gothic and punk) that tried to stay in the underground, were dragged out into the mainstream, kicking and screaming all the way. Punk, much to the chagrin of punks, was received with open arms. Rancid played on SNL. GreenDay filled arenas, and something that once meant something was cheapened by the mainstream, who thought it was all about fashion and hairstyles. Goth, has been cheapened by a fear of vampires and satanic cults, while simultaneously, it's been embraced as a viable fashion alternative, heralded on the runways and available in Macys. And in every case, one important thing was forgotten: the fact that the people who were "Goth" (or punk) before the style was "popular" still exist and that there is more to it than some silly brand name guy telling them it is "''cool" to be different. And by the way, isn't it funny that something can still be considered different, even when it's sold by the ton in Macys?
Unfortunately, we are somewhat plagued by the irresponsible media, in most things. Anything that basks in the underground glory for too long will eventually find it's way into the mainstream, and something about it will inevitably be deemed subversive. In the case of Goth, elevating music and dress to cult status is dangerous and silly. Kids shouldn't be treated like criminals for embracing something they find beautiful and adult shouldn't be accused of devil worship and the like just because of their style.
The article that I saw (posted to an e-mail list by one of the subscribers) had a one sided, "Goth is an evil cult" slant. Yes, the word "evil" was used. That's insane. It left me to wonder whether or not the reporter was intentionally one-siding the article, or just didn't bother to do his research. Even if he didn't know of or like the music, is it truly possible that someone could still (after all the 80's hoopla) believe that a type of music and all the people that listen to it are inherently evil??
The article appeared on www.nando.net and was written by Jaxon Van Derbeken of the Rocky Mountain News. (thanks to Nute for forwarding it)
"LAKEWOOD, Colo. (August 15, 1997 00:16 a.m. EDT) -- A man with kitchen knives sticking out of his chest and back managed to call 911 to report that his 14-year-old son had just attacked him." Of course this is tragic. A man was assaulted and almost killed. "His son David, and the boy's 15-year-old girlfriend -- followers of the occult known as "gothics" -- were arrested about an hour after the attack Wednesday night." According to this, "gothic" is a religion of some sort, since that's what the use of the word "occult" would suggest, though the sentence really doesn't make all that much sense, since it appears to be a misuse of the word occult. "He said the boy's bedroom had satanic symbols carved everywhere and that it appears he is a devotee of Marilyn Manson, whose music suggests occult overtones." This I believe. Manson admits to being a Satanist, and a lot of the kids only know of the theatrical Satanism (the goat's blood and symbols everywhere). But what this has to do with goth, I'll never know. I also find it interesting that Manson, an avowed Satanist only "suggests" occult overtones and goth just is part of the occult. "Williams described the "gothics" as a loose-knit "hate group." "They don't like minorities; some of their graffiti is indicative of that," he said. "This is not a nice group.""Now this is where I draw the line! Goth as a hate group? Please. It'd be more honest reporting if they said Goths were a bunch of pansies that wear dresses and lace all the time. Let's face it, most Goths are too self obsessed to worry about worshipping anyone but themselves. And goth is certainly not a hate group. Imagine how the people in this town must react to anyone wearing anything but a pink jumper suit! And for the record, I have never personally met a racially biased Goth. I'm not saying they don't exist, but this article makes Goths sound like Nazi skinheads. Sheesh. "Members dress in black, dye their hair, and wear pancake makeup and black lipstick, he said." Oh boy. Goths do that. So do punks, so do Mansonites and so do clowns. Uh-oh. How will anyone know who the threat is?, "Ryan Guerra, 20, said David Riddle had dyed hair and dark nails and freely admitted following the occult." "He spoke about being into the gothic. He said, 'It's evil,"' Guerra recalled." THE gothic? This is incredible. It really makes me laugh. I'm curious to know if anyone involved in this article had any knowledge of what Gothic music was before they started with this. There seems to be an insistence that goth is occult and vice versa.
The thing of this is, there is little mention of the fact that the kid must have had some serious problems for him to do this. Dyed hair and dark nails really don't imply murder- it's the old scapegoat. Don't understand why someone did something? Blame it on something else that you don't understand.
It's sad when tragic things happen and the media misrepresents what happened. The kid who stabbed his dad was a disturbed PERSON, not a disturbed Satanist, or a disturbed Goth. What if he collected baseball cards? Would he be a disturbed BASEBALL FAN? Most likely not. That's the "national pastime". But he wasn't "normal" in the eyes of people around him, meaning that must have been the cause for the murder. I wish people would think about these things a little more before they put them in print. This could be very damaging to innocent people who just happen to like to look "goth" or dye their hair or paint their nails.
Of course, I am most likely preaching to the converted. If you're reading this, you might or might not like Goth music, but you also probably know music does not make the (wo)man. A lot of us who accept the labels that come along with the style and tastes do feel the need to defend the honor of our own little group, even if only a few people are willing to hear what we have to say.
The goth scene in New York is still going strong, as is evident from nights like Exedor Sats. at the Pyramid, Alchemy Mondays at CBGB Gallery, and Sanctuary Thurs. at Sanctuary in Brooklyn. My personal favourite DJs are Charles (Sanctuary) and Mike Wood (Pyramid). Go and check these nights out of you're in the area, and if you're not a goth, as always, be respectful of the locals and they'll surprise you with how open minded they can be.
NYC goth things:
-Middle Pillar Records is one of the greatest things to ever happen to goth, with a catalogue full of CDs at affordable prices. Check their catalogue: www.middlepillar.com
-The Brickbats goth/punk CD, "Sing You Dead" (avail. on Dismal Abysmal records and through Middle Pillar) still rules.
-If you can get in 89.1 fm (NYU radio) on Mon. nights at 8pm, there is a gothic radio show! It's called Theatrum Aetherium. Give it a try.
Special thanks to Nute for forwarding the goth cult article.
See you next month!