Introduction / Thesis
It is quite impossible to come up with a universally applicable definition as to the term subculture. In his book “Subculture: The Meaning of Style”, Dick Hebdige says: “The meaning of subculture is, then, always in dispute, and style is the area in which the opposing definitions clash with most dramatic force” (Hebdige 3).
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Nevertheless, it appears that the subculture is best defined as stylistic extrapolation of subconscious anxieties, which define the existential mode of a particular group of people. In this paper, we will discuss Goth subculture, a socio-cultural phenomenon of post-modernity, which has now assumed clearly defined aesthetic and ideological subtleties. Young people with unnaturally pale faces, attracted to wearing black leather clothing, military style leather boots, can now be seen in just about every major Western city, which allows us to refer to Gothic subculture as truly international. These people like listening to Gothic Rock music, watching horror movies, and experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. They are also known for their strong anti-social attitudes. Even though the spread of Gothic subculture is an international phenomenon, it is namely White teenagers, who seem to be attracted to it the most. After having originated in the eighties, Gothic subculture can no longer be discussed as the sub-product of neo-romantic motives in European rock music. Nowadays, Goths consider themselves as being “existentially independent”, that it – they truly believe that their lifestyles represent a cultural value as “thing in itself”. Even though that this particular subculture is considered non-violent, in recent years, there have been reports of Goths indulging in violence on ever progressive scale. In such countries as U.K., Germany, Russia and France, Goths have even been caught committing the acts of cannibalism.
In our view, the Goth subculture simply reflects the fact that Caucasians are loosing their existential vitality, which in its turn, corresponds to an unnaturally low birthrate among them, throughout the world. This thesis corresponds rather well to Wendy Griswold’s idea that both: mainstream culture and subculture cannot be discussed outside of political and social contexts: “Culture refers to the expressive side of human life, in other words, to behavior, objects, and ideas that can be seen to express, or to stand for, something else” (Griswold 12). Goths have been known to swallow small amounts of poison, which they believe causes their skin to look dramatically pale. Such a decadent practice, on their part, is nothing but subconscious sublimation of Goths being deprived of their will to live. We can say that the emergence of Gothic subculture serves as an undeniable proof that nowadays, the existence of more and more Caucasians is being affected by what Sigmund Freud used to refer to as the “instinct of death”. These people are being largely deprived of the spiritual and physical qualities, which allowed their ancestors to build and to maintain a civilization (willpower and physical strength). All they have left is intellect. However, as the example of Goths shows, they often utilize this intellect to indulge in variety of decadent practices. The next part of this paper contains a series of interviews with randomly selected representatives of Gothic subculture, as we believe that these interviews substantiate the validity of earlier statement. The names of interviewees have been altered.
Derrick Smith. 17 years old. Student. Caucasian
Hey buddy, what’s with the vampire-like looks?
This is because I profess Gothic spiritual values. The world we live in is too rational, there is no place for mystery. We Goths are superior beings, compared to most of you people, because we are not afraid of evilness – we are the agents of evil in this world.
Does it mean that you actually intend to cause people harm?
I don’t even consider them people. Look at them – they are like ants, going about their petty businesses, without being able to embrace the truth that one day they will die.
Don’t you think that you are little too young to think about death?
One can never be too young to think about death, because you never know when you die. All of you people are afraid of darkness, but we are not. We radiate darkness.
Now you sound like some sort of Christian fundamentalist, don’t you think?
I could not care less about Jesus man. I despise this damned Jew. Satan rules.
Melissa Hunt, 20 years old. Store manager. Caucasian
I bet you think you look very pretty with these black circles drawn around your eyes, don’t you?
Oh, you think you can be a smart ass with me huh? These circles means that I can look straight into death’s eyes and you cannot. I suggest you leave me alone.
I want to find out more about Gothic subculture. Why don’t you tell me?
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I don’t like your attitude, but sure, I will tell you. We Goths are different from most of you people, because we live in the world of spirituality. Our lives are filled with the sense of purpose, which is why the conventional morality does not apply to us.
So, you guys have gatherings like club members?
We like to hang out with each other, but it is not like a club, because we do not believe in discipline. It is just so much easier to uncover reality, while being together.
What do you mean “uncover reality”?
Have you ever tried “shrooms”? If you have not, you know nothing about life. All this reality that surrounds us is deeply superficial. There is another side of life, of which you are unaware.
Why don’t you enlighten me on this?
It is impossible, you seem to be little too normal.
Steven Todds. 15 years old. Student. Caucasian
Hey friend, I hope you are not dying. Not yet, why are you asking?
Because you look little too pale, maybe you should be spending more time on fresh air?
I think you should take your advice and shove it. Who are you to tell me what should I do with my life?
Seems like we got off on the wrong foot. Tell me, do teachers allow you into a classroom, even though you look quite scary?
We live in the free country – no teacher can tell me what I should be wearing. I am a Goth. If I was not wearing black leather clothing all the time, it would turn me into a regular Joe, like yourself.
So, you think that it is namely your scarifying looks that make you special?
It is not looks – we are like… totally different from you people. Whatever is bad for you is good for us.
What kind of music do you like?
I usually listen to “45 Grave” and “UK Decay” – these bands are like.. totally Gothic.
So, you do believe that vampires and witches exist for real?
Of course they do. I am a vampire myself.
Have you been checked by a psychiatrist?
I am not crazy, I am just different.
As we have mentioned in the introductory part of this paper, the Gothic subculture is strongly associated with the fetish of death and physical deprivation. The interviews with affiliates of Goth indicate respondents’ mental obsession with these subjects. Moreover, the interviews also suggest that the percentage of mentally inadequate people among Goths, is rather high. All three interviewees have claimed to be deeply dissatisfied with the objective reality, while declaring their conscious intention to indulge in social absenteeism, as the essential part of their lifestyles. Even though none of the respondents appeared to be particularly violent, they nevertheless kept expressing their contempt towards people not affiliated with their subculture, which allows us to conclude that Goth does pose a danger to society. At the same time, Gothic subculture also appears to be of rather intellectual nature, which means that Goths can be easily straightened out, after having spent even as little as few days in boot camps. Of course, this proposition is purely hypothetical. As we have suggested earlier, Gothic subculture simply reflects the fact that many young people in Western countries are loosing their existential vigor. However, given the fact that such their psychological trait is often being discussed in terms of their “individual uniqueness”, it is very improbable that the governmental policy makers would ever be able to recognize a counter-productive essence of Gothic subculture and to deal with it in the way it deserves.
Griswold, Wendy “Cultures and Societies in a Changing World”. London: Pine Forge Press, 2003.
Hebdige, Dick “Subculture: The Meaning of Style”. London: Routledge, 1979.