Understand The Gothic Lifestyle Cultural Studies Essay

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When thinking of the word goth, some people of the older generation may think of a bunch of kids that are completely depressed, socially rebellious, and possibly evil and involved with the occult. On the contrary, the goth culture is not evil at all. The goth culture is easily misunderstood because people are uninformed about the goth culture. While some parents or narrow-minded people may consider Goth to be evil and wrong, to clearly understand the gothic lifestyle, it should be viewed within the context of the media, especially in music and fashion.

In order to understand goth, it is important to explore how the gothic lifestyle came about. The Oxford English Dictionary defines goth today as, "A style of rock music, and the youth culture associated with this…and characterized by the dramatically stark appearance of its performers and followers, reminiscent of the protagonists of (esp. cinematic) gothic fantasy…" (Def., 3a). The new definition of the word goth began in music and can be explored through its history. Goth was originally started by people who were drawn to the horror and macabre of literature and movies, such as Frankenstein and Dracula, and even later authors such as Anne Rice, author of the Vampire Chronicles, depicting vampires in a more personable and human light rather than as completely evil and devoid of all goodness. The goth scene began from the literary sense but also from the world of music. According to Micah L. Issitt, author of Goths: A Guide to an American Subculture, "Music historians nearly universally agree that goth music came out of the post-punk mélange of the early 1980s, but its roots go back further, to the darker tones of the 1960s psychadelia" (25). Issitt continues to say that the 1960s bands The Velvet Underground and The Doors were some of the first bands to explore music with more meaning and depth than the other bands of their time (26). Issitt gives a good piece of information in stating the early history of the gothic culture because many of the people who are against gothic music and the gothic culture in general know the music of the 1960s and enjoy it even though it was a predecessor of the music that they are completely and blatantly against. Goth music also came from the punk movement which started in the 1970s, gaining popularity by bands such as the Sex Pistols of London. With the combined influences from the punk movement and even some psychedelic influences, the goth music industry exploded in the 1980s. The 1980s was filled with goth music; the first being the band Joy Division. The 1980s was also occupied with bands such as the Cure, Duran Duran, Siouxsie, and the Banshees. The origin of the goth culture, especially the portion about the music from the 1960s, proves that goth is not evil, simply misunderstood.

The music of the goth culture is misunderstood because it is different than music from previous eras, which is one reason why some parents are opposed to the culture. According to Issitt, music is seldom experienced as solely sound; rather, music has many other factors that constitute the complete music experience, such as album covers, posters and photos of band members (41). Issitt makes a good point by showing the many factors that comprise the wide-ranging music occurrence. In order for a certain type of music to be considered gothic, the music must possess the typical goth sound. The traditional goth sound regularly describes feelings of disorder and anger that the artists felt during their struggles in their childhood and teenage years. However, goth music does not always focus on the negative. Sometimes, bands in the genre are known to express happiness, love, and confidence. Although drawing influences from the punk movement, goth music and punk music have significant differences today. According to Issitt, one major difference between the two genres of music is their song styling. Punk music is usually filled with actual shrieking and shouting, while goth music is typically much more musical and downcast (43). Issitt shows the major difference between the punk and goth music scenes of today; whereas in the past, the two genres were considered very similar. Gothic music is misunderstood because it is sometimes too much for older listeners who grew up listening to much simpler music.

The most prominent and forthright self-expression of the goth is in the area of fashion. When a bystander thinks of gothic fashion, one thing comes to their mind: black. Gothic fashion began because the people wanted to assimilate the characters from their favorite novels and films, such as Dracula, who was inspired by "Vlad the Impaler" of Romania. The color black has so many different meanings around the world, including but not only, mourning, sadness, and death, but also even elegance, such as during the Victorian era, and determination. Black also can create a slim silhouette and contrast with other colors. The main reason why black is the color of choice for the goth culture is not because it is evil; it is used because it creates the most contrast. Goths usually pair their black base with colors like silver or white to create a striking or eye-catching appearance. Black is not the only color however that has a deeper meaning in the goth culture. According to Ionela Florina Iacob, who did a study on the goth culture in Romania and author of journal article "Rethinking Goth. Identity as Style," "White is also a symbol of mourning, but it can also symbolise the light that is born from darkness, the happiness born from pain, etc. Red is usually associated to vampirism" (17). Iacob continues to say that the clothes and accessories permit a freedom of creativity for the person (18). Iacob creates a sensible argument in this statement because the entire goth culture is about self-expression. The goth culture can be clearly identified and sometimes even misunderstood because of its fashion and style.

The goth culture is so easily judged by the minds of people who are simply afraid of what they do not understand. The goth culture is not evil or wrong by any means, because the goth culture is about self-expression whether through music or fashion. From a Christian perspective especially, people need to be careful about how they look at someone and judge them simply because of the way they are dressed.