The Goth subculture has earned shock, misunderstanding, and disapproval since the later 1970s (Goodlad and Bibby). Much like punks, goths aim to shock through their fashion and gloomy, withdrawn attitude. Goths are easily identifiable as a subculture because of their all black, Victorian attire and their spikey or long hair (Robinson). Not only is their fashion distinct, but their sullen outlook also sets them apart from other subcultures such as the punks. However, unlike the punks, goths are passive, mostly nonviolent, and tolerant of differences (Robinson). Goths are a fashionably provocative subculture that aims to shock the public by their radical differences, but also, they movement attracts teens and youth searching for meaning and identity in their lives.
The goth movement was a branch off of the punk subculture. Goths and punks share many traits in terms of fashion and shock factor but are different enough to be two different subcultures that can coexist in society. The goths emerged in the late 1970’s with extreme, dark, medieval fashion and dark apocalyptic music to define themselves (Goodlad and Bibby). The Goths’ message was reminiscent of the punks, they were anti-society and government but instead of being loud and public about their views, the goths withdrew themselves from society and carried on peacefully. Instead of portraying how they felt like the punks, they bury themselves in literature, exclusive depressing music, and only go out to clubs where there are other goths present (Egan).
The Goth subculture has changed over time and is still relevant in today’s youth culture. The goth movement today is characterized by only black clothing, body piercings, and the wearing of Christian, wiccan, and satanic symbols as jewelry. Goths also make a lot of their clothing and jewelry as an opposition to mainstream culture (Robinson). Goths strive to be original and differentiate themselves from the rest of society through their fashion and music identity. Because they branched off of the punk movement, they have to prove their standing as a different and original subculture (Egan).
Teenagers and youth in general are a large part of Goth subculture. The Goth subculture attracts a lot of teenagers because it is an expression of the pain and negative emotions they are feeling in their lives. Many teens that identify as Goth have emotional problems. They use the subculture to find a haven and also try to relieve their negative emotions by being around others who have similar issues. A large problem with many of the Goth teens is that they participate in self-harm and self-mutilation. Goths are known in popular culture for their self-harm and suicidal tendencies. A study in the British Medical Journal states that Goth subculture and self-harming behaviors are actually connected (Phillipov). Their depressing attitude and antisocial tendencies do not make this surprising.
Teens in the Goth scene are a worry for parents and the rest of popular culture. Subcultures are usually misunderstood and Goth subculture is no exception. The withdrawing from society, self-harming, apocalyptic music, and dark clothing are all factors of the Goth subculture that earns them disapproval (Goodlad and Bibby). The self-mutilation is the most frightening and parent-disapproving quality of goths but many also disapprove of their fashion and how they present themselves. Goths are many times accused of being satanic, devil worshipers, haters of minorities, and white supremacists.
Parents and adults are known to hate the body piercings and the excessive use of dark makeup. They are also accused of being violent, even though that is the opposite of their message (Robinson). Goths have a bad reputation in popular culture. Parents do not want their kids to become goths; the shock factor of the subculture is still to great to be accepted by society. If a teen becomes Goth, their whole future is ruined even though many Goth teenagers go on to be intelligent, successful adults (Phillipov). The rest of society is too blindsided by the depressing clothing and body piercings to try to understand a large subculture that attracts many teens. Society does not understand that subcultures are an outlet for youth that helps them discover themselves.
The largest public panic that involved Goth subculture was Columbine. The media claimed that the criminals were though to be associated with gothic subculture. The media blamed the Goths for coming up with the violent idea of shooting up a school (Goodlad and Bibby). Goth subculture is not to blame for the violent tragedy but the accusations earned the goths a negative reputation in the media. Goth culture will never be the same again because Columbine permanently tainted their image.
Goth culture never was approved and is still not approved even in today’s society. Even though the subculture of being gothic is not a violent or malicious, it is incredibly misunderstood like most subcultures are. Goths are misunderstood mainly because of their fashion and withdrawn attitude. The all black, heavy makeup with a pale face, and satanic/wiccan symbols are too much for normal suburban America to understand. Goths have been around for longer than expected and their following of youth continues to grow all the time. The Goths are understanding and provide a place for confused youth to figure out who they are. Like any subculture, being Goth provides identity and a community. Goth subculture is not a bad thing, it is just different and popular culture should seek to understand it instead of writing it off as a satanic devil-worshiping cult.