Goth culture: It’s not about crime, death and violence

The Herald, UK/August 21, 2006
By Stefanie Anie Eschenbacher and Helen Archer

It was the kind of academic approval they might not have sought, but at least it will reassure their parents.

A new study by Dr Kathy Charles, a forensic psychologist at Glasgow Caledonian University, reveals that Goths dressing in extreme clothes and make-up will not automatically lead on to crime and violence.

The findings were welcomed by Goths across Glasgow yesterday. They may go in for black leather and red satin, long hair and dark make-up, piercings and skulls worn as jewellery but for them it is all about "freedom and self-expression."

Deborah Henderson, a 21-year-old marketing student at Glasgow University, said people of her Goth social circle were usually well educated.

"Goth people think a lot more than other people and they wouldn't act horribly, not towards humans and not towards animals.

"It's not about crime, violence and death. It all depends on how you perceive it. I don't consider it as dark and scary. I'm happy and my friends are the happiest people I know – it's so much fun."

Ms Henderson, who has been interested in the Goth culture since she was was a child, said: "I like black but my favourite colour is pink."

She said a lot of people complimented her on the way she dressed, how she styled her hair and wore her make up.

"I dress in clothes I feel comfortable in. When I dress like this, I feel really pretty and special. It's like I'm living a fairy tale.

"Unfortunately, you always get people from the opposite side. Some, usually very narrow-minded ones, judge us by our appearance.

"Sometimes I would walk down the street and they would say: 'Look, she looks as if she is death.' "

Ms Henderson, however, said she was very tolerant towards other people's outfits. "I think the Goth culture made me more understanding and less judgmental."

The Goth culture has not only influenced the way she dresses but also her circle of friends.

"My friends are very mixed but most of them are Goths as well. I like to go to clubs and meet other Goth people because I love the music and I want to go somewhere I am not being judged."

Ms Henderson said she planned to go into business once she finished her studies.

"Although I don't know into which direction exactly, I know I want to do something with fashion."

Another follower of the Goth culture, Mo MacMillan, from Glasgow, 17, said: "Goth people are really nice people and a lot more tolerant than others. We are probably less likely to harm anyone than others."

Katie Holroyd, from Glasgow, 16, said: "Sometimes others spy on us or we get stuff thrown at us. I can hear them saying: 'Did you see her face? Did you see what she is wearing? Did you see all her piercings?'

"We are happy to learn about other people and their beliefs. We like to talk to other people about anything and anybody," she said.

However, it is important to note that Goth is an umbrella term, and that Goths have different tastes in music, follow different religions, and have different hobbies and dress sense. What binds them is the importance they place on free-thinking, and their refusal to conform.

The goth subculture began in the UK during the late 1970s as an offshoot of the post-punk genre.

The first use of the term Goth in its present meaning is believed to have been on a BBC TV programme. Anthony Wilson, manager of Joy Division, described the band as Gothic compared with the pop mainstream, and the name stuck.

The movement first became established in the Batcave, a nightclub in London in the early 1980s, before spreading to the US, first becoming popular in California.

The culture has been influenced by horror films, death rock, and metal music and is associated with nihilistic beliefs and black make-up, hair, and fashion.

The Goth subculture has, on various occasions, been incorrectly associated with Satanism, violence, white supremacy and intolerance. The music often deals with thought-provoking topics, concentrating on social evils, like racism, war, and hatred of various groups.

Marilyn Manson is perhaps the most famous proponent of the much-maligned culture.

His name is a combination of two very different American icons – Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson. His real name is Brian Hugh Warner. As well as music-making, he has appeared in several films, and is rumoured to be giving up his music career to start directing.

His most talked-about film cameo was in the Michael Moore political documentary Bowling for Columbine, which investigates America's gun violence.

In the film, Manson discussed the motivations of the perpetrators of the Columbine killings and allegations that his music was somehow a factor.

He said: "I definitely can see why they would pick me. Because I think it's easy to throw my face on the TV, because in the end, I'm a poster boy for fear.

"Because I represent what everyone is afraid of, because I say and do whatever I want."

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