April 12, 2010

Gothic Culture is Practically Dead

GOTHIC - Goths aren't in the news much these days. There is so little happening in gothic culture these days that gothic culture might as well be dead.

Let me elaborate...

Circa 1999 there were about 20 or so different gothic clothing shops in Toronto, which for a period of time was basically the goth capitol of North America... now there's only 2.

#1. Hell's Belles (formerly known as Siren) at 463 Queen Street West.

#2. Borderline at 425 Queen Street West.

Its so pathetic its sad.

Its the same online too. Once there was plethora of online websites selling gothic clothing. There is still a plethora... but the list has been culled over the years so that now only the strong survive.

Part of the reason I'd argue is the Bush era and the resulting wars and recession. Gothic culture by its very nature is a form of protest against social norms. The Bush Administration gave young people something else to protest against so instead of goths we have a whole era of anti-Bush protestors.

When the recession hit in 2007 Bush was winding down out of office... and young people are quickly parted with their cash. With fewer jobs available, less cash, people having to act frugally spending money on gothic clothing is less important. Its expensive to be a goth... the clothes, the music concerts, the partying with gothic friends.

Plus there's been a resurgence in punk and heavy metal (which both preach nihilism instead of existentialism)... and then there's competition in the form of emo. There's so many more options now it makes goths even lonelier people than before.

There's also the matter that for some people gothic culture really is just a phase. Some people don't grow out of it, but quite a few do. They get older, they get married, they have kids, they might still go out and party once in awhile but its not the same...

"Ewww... they dance like people in their 30s!"

I tried really hard to make that sound like Valley Girl talk... and it was totally deliberate. Gothic culture has changed in recent years. The concepts of existentialism, social rebellion and even religious aspects like Wicca are still there... but they've been sidelined by the obsession with fashion, music and partying... in other words goth isn't so much the existential rebellion it was during the 1990s... In 2010 its become little more than a fashion statement... its all fluff and little substance, hence the Valley Girl comparison.

Its not just the fashion industry either. The lack of gothic oriented movies (the latest vampire flicks (Daybreakers, Twilight and New Moon) are good, but they're not really gothic. Neither is the plethora of recent zombie films and other traditionally thought of gothic films.

So is goth dead? No. But its definitely hit the bottom of the barrel.

Gothic culture has this horrible habit of coming back, more brutal and existential than ever. The trick I think is to recapture that brutality of life/death.

Why does this matter to me? I think of gothic culture as more of an art movement, one that spans religion, films, paintings, music, fashion and even philosophy. At its core is a valuable life lesson:

"Life is harsh, brutal and then you die. Try to make the best of it."

1 comment:

  1. I was pondering this these days as well.

    I think Goth is not popular because death has been right on our faces for the last decade.

    During the 90's, people ponders about issues of life or death because 1999 was drawing near and many were influenced by thoughts of apocalypse. The 90's was a relatively peaceful period, and people can actually be romantic about death and dressed up and celebrated it in their own poignant ways.

    Then came 2001 when the twin towers fall, and the subsequent wars that happened - death can happen to anyone at any time. It becomes a real issue and turning it into a club scene or fashion statement seems inappropriate and unnecessary.

    And in the late 2000's, like its counterpart in Japan half a decade ago, Goth slowly becomes Gothic Lolita and slowly becomes Steampunk and a mixture of a lot of things that ponders about alternatives to technology and Modernism. Dressing up in all black and listening to music two decades ago is certainly a niche as a result.

    I can see the theatrical quality of Goth coming back in its original form in anachronistic theatres and circuses, and the futuristic quality of Cybergoth coming back in the coming decade as robotics and advanced prosthetics (think Aimee Mullins) become more and more prominent in our society. But in general, I don't see Goth coming back as its current form any time in future.


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