Common Misconceptions about Goth Culture

Goth culture, like any culture, is a collection of related scenes and subcultures. Misconceptions about goths are ubiquitous, and should be cleared up. Let's do that.

1. Goths are all depressed.

According to The Perkygoth Manifesto, goth culture can be as conformist as regular culture. Instead of pretending to be happy, you must pretend to be sad. After all, being sad means you're complicated.

Not all goths are depressed; many of them probably affect a despair they do not feel. Yes, that's right ladies and gentlemen: nonconformists sometimes nonconform to conform to their own nonconformism! You heard it here first!

Many goths are happy, well-adjusted people. Their outfits, and outlooks, serve as a "memento mori" which encourages them to enjoy life to the fullest. Were they forced to dress like Stepford Wives, or All-American Dads, they would become very depressed.

2. Goths wear all black, all the time.

Some goths do wear all black, all day, every day, without color or accent. But they are a minority. Most goths wear dark clothing, including dark purples, burgundies, deep greens and other colors. Some even wear pink!

Goth makeup is not monochromatic, either. How many goths have you seen who look like they've wandered out of an off-color (no pun intended) Al Jolson routine? Normal colored foundation, powder, red lipsticks, and multicolored eyeshadows are all used by goths who wear makeup.

It's possible to wear a goth outfit with no black at all. It's also possible to be gothic without any articles of black clothing in your wardrobe. Goth fashion is more about creative self-expression, and an appreciation for the dark side of life, than about any one color or mood.

3. Everyone who dresses like a goth, is one.

Some related subcultures, such as punk, hardcore, heavy metal and straight edge have similar aesthetics to goth fashion. Black lipstick has just made a comeback in a big way among fashionistas; that doesn't mean they magically become goths when they put it on.

You might meet former goths, now in their early or mid-twenties, who no longer identify as goth, but retain some elements of their old style. If someone doesn't identify as goth, no fashion police can force them to do so.

4. All goths ________.

All goths: worship the devil, cut themselves, drink blood, listen to Marilyn Manson, are bisexual, do drugs, write bad poetry, kill people and so on and so on. Not at all! For every goth who fits one stereotype, you'll find five or ten or twenty people who don't. There are Christian goths, secular goths, corporate goths, sober goths, gay, straight and bisexual goths, even goths who write good poetry.

Because goth culture is a voluntary affiliation, some people assume that goths all must share some one characteristic. It's more like they share similar characteristics, as well as a general philosophy of life.

5. Goth culture somehow abetted the Columbine High School massacre.

According to Dave Cullen's Columbine, neither Eric Harris nor Dylan Klebold were goths. Harris experimented with mildly noncomformist clothes with a military aesthetic. Harris also knew, in passing, one member of the school's goth clique; that was as far as the association went.

No trenchcoat mafia, no Marilyn Manson, no targeting of bullies or jocks. If anything, Harris and Klebold saw themselves as bullies, not the other way around.

6. Goth culture somehow abetted the Twilight book series.

When you read the book, it’s like, 'Edward Cullen was so beautiful I creamed myself.' I mean, every line is like that. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn’t do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself. Plus, he’s a 108 year-old virgin so he’s obviously got some issues there.
––Robert Pattinson (yes, that Robert Pattinson)

Stephenie Meyer, the writer of the Twilight series, is not a goth or goth-affiliated. Most goths find the book, and the book's "vamp" fans, puerile and embarrassing.

7. Goth culture is just an adolescent phase.

For some people it is; for others, it's a lifestyle. Jillian Venters, author of Gothic Charm School, has had a gothic sensibility since she was a child. She is almost 40 years old and dresses in Victorian gothic clothing. For her, it's not a costume or a holiday; it's an expression of who she is.

If the goth lifestyle is "just a phase" for some, it still might be a valuable one. A teen or twentysomething dealing with depression, manic depression, or another issue might find solace in the goth community. This prevents him or her from feeling as isolated as s/he otherwise might be.

8. Goths are more dangerous than "normal" people.

Unfortunately, there is a glimmer of truth to this stereotype. Goths are, on average, more likely than the general population to self-harm or attempt suicide. However, evidence suggests that alternative subcultures may actually protect at-risk teens, by providing social and emotional support they could not get elsewhere.

Goth culture is an easy scapegoat. Its members dress strangely and separate themselves from the mainstream; clearly, they must be up to no good. There have been a few cases where goths have committed violent crimes; it's much easier to say "Well, the goth made them do it" than to acknowledge that person as an individual, albeit a sick individual.

The sad truth is, some people are simply violent and without conscience. According to Dr. Robert Hare, 1-4% of the population is psychopathic. That's 3-12 million people in the United States alone. Most of these people are non-violent, though they are far from harmless. It stands to reason that a few of them self-identify as goth, or adopt aspects of gothic fashion.

Most psychopaths do not want to draw the "wrong" kind of attention to themselves; they want to be seen as leaders of men, or put in positions of power. You're much more likely to find a psychopathic corporate attorney or Hollywood producer, than a psychopathic ectomorph who kills anyone that irritates him and paints the wall of his house with their blood. Although if you do meet one, try not to say the word "wacky."

Related Reading:

All Goth Articles

Gothic Fashion Influences

Wednesday Addams

Harold and Maude

the Gothic and Lolita Bible

Gothic Makeup Ideas

Courntey Love, Style Icon

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