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Goth / Goths / Gothics

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One could says that Goth is an artistic movement centered around music and fashion. That said, the Goth culture is so diverse that it defies definition. Though Goths are often (nearly always, in fact) stereotyped, Goth means different things to different Goths.

One observer of the Goth culture puts it like this:

I would like to make a quick point that Gothic is the same as goth, Gothdom, gothik etc. The only difference is noun or adjective use. Capitalization is often arbitrary. There is no general distinction between these terms. Any distinction made is often particular to a certain person or group who might use a different term to designate one of the different levels of involvement or divisions of gothics. For our purposes, we'll say these words are all intended to mean the same thing.

Gothic: Of or pertaining to a literary style of fiction prevalent in the late 18th and early 19th centuries which emphasized the grotesque, mysterious, and desolate: a gothic novel. [This is the relevant definition in the dictionary. Think of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allen Poe.]

But what does gothic mean in regards to the group of people? Here's where it gets confusing. There are things that many Goths like that are not gothic (Industrial or Classical music). There are things that are gothic that many Goths dislike (vampires, interest in death). There are things that some people think are gothic that are not gothic (bands like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails), and there are things that do not call themselves gothic even if they are considered gothic by most people (bands like Sisters of Mercy and Dead Can Dance). However, there's no Grand Gothic Judge to decree what is truly Goth and what is not, although there are plenty of people who claim to be it. It's an ambiguous label with many people using it that don't understand what it means. The people who do understand it often have many different definitions.
- Source: Alicia Porter Smith, What is Gothic?

Following are a couple of quotes from news articles on Goth culture. See also the Religion News Blog archive of Goth-related news articles.

Media Often Gets It Wrong

Note that the media often - but certainly not always - portrays the Goth culture in a sensationalistic and/or negative way. After all, reports on Goth culture tend to appear in the news media in connection with someone's criminal activity. See, for example, Murder case prompts discussion on teens’ fascination with `gothic’ lifestyle, written by The Mercury News in connection with the murder trial of teenager Scott Dyleski.

Fox News on Oct. 22, 2005, interviewed Goth musician Voltaire - author of the book, "What is Goth?" regarding the Dyleski case:

Interview section starts at 2:00.

It should be clear that one can not form an accurate opinion of the Goth culture based solely on media reports. Hence we refer to our research resources on the subject.

You've seen them in the parks or at the mall, wearing black nail polish and lipstick or ripped tights and combat boots. Some have purple hair and strange tattoos. Others hang out at cemeteries or listen to music with lyrics about death.

These are Goth kids, teenagers who dress differently so they may appear mysterious to others or are secretly or openly obsessed with the [tag]occult[/tag], said Gordon A. Crews, associate dean of the School of Justice Studies at Roger Williams University in Bristol.

"Why all the black? What most of them will tell you is, 'We don't exist to you anyway.' The black is a way of being on the other side. It is a way of separating," he said.

Crews, who has written books and articles about the occult, [tag]satanic[/tag] involvement, gangs and school violence, presented pieces of his research on Goth behavior during a seminar for law enforcement officials Wednesday at the university's conference center on Anthony Road. About 30 officers from around Rhode Island and as far away as Boston attended the program.

Crews, a former police investigator, became interested in studying the Gothic movement in 1987 after he discovered an unusual mural inside an abandoned house while he was leading a pack of bloodhounds through the woods in the South. The mural depicted Satan grabbing baby Jesus from his mother. The following day, he returned to the house to find it had been burned down.

Since then, he has researched Gothic activity and interviewed people who follow it, including a man who claims to be a 450-year-old vampire and sleeps in a coffin. The Goth movement grew out of the 1970s punk trend and became popular in the late 1990s, at about the time school shootings were becoming more frequent. Some school shooters, like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who killed 13 people before committing suicide at Columbine High Schoolin Colorado in 1999, have been described as Gothic.

Most Goths are young, white and intelligent, and many teens use the behavior as a protection mechanism, Crews said. They may feel ostracized by other social groups, so they dress and act mysteriously in an effort to be feared by others.

"What they will tell you is they would rather be left alone than be bullied or attacked," he said. "It is up to the individual to define what Goth is for themselves ... The mentality is, 'I want to be left alone but I want to be seen. I want to see the shock on other peoples' faces," he said.

But others take the movement to the extreme. For them, it is a belief system rather than a trend. They are into witchcraft or believe they are vampires. Some practice Satanism, drink blood or mutilate their own bodies, he said.
- Source: 'Goth' defined: Seminar sheds light on what is behind mysterious teenage trend, The Newport Daily News, USA,
Oct. 30, 2003



On Thursday nights, David Hart dons a black trench coat, black shirt, pants and boots and heads for a club called The Soil, where heavily pierced patrons emulate Count Dracula and Morticia Addams.

The clothing is clerical garb for Hart, a fiftyish, Christian youth minister from San Diego. He's one of the few ministers who specialize in reaching out to the music-centered, underground youth subcultures.

In fashion and philosophy, goths style themselves after horror literature. Dabblers content themselves with Anne Rice. Devotees delve into Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe.

"These kids romanticize death. They romanticize the blade, the blood that trickles down. They write very, very sad introspective, self-absorbed poetry," Hart said.

Hart's Web site, "The Sanctuary," promotes itself as "a fellowship of Christian misfits -- a spiritual alternative for the disenfranchised ... We are here for anyone seeking sanctuary and looking for answers in a big, dark universe."

Hart began his work 15 years ago as a promoter for the Christian metal band Stryper. A former Navy drug counselor who was raised Presbyterian and graduated from the more Baptist-oriented Talbot Theological Seminary, Hart saw teens with profound emotional needs who wouldn't fit into any church youth group.

Hart started home groups for the goths, who dislike crowds. He urges them to give up drugs, promiscuity, cutting themselves and other self-destructive habits, but he urges their parents not to condemn the whole lifestyle.

Unlike some youth subcultures that believe in God but reject organized religion, goths often reject God but keep religious trappings, Hart said. Most religious goths are self-styled practitioners of Wicca, an ancient Celtic nature religion, he said, while others dabble in spiritualism, a religion that tries to communicate with the dead through seances. Few are Satanists, Hart said.

They can relate to the Jesus whose own friends failed to understand him, Hart said. He tells them that vampirism is a counterfeit of the life given them through the blood of Jesus, that his crucifixion was the piercing to end all piercing.
- Source: Goths: Morose outcasts in dire need of acceptance, Post-Gazette, USA, Apr. 27, 1999

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13 Responses to “Goth / Goths / Gothics”

  1. Xandra says:

    I am a Christian Goth and I would like to thank you for this site. I like Goth especially for the clothes, but also for the music and because my Goth friends are the most real people I know.

    My parents became very concerned when I got more into the Goth culture. So I looked for information that I could give them and I found this site via Google. The research information you list is great and helped convince my parents that I am normal(!) and that there is nothing to worry about.



  2. Ancara says:

    Well... my mother is a conservative Cathoic that does not understand monden culture. Born and raised with out a choice in the fact of going to mass every sunday, i fell into the "goth" persona. It works well for my life, with all the other "stuff" it comes with. I found this site fairly accurate with what I found out though other reasourses. My mother on the other hand does not believe that this information can be true. To bad for a closed mind eh?

  3. ValiantRa says:

    I am a Goth. I was not always a goth. I was a punk, a new wave fanatic and finally a goth the final culmination of my search for self.. I was a founding member of the western new york goth list that died as the scene evaporated in Buffalo, a long time Convergence attendee and a traveler to the Withby Gothic Weekend in the UK. I was raised Catholic but realize the errors of the Roman catholic religion. I beleive in a creator but not a religion.. I beleive that I can touch my creator without having to join or subscribe to any group. I long for friends that feel the same way...I hope that somewhere out there they exist. I wait there contact.

  4. Seth says:

    I am a Goth. I have been a goth for a long time and all this stuff to do with murders does not reflect on the foundations of people who are goth. I do not believe in religion because it bounds free thought and there is no proof. Liking black since I was 6 I somethines wonder if i was born goth (if it is possible). Thankyou for your articles on goth and gothic peoples.

    P.S.- Marilyn Manson was not the cause of Columbine as many people seem to think, and Manson may sing goth but he is not the only goth singer. He has no more effect to other people who claim to be gothic and commit suicide or murder.

  5. Greetings,

    My sobriquet is Dr. Raven and I'm a Goth writer and journalist profiling all aspects of the Goth community. I am also a Christian and fully and completley have accepted Jesus as Lord of my life. Its true the media and the Christian Subculture (not the Christian faith but our corporate Christian Culture) has a poorly defined view of what it means to be Goth and especially in our Christian Subculture we have redefined what it means to "Love your neighbor" when we only surround ourselves with people who have already been reached. I am thankful for what Apologetics Index does in educating the body and continuing to open doors to preach the Gospel. Remember brothers and sisters that your neighbor is everyone around you. Including the kid in a top hat and make up smoking cigarretes as well as the well dressed young well mannered individual. We are called to reach the world, not just the people WE want to see in heaven.

    Gods Peace.

    Dr. Raven

  6. nolan says:

    I would like to thank you for this website it not only lets non goths become familiar with the gothic culture but helps goths feel good aout them selfs. so thank you for helping to open the eyes of the commen steriotypeing public.

  7. [...] Some styles morph into others. The all-black “goth” look has evolved in some teenage circles into “emo” – short for emotional – that features contrasting black, white, red and pink stripes, heavy eyeliner and a devotion to the New Jersey-based band My Chemical Romance. [...]

  8. giovanna says:

    i have a lot of friends that are gothic i have allways had a fasination with them and vampires ever since i could remember i wouldnt class my self as looking gothic like most do but i wear heavy black eyeliner and black clothes i listen to alot of gothic(heavy metal bands)like system of a down, marylin manson, black sabbath, i think its all about finding an identity and relating to some one i know that even though i am descrimated by most people as a goth for being different i am able to love people i have emotions and deep feelings like everyone else and i have people who do accept me for me.

  9. Naty 92 says:

    hey i'd just like to say that even though i do not view my self as a goth i do like some of the music and appreciate the fashion and i do have a lot of friends that are gothic. my parents flipped when they thought about the idea of me going goth but then i showed my mom this website and she now understands that being gothic doesn't neccisatily mean that you have to be satanic or suicidal... so basicaly i just want to say, thanx for the website, it really is helping people open their eys and minds to new ideas ;-)

  10. Elena Cassell says:

    Hey. id just like to say that i really like this website. all that has been said is totally true. being goth doesnt mean that u r satanist or nethin. im christian...although most tend to stereotype me as being "evil" or "devil-worshipping". this especially happens at my school where the majority is black people, who listen to rap and r&b. many people look at me and my friends weirdly, just b/c of the way we dress or look. i dont always dress goth...its funny on days i dress like what people consider normal, i get compliments on what im wearing. people ask me why i dress in black & stuff when im so pretty i dont consider myself lookin any different, no matter how i dress. its just that im more comfortable in my black "gothic" clothes, as people call them. i really wish people will stop stereotyping goths...they really are just like every else. they can be some of the nicest, friendliest, coolest ppl.

  11. jess knight says:

    i would like to thank you for this website i am a christian goth and i love to write moody, mysterious, and violent poems. i think a lot of goths are misunderstood we dont really hate anyone just people who look at us like were crazy. were not all that different from anyone else we just like to be left alone and feared because it gives us a sense of pride. i think a lot of people turn goth because they were either hurt or something and they turn goth to get rid of that pain. i on the other hand did not get hurt nothing has happened to me, i have a relatively good life and yet i turned gothic one because i like the music two because i like the clothes three because when your apart of a group of gothic kids they all treat you like your family and my other friends that arent gothic have a lot more drama and they dont treat eachother with such tenderness they treat you like your just someone who is there to keep them occupied you know i had a friend who wasnt gothic and she had a lot of drama in her life she was constantly being picked on and she was constantly in a fight with someone. you know in my goth group if we have a problem we talk it out we dont go around school making rumors about someone, or say mean stuff behind someones back we just talk it out and if we cant solve the problem and were still mad at each other we usually get together privately and talk if we want to or compromise even if that means promising not to do it ever again, or we duke it out and once we get tired of beeting the crap out of eachother we either wont be friends anymore or well just say sorry and say that we finally got all of our anger out and then were ok. and yah i know your thinking how can you hit someone and be hit by them and still be friends its because we learn to forgive everyone for any and all mistakes i mean were only human we all make mistakes and we just build our lives around forgiveness, love, and companionship. thats why i think most goths are misunderstood just because we look creepy,weird, and violent sometimes doesnt mean we want to kill you were just finding a way to stand out and and be known of our love for eachother. thanx again for the website it helped me know that im not the only one whos life is like this

  12. Nic says:

    My daughter is Goth and kinda EMO I suppose. Is there such athing as a GOTHEMO?
    She is involved in the occult and used drugs and alcohol. She is currently in a rehab. She had been cutting herself, dressing very black and dark and ripping lots of her clothes. Her attitude of life starkly contrasted my Christian values.
    There is in my experience knowing her and all her friends nothing ok about this 'trend'. Becoming like the darkness and death, how can that ever be 'good'?

  13. Administrator says:

    PLEASE NOTE: Additional comments on the Goth / Goths / Gothics entry should be posted here.

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This post was last updated: Jul. 9, 2010