From my experiences on YouTube and through other YouTubers, there is a strange frequency of young teenagers (~12-15) asking for help into getting into the Goth culture. Specifically “Can you teach me how to dress?”, “Can you teach me how to do my make up?” and “Can you teach me how to be goth?” While most goth YouTubers cover these topics at one point or another, it always comes off as asking for personal one-on-one lessons on how to look the part. It’s usually ignored, or the reply is “No, goth isn’t something you can be ‘taught’.” And it isn’t.
The goth culture is generally an exploration of self, which can come off to the superficial eye as being very concerned about appearance. But it’s about more creating the best version of yourself and taking advantage of your resources, (i.e. books, music, youtube). I know how this sounds so let me try it another way. I think people like imagining goth as some exclusive club where if you meet this imaginary list of criteria you’ve earned the right to be there and speak on its behalf. With the list there’s a sense of accomplishment, being a baby bat equates to being an initiate and you’re working towards something, earning a place at the table. But there is no list, and people seem to hate being told there is no list. Not having a list means you can get lost, you can do something wrong and be called out on it. You lose that distinctive feeling of accomplishment because there is no checklist to tell you that you’ve done something right.
I used to take solid comfort in the idea of a list, but I’ve never been very good at following them (love making them though….). I saw myself following the list and then watched others follow different lists. I got fed up of the list pretty damn quick because it wasn’t concrete and it wasn’t making me happy. This is my biggest concern with young people getting into goth. You’re missing the point and your idea of goth is going to be shallow. So instead of just telling you what you can do, I’m going to tell you what I did. For those not looking for guidance, feel free to judge away.
1. Books>history of culture and fashion from books’ time periods>movies about vampires>music (squeeze LARPing desires in there somewhere)
I’m not an overtly social person. I didn’t have friends into the goth culture when I was growing up, which something a lot of goths went through. i made it up as I went with no label and just trusted that this idea of building my personality off things I found interesting would be a good idea. I enjoyed Anne Rice novels for the sexy vampires, of course, but I also enjoyed the questions of “If you could live forever what would you do?” “Would you kill someone else if it meant survival?”. There were the themes of depression, abandonment, coping with those feelings (and so much more). (Look anything 1995 and before was some quality stuff and that’s where I draw the line.) Goth music isn’t just appealing for its sound, it’s the emotion its performed with, the message it carries. it’s not about liking the right things. It’s about being able to appreciate it for what it is. (I can’t help it if I’m a seriously passionate little goth child. This is my home damn it.)
2. “The Look”
This is where my gothiness seems to be debatable for some people. I don’t do corsets, band t-shirts, platform boots, dreads, tribal rarely and barely, pvc, or traditional goth make up. I do not look the part outright. I can’t even explain what my taste in fashion is like. I borrow from everything. Here’s why not fitting this aspect, as much as I love clothes, doesn’t bother me. I could look the part in every single way, and still not be goth, if I don’t know anything about goth itself. Even if this comes off as elitist, it’s obvious when it’s just a look for people. A costume, a weekender, pretend. While we’re here and because I do bring this up often, I know Wonderland isn’t goth. It’s just equally as important to me as goth is and I see no reason to not blend the two.
3. Reading about Goth Culture
This is the only way you’re ever going to start your journey. I read every thing I could get my hands on, and was coming out of the coffin right about the time YouTube took off. I watched every video, looked into everything that was mentioned. This is the part I think is lost on people. You essentially never stop being a “baby bat”. You are born, you find out you can fly (you have an interest in the culture) and then you fly. You fly to new lands (find new aspects whether new to you or new to the culture), you make friends with other bats(goth being expressed differently from your interpretation) and you live your little batty life to the fullest. Even if you find yourself comfortable saying you’re well versed in the culture, do you stop paying attention to it? No!
In summary, goth is not some stagnant thing. It’s not a dark room with a secret door and if you know the password you get in. It’s a monster of manor with wings, and verandas and fainting couches. There is no password. You walk in, see if you want to stay awhile and try to show this amazing place some respect (being a jerk to other people staying here and starting shit in the hallways of the internet).
Does that help? Can we relinquish the death grip on the “list”? The asking for someone to be your goth tutor isn’t even a part of the culture. I fear no destruction of the baby bat experience, transition into full fledged goth by asking for it to be let go. Remind me to do a post on baby bat, because that’s sure to come up eventually.
Until next time,