Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The internet vs. reality: Goth Elitism Edition

To be honest, I hesitate to discuss this topic because it's like shouting into the void at this point. However, Angela Benedict recently posted a video about being a 90s teen goth and the fear of being labeled a poseur. Since we are nearly the same age, I generally tend to agree with her recollections, and it got me thinking about how much things have changed since then. The fear of being considered a fake was a possible embarrassment that kept people from doing and saying stupid things.
It's too bad that some these standards never got passed down into the online community. Perhaps if they had, the Goth Elitism Monster would end it's reign of terror on the internet forevermore.
One of the most basic things I remember about being a baby bat in the mid-90s was to either know what you were talking about or ask first. You didn't want to try to bullshit your way into the local scene. It was too easy to destroy your reputation, especially if others were still getting to know you and witnessing your first baby steps into gothdom.
If someone was all image but no substance, they got called out. Yes, it was embarrassing to have your pronunciation of Cocteau Twins corrected in public. And yes, we got grilled when the more established goths saw us wearing a Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt for the first time. It was an awkward rite of passage, but we managed to survive and thrive.

It was important for us baby bats to understand it wasn't just a look. Having knowledge about music and goth lifestyle components meant you were able to explain what being goth meant. Think of it as self-defense from a world who was eagerly waiting to proclaim us as Satan worshippers and pop us full of Prozac.
For better or worse, we didn't have safe spaces and nobody knew what a micro-aggression was. You either learned to fight back or run away. We weren't as sheltered, we had to develop a thick skin. If we couldn't physically fight back, we learned to use or wit and sharp tongue to cut down strangers who made snotty remarks. Some might say we were closer to our punk rock roots in that regard *shrugs*
Those who came up after us didn't have to be on the defense after The Craft came out or when Columbine incited goth paranoia in every town across the country. A week or two after the massacre, my friends and I went to see a movie. The manager ultimately denied us entry because the boys had long trench coats and refused to take them off as a "safety precaution".
Those of us who happened to be Wiccan and goth? Wearing a pentacle at that time was like an invitation to be harassed by any person who happened to notice it. I'm talking random outbursts from strangers in public on a semi-regular basis. One that always stuck out in my mind is when my friend Shane held the door open for a lady coming out of McDonalds. She noticed his pentacle and makeup then screamed something along the lines of "Stay away from me, you demon spawn!!" After dropping her bag in horror, she then proceed to run across the parking lot. Ahhh, the good old days when it was easy to shock people ;)
I think the next generation had a vastly different experience. Schools began to enforce anti-bullying policies and having neon green hair was no longer a barrier to getting your first minimum wage job.
Not saying that these differences are good or bad, just that they exist and probably affect the way each generation perceives the world.

The younger goths who interact mostly on social media do not seem to understand where us older bats are coming from. For many of them, the most important thing is the image they present. Why bother writing a poem and sharing it, when you can just take a selfie and get way more likes and subscribers? Why bother reading gothic literature when you can just buy some Killstar and make an unboxing video? Add the possibility of internet fame, free products and money, and being goth becomes nothing more than a walking commercial.
That being said, I do sympathize.
They have most likely been raised on the internet and interacting face to face may seem harsh compared to the ease of simply blocking and deleting comments when someone disagrees with you. When you have such a large fan base who constantly tells you how wonderful you are, it may be hard to accept constructive criticism or engage in healthy debate.
My intention isn't to place blame. This is just speculation about some of the generational differences that perhaps explain why we are experiencing this divide in the goth community. Our technology is addictive, and now we are starting to experience some negative side effects we weren't prepared for.

After watching yet another goth elitism video, I decided to ask the content creator what definition they were using for elitism because she never addressed it.
Instead of an answer, several people (including the young lady) accused me of being a bully, being negative, gatekeeping, etc. Simply for asking for clarity.
It certainly wasn't an attack on her intelligence, and it baffles me that asking someone to define their terms is now considering bullying.
In professional and academic situations, you must be prepared to defend your argument and expand on your ideas if necessary.
If you use a word that someone doesn't understand in a casual conversation, they might ask you to explain it.
This isn't bullying, and it certainly isn't elitism
From my understanding, elitism is often tied to power and the ability to grant or deny social status or resources to the people who are considered the lower class. In my experience, this simply isn't an issue that the community at large needs to worry about.
I've lived in several major U.S cities and have been going to goth and alternative clubs for about 20 years.
I'm an awkward introvert who doesn't always make the best impression.
I'm sure many people might have cringed at some of my makeup for club outfits during my baby bat years. I'm sure my fashion choices and makeup skills are still negatively judged by some.
There have always been occasional bullies and snobby goths, but no one has ever tried to stop me from being a part of a local scene if I made attempts to get involved.
Until someone proves otherwise, I'm convinced the Goth Elitism Monster is pretty much a creation of the internet.

The hilariously frustrating thing about these videos is that they are mostly made by people who are "famous" internet goths; many of whom make money from endorsing products and YouTube ad dollars.
Rant videos get views, and it makes me wonder if these famous YouTubers rush into posting content while a particular topic is circulating the community so it will be featured in the sidebar as someone is watching other videos about the subject. When 95% of a channel's content is endless shoe hauls, reviews of subscription box services and expensive makeup, I lose interest rapidly. To me, it proves they are out of touch with what most of us consider important as goths. I don't take their opinion on goth elitism seriously and it's hard for me to imagine that they actually give two bat shits about the future of our subculture.
I'm not accusing these people of being all filler and no substance. Surely, many of them are intelligent, creative beings. Just remember that their goth identity is a business. Some even flat out refuse to address certain issues; most likely because they know that taking a stance will cost them followers.
Just consider the source and their possible motivations before allowing their opinion to negatively impact your experience as a goth.  

Having been involved in many pagan community events, I feel like I've encountered this monster before.
No worries, kiddos. The monster isn't very scary and can be defeated quite easily.
Could this monster perhaps be the younger sibling of the "GOTCHA!" pagan? These people are notorious for interrupting conversations with the sole purpose of proving that they are smarter or more magical than everyone else. They corner the person who happens to be alone at pagan pride for the first time, then launch into questions the poor soul can't possibly answer.
This is the person who can't wait to hear some newbie pronounce Samhain incorrectly.
Unprompted, they easily launch into a 20 minute lecture about how Maraget Murray's witch cult theory has been debunked and how there is no solid evidence of a lineaged Wiccan tradition before Gerald Gardner.
It's the so-called "hereditary witch" who does "real magijycks" passed down from their ancestors who lived in Salem. What they forget to mention is that her ancient family grimore can easily be found at the local Barnes and Noble for only $19.99.
What I'm getting at here is that the "GOTCHA!" pagans are basically vampires who feed off newbies and other innocents to feel good about their own shortcomings. Roll your eyes, walk away, and join the drum circle. Never fear. They've most likely made a reputation for themselves and you will find many people in your local scene that are more than happy to help you evade the beast if you need assistance.
"GOTCHA!" goths are often self-proclaimed experts in some field, and eagerly await to show you just show much they know. Or, more accurately, demonstrate just how much you don't know. Never mind that you didn't asked to be schooled on Nietzsche when you innocently stepped outside for a quick cigarette. It's the type of person who still thinks we are living in the 90s and asks every new clubgoer if they like Marilyn Manson because he's "definitely NOT goth". Then, they proceed to unleash the hounds regarding every other so-called poseur goth band, just waiting for you to slip up and admit you like Black Veil Brides. And now you are stuck at the bar listening to this idiot because you aren't about to give up your spot in line after waiting nearly 15 minutes for a drink. Yup, the "GOTCHA!" lurks in the shadows and strikes when you least expect it. 

Judging you, internet. From the safety of my bathroom. Haughty myspace photo, 2008?
One more time for the cheap seats: if you wear the band t-shirt, you are eventually going to get quizzed. That guy has always existed, and he's never going away. I know. It's annoying as shit, but it's not elitism. My guess is that goths who mainly exist online and have the power to block/delete have been somewhat sheltered from dealing with these types in real life. So when said internet goth finally goes out to a club and encounters the "GOTCHA!" type, they mistake it for elitism and maybe do not have the required interpersonal skills to  remove themselves or diffuse the situation. The overwhelming majority of us bats do not behave this badly. An occasional "GOTCHA!"goth encounter indicates a personality flaw in that individual, not a systemic issue in the goth subculture. It's time to put the Goth Elitism myth to rest.


  1. Lucky for me, I have yet to encounter a "GOTCHA!" goth in real life. That type of person sounds like a nightmare to deal with.

  2. Thank you so much for posting this; it was very illuminating! I've never considered myself Goth because I don't listen to the music, memorize the books, or go to the clubs; now I usually say I have "gothic leanings" since my clothes, love of horror, and fascination with the macabre throw people off. :)

    I've also not encountered the GOTCHA Goth but have in the Pagan community quite a bit. It's a mindset that just makes me shake my head and walk the other way.

    1. My friend Julia straight up refuses to go to PPD because she always ends up getting cornered by one, poor thing LOL

  3. I loved this post.I became a goth around 13 ish but didn't start understand till I met other proper goth s who introduced me to the bands. The internet was common, however there was mainly msn messenger. You could still find out things eaisly. But social media wasn't as perverlant as it was. When first joined the scence I waa classified as a poser intern Im still years later. I feel this morden generation have been far to muddle collied with this happy everybody welcome any you can be this without like abc is bull shit. I think people miss understand the concept of debating, sharing, discussion, ideas and get confused with being personally
    attacked. With these topics these gotcha people this where I would tell them where to stick it.

    Again , I loved this piece felt it so many valid points. Maybe we need goth police to inform educate and sort the gottcha pricks

    1. Yes, people have definitely lost the ability to disagree and debate :(

  4. This gotcha-type person exists everywhere; wherever you decide to settle in your passion, they're right there waiting to pounce on your joy.
    I haven't encountered this type of person in terms of my music or fashion choices, and that's due to the fact I don't engage in clubs or goth gatherings.
    I have, however, met enough in the nerd and gaming culture to make up for it.

    1. Oh yeah, I can imagine that in the gaming social circles this happens to women often :(

  5. Lol the gotcha goth is always a man in my experience. Another version of the mansplainer. I wonder about who I'd be if I had Instagram in my teens. Scary stuff. I'm glad I didn't have assholes writing mean comments on my photos then (or now, knock knock). It's also such a time waster...I hope these kids are studying too and not just spending all day posing.

    1. LOL yup, mansplaining pretty much sums it up. You are right, it's typically a man. The women who happen to be snobby don't bother to talk to you. Instead they look you up and down, decide your makeup/outfit/hair "isn't goth enough" and then proceed to shoot daggers out of their eyes aimed in your direction LOL

  6. Excellent post! This sentence is especially meaningful to me: "Just consider the source and their possible motivations before allowing their opinion to negatively impact your experience as a goth." I became a happier person when I learned to consider the source and weigh the comments accordingly.

    1. Thanks for the feedback :) It's not easy to address these issues because you never know how people are going to react. I want to always be compassionate without having to completely censor myself.

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