Goth is Good

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Boing Boing links to the findings from a recent study showing that the most psychologically vulnerable teens may benefit from mascara, ankhs, and Victorian chic. As it turns out—though the sample here is too small to be really conclusive—the stereotype of the goth teen as more likely to self-harm (by cutting or other methods) pans out, but usually the self-inflicted harm starts before they join the subculture, which the researchers suggested may provide the kids with "valuable social and emotional support from their peers." Again, the jury's still out, but findings like this do pull the rug out from some conservative cultural alarmism, the ideal type of which is this unintentionally hilarious Michelle Malkin column (best line: emo music is "a new genre of music…associated with promoting the cutting culture") blaming self-harm on… Christina Ricci.

Addendum: Chris Lehmann wrote about boomer fear of Kinderkultur here.

Vero de Rugy reported on earmarks to fight goth culture in Missouri here.

Jacob Sullum cavorts with the goth girls of the Web's premier alternaporn site here.

NEXT: Gotta Catch 'Em All!

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  1. It’s almost as if they wear black on the outside because black is how they feel on the inside.

    But I’m still fond of you. Wa-ho-ho.

  2. doesn’t this study just prove what we all knew? Wearing “goth” clothes is a giant red flag saying – I’m fucked up, somebody please pay attention to me?

  3. The goth subculture is evil and satanic and is ruining our children. Won’t someone please think about the children?

    Seriously, when I went to school the goth scene was just coming into being but we had the metalheads and “those creepy pagans”. As a member of both outcast groups it was more of a “these people accept me for who I am even though I am fucked up” mentality. The clothes and attitude were more to scare away and intimidate the ‘normal’ folk than to fit in with the outcast groups.

  4. There are always going to be 14 year olds who don’t feel like they fit in or don’t want to fit in and want to shock their parents. Most of them grow out of it and the ones who don’t would have turned out messed up anyway.

  5. Ms Ricci has made me do things to myself, but “harm” is not one of them. (Sorry, but I just had to.)

    I was kind of goth when I was in HS…but I really liked the music as much as anything. And I’ve always been into vampires and macabre. But I felt many of the goth kids I knew were fucked up, and I didn’t get it because I’m fairly well adjusted.

  6. If you check out Michelle’s column, you will see an ad for Ann Coulter’s new book “Godless–The Church of Liberalism,” going on sale (I shit you not) 06/06/06. What the fuck is up with that?

  7. Screwed up kids act weird to get attention, film at 11.

  8. Screwed up kids act weird to get attention, film at 11.

  9. Hmmm…teens engeaged in self-destructive behavior…film at 11.
    Of all the dangerous things kids do (skateboarding, fireworks, football, dating), cutting should not even be in the top 5. If anything, this strikes me as being a teen version of gambling…an artifical form of drama and danger for people who lead remarkably safe lives by the standards of human history.

  10. Hmmm…teens engeaged in self-destructive behavior…film at 11.
    Of all the dangerous things kids do (skateboarding, fireworks, football, dating), cutting should not even be in the top 5. If anything, this strikes me as being a teen version of gambling…an artifical form of drama and danger for people who lead remarkably safe lives by the standards of human history.

  11. Isn’t writing “unintentionally hilarious Michelle Malkin column” just being redundant?

  12. Don’t any of you oldsters remember the early 80’s, when goth was IN STYLE? Granted, this was before the scene -was- a scene, and before the music was invaded and ruined by heavy metal… but the kohl-eyed, androgynous, slightly dandy-ish listeners to The Cure, Joy Division, and Bauhaus were actually somewhat cool, if not mainstream.

    Granted, they only have a passing resemblance to the baggy-pants wearing, long unwashed-hair Insane Clown Posse “goths” of today. No wonder Andrew Eldritch hates them!

  13. Steven – yes, that’s the kind of goth I was.

  14. Steven Crane – “ruined by heavy metal”? Wash your mouth out with soap. But I agree that there’s good goth and bad goth. A classy, restrained goth look is cool; the nu-metal/goth look is not. (I work across the street from the Fuse TV studios. I see a lot of these kids.)

    Eryk Boston – I dunno; I agree that cutting is not the most dangerous thing you could be doing, but it still seems pretty messed up to me. Explosives are just good clean fun; cutting yourself is weird.

  15. I wish my grass was goth so it would cut itself

  16. Steven,

    I don’t think it is possible to put insane clown posse and goths together. I’m surprised that sentence in your comment did not spontaneously combust just from the two terms being so close together. I had a fire extinguisher ready when I wrote my comment….

  17. SC, I remember those days. Used to frequent the City Club in Detroit in the mid-80’s. Those guys were some messed up freaks, but it is much cooler to be a semi-homeless 25 year old heroin addict looking like David Bowie at a wake than some snotty little teenage brat trying to annoy mommy and daddy with his black fingernail polish and nose ring. Being genuine is of prime importance, no matter what your undertaking.

  18. I was on the periphery of the goth clique in the late 80’s, i.e. I liked the music, many of my friends were goth etc. They were all pretty normal otherwise.

    emo music is “a new genre of music…associated with promoting the cutting culture”

    Yeah… I like to cut myself to Sunny Day Real Estate.

  19. Whether or not Malkin’s column is “unintentionally hilarious,” Malkin’s quotation from a “concerned parent” certainly is:

    “I just found out this week that my 14-year-old daughter is a ‘cutter.’ . . . She is popular, has two homes (mine and her dad’s) with supportive, loving families in each.”

    Gosh, she doesn’t just have *one* family, she has *two*! She isn’t oppressed by having her mother and father live together in the same household — how boring! — she gets to shuttle back and forth between the separate households of Mom and Dad!

    So how could she possibly be unhappy? It doesn’t make sense!

  20. I wish my grass was goth so it would cut itself

    Thank you, Kip.

  21. Why didn’t you include a link to the Reason story on grassroots driven pop culture movements, Julian? It had some stuff on goths, IIRC. (You know, the same one that discussed the “stylniks” of the USSR.) There’s also a “Daily Brickbat” item on using Homeland Security funds to fight the scourge of gothiness in Missouri or some such non-goth-oriented place, as I recall.

  22. …blaming self-harm on… Christina Ricci.

    If by “self-harm” he meant “more daily masturbation than is strictly necessary,” he might have had a point.

  23. I should point out that my post above was made before the addendum.

  24. Christina Ricca’s “performance” in Prozac Nation is must see.

  25. I wish my grass was goth so it would cut itself

    Ha ha! Kip wins best comment of the thread.

  26. Bella Lugosi may be dead, but goth chicks are still teh hot.

    Kip, I am hereby stealing that line.

  27. I don’t think it is possible to put insane clown posse and goths together. I’m surprised that sentence in your comment did not spontaneously combust just from the two terms being so close together. I had a fire extinguisher ready when I wrote my comment….

    Oh, yes it is. While “goth” was once a recognizable aesthetic (and still is for people slightly older than me) that drew upon Victorian, fetish, and subtly punk-rock influences, today’s Hot Topic insta-goths have all but ditched the New Romantic aesthetic in favor of the oversized black t-shirt, baggy pants with fake bondage straps, and dyed black hair (with at least one inch of roots showing) parted down the middle. Bah, I say!
    Bring back the sexy androgynes and danceable, slightly poppy synthesizer music!

  28. Speaking of goth music, anyone familiar with She Wants Revenge?

  29. Oh, yes it is. While “goth” was once a recognizable aesthetic (and still is for people slightly older than me) that drew upon Victorian, fetish, and subtly punk-rock influences, today’s Hot Topic insta-goths have all but ditched the New Romantic aesthetic in favor of the oversized black t-shirt, baggy pants with fake bondage straps

    Yeah, I pretty much stopped being goth once Hot Topic opened. There’s something inherently not right about the phrase “that goth store at the mall.”

    I still love the music, though. “A Girl Called Harmony” is a great song. And Lycia did marvelous stuff until that chubby Yoko Ono babe joined up.

  30. just another – yes, I’ve heard a song from them on the radio, and I do like it.

  31. I think the Japanese Lolita-goth girls are pretty cute. I don’t remember anyone putting that much effort into it back in the day.

    She Wants Revenge – When I heard that band I thought “The eighties really are back when they begin aping Fadgadget”.

  32. I love the line from the Malkin column – “70 percent of the kids here cut or know someone who does.”

    So, how many actual cutters do you think it takes to support that figure (assuming it’s even accurate)? Two? Three? How about one very obvious cutter?

    I wonder if they’re all meth addicts too (or know someone who is)…

  33. On reading the Malkin link one wonders if Ricci’s real problem may be neoblog or Weekly Stardard addiction, for she croons of how:
    ” You get this endorphin rush. You can actually faint…: “It’s like having a drink. But it’s quicker. You know how your brain shuts down from pain?”

  34. Self-injury for aesthetic reasons is so common in world culture it would be strange NOT to engage in it..(do you have pierced ears, Michelle Malkin??).

    And 70% of teenagers bomb other countries or know someone who does.

  35. I wish my grass was goth so it would cut itself

    Comment by: Kip at April 14, 2006 04:40 PM

    My god. That was Buddy Lee good!

  36. I suppose if self-righteous twats like Malkin and Dr. Laura ever gave up bashing Hollywood and blaming it for poor uses of free will made waayy out in the heartland, they’d have axed 90% of their own schtick, right there. Over what else could they possibly shriek and squawk?

    Hollywood is Hollywood precisely because their rarified denizens live totally differently from the rest of us, under totally different sets of motivations than do we. Christina Ricci, Courtney Love, Angelina Jolie, etc., are not only not likely to get fired from their jobs for unorthodox endorsements and shock-talk, it boosts their careers and extends their celebrity shelf lives. It makes perfect sense that bizarre statements from Hollywood hotties aren’t merely acceptable, but required for career advancement. People do what they need to do to pay the rent. That this phenomenon continues to baffle Malkin, Coulter, Dr. Laura, et al suggests to me that maybe they’re sharing a single, somewhat shriveled brain between the three of them.

    Gut feeling on this is any real pathology behind cutting occurs much too rarely for 70% of kids to have it. Except for a handful of them, they’re doing it because it’s an Internet-driven fad, and a proven means of getting attention from friends, family, and school authorities alike. Why else would they readily admit it? If you’re really sick, you’re not going running to Dear Abby or Mommy or Daddy and blubbering that you cut yourself. The little punk-ass b*tches are doing this to show how very little they care, or need to care, about anyone but themselves.

    AFAIC, teens who die by cutting deserve Darwin Award trophies and little else. Heartfelt thanks for removing your dumb asses from the gene pool. Next…

  37. my detached apathy towards this post only deepens my obsidian torment.

  38. Chicago Tom posted this link on another thread, but it works here, too.

    Don’t know if you would call them Goth, though.

  39. I just saw a commercial for the Sentinel. They had that anorexic gal from Desperate Housewives and Kim Bassinger. Forget that twiggy, unnatural housewife, I would bang Kim Bassinger till she was sore and weary. If anyone wanted to know how the market is NOT rational and CAN be manipulated, one should note the fame of that twiggy lass.

  40. Slice ’em thin to win is my motto.

  41. The only dangerous cutting I see associated with emo is the craptastic haircuts…

  42. What, no link to Emo Phillips?

  43. Somehow, this is all marijuana’s fault.

  44. What, no link to Emo Phillips?

    Good idea! I haven’t been there in ages!

    http://www.emophilips.com/home

    Some new jokes:

    “What does it profiteth a man, if he shall gain the whole world … but think it only 6,000 years old?”

    “So there I was in Jerusalem, at the Wailing Wall … standing there like a moron with my harpoon.”

  45. It’s “Jugendkultur”, not “Kinderkultur”…Jugend are youth, and Kinder are children. Most goths are firmly in the former (camp!) camp.

    Bnerd (eats, shoots and leaves!)

  46. I cut myself last night while I was shaving my legs. Does this mean I can reclaim my youthful goth credentials?

  47. “I cut myself last night while I was shaving my legs. Does this mean I can reclaim my youthful goth credentials?”

    That depends: was it a straight razor, and did you hold it over an open flame first?

  48. It was straight in the sense that it wasn’t curved or anything, and while there were no open flames I do shower with very, very hot water.

  49. my detached apathy towards this post only deepens my obsidian torment.

    We just got goth-served.

    Don’t know if you would call them Goth, though.

    More like “batshit insane”.

  50. She Wants Revenge – When I heard that band I thought “The eighties really are back when they begin aping Fadgadget”.

    Just checking them out now – wow they ARE obsessed with Joy Division. Not bad.

  51. “I cut myself last night while I was shaving my legs. Does this mean I can reclaim my youthful goth credentials?”

    No, but cutting your significant other while shaving his legs would.

  52. Gee whiz. This goth culture stuff is almost as bad as when I was a teenager and the vulnerable, outcast, counterculture, self-destructive kids were all wearing flattop haircuts, obscenely tight bluejeans, and white T-shirts with a pack of cigarettes rolled in the sleeve.

  53. Addendum: Chris Lehmann wrote about boomer fear of Kinderkultur here.

    Perhaps. There was a “blip” in naughty teen behavior from about 1990 to 96, and levels since 96 are about the same as the levels before ’90, and higher than during most earlier periods. (before ’75 or so, though reporting is inconsistent).

    Homicide is a good indicator because its statistics are hard to fudge*:
    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/teens.htm

    *Here’s how to make crimes rates go up and down, as desired:
    http://www.stopviolence.com/cj-knowledge.htm

  54. She wants revenge isn’t goth. It’s indie pop and should be lumped in with The Killers and franz ferdinand. What DO the goth kids listen to? i would have assumed some kind of hardcore metal.I think they separate themselves from the emo croud who listen to emotive, screaming, wining, pre-pubescent psuedo-punk.

  55. Personally, I’m still boggling that all the kids are calling Fallout Boy “emo”.

    Why Can’t Johnny Identify Music?

  56. It was straight in the sense that it wasn’t curved or anything, and while there were no open flames I do shower with very, very hot water.

    Once again, we find Jennifer in the shower.

    Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!

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