Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh my Goth!

by Derek Tatum of Mondo Vampire


Although the word “goth” has become increasingly visible, the mainstream media rarely applies it correctly. To the mainstream, the typical goth is a teenager or twentysomething in poorly-applied make-up, often with 50 bazillion facial piercings and an overt desire to “shock the normals.” These kids are not goths; if anything, they’ve missed the point entirely.

Unfortunately, I have seen similar misinformed goth stereotypes in the current wave of urban fantasy. Goth characters are often depicted as submissive vampire-bait at best and as laughable poseurs at worst. Speaking as someone who is associated with the goth scene, these portrayals irritate me. Goths may have their faults, but being stupid is rarely one of them. While I can accept these books as works of fantasy, my suspension of disbelief is shattered every time one of these lame stereotypes makes an appearance.

My advice to writers seeking to add a “goth element” to their work is to research the subculture. Writers often take pains to make sure that other elements in their work are correct, and the goth scene should be no different. If your city has a goth club night, contact the organizers and arrange an interview. Use online resources to gather information so that you do not rely on one person’s viewpoint. There are also several good books on the subject as well; Jillian Venters’ “Gothic Charm School” is a terrific, easily available book that I think would help outsiders get a “goths-eye-view” of things.

Sure, you can rely on the same bad stereotypes that are repeated ad nauseum in today’s climate - or you can be a little more accurate. The goth subculture has been around for three decades, and is full of interesting personalities and artistic possibilities. Who knows? With a sincere and well-informed depiction of the goth scene, you may be opening yourself up to an all-new fanbase.

10 comments:

Indigo said...

Great advice. I've seen so many writer's that follow the popular mainstream thinking other than doint the research. It's not just the goth culture, it's explaining any kind of personality they don't themselves understand. If you want to portray a character correctly, quite frankly you have to get in the mind of said character. Well said! (Hugs)Indigo

Elie said...

Interesting post. For someone like me that does not have much knowledge of the Goth Culture, I would just take what I read in a book as truth. I am sorry to hear that they are often misrepresented.

Sweet Vernal Zephyr said...

Ditto Darlink... and thank you.

Jo B said...

True enough. I'm living in Whitby, Yorkshire at the moment, where Dracula was written, and there are two Goth weekends a year. People of all ages, great apparel, wonderful atmosphere.

I put some pics of the Halloween one up here.
http://photosjo.shutterfly.com/72

Jo

Nicole_Hadaway said...

Can you tell me when 'gothic' started morphing into 'goth'? Sometime in the late 90's perhaps? I just remember that The Sisters of Mercy referred to themselves as gothic, and I think their lead singer still gets a bit tetchy if people refer to them as 'goth'.

Great post today, Derek! Always like your take on things.

Derek Tatum said...

A short history of goth was something that I cut from the piece. Goth actually began at the tail end of the 1970's. It was a split-off from punk that favored introspection, but dressed up in classic horror films and decadent romanticism. Many of the original bands that are considered to be "goth" refuse to be labelled as such; it's easier to say that certain the music of certain bands have been "embraced by" the goth scene.

Great pics, Michele!

Abigail [All Things Urban Fantasy] said...

Just wanted to let you know I gave you award on my blog

http://allthingsurbanfantasy.blogspot.com/2009/11/you-like-me-you-really-really-like-me.html

Gothic Charm School said...

Thank you so much for the kind mention of my book!

I read a lot of urban fantasy, and suffer from the same flickers of irritation as you when it comes to "goth" characters in books. (And yes, my use of "scare quotes" was very deliberate.)

Derek Tatum said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone. And I am glad you liked the mention, O Lady of the Manners... your book is a great resource to point people towards.

Shauna said...

What a great post and subject! I'm relieved to hear your point of view on this. I actually have a character in something I'm working on right now and he isn't "goth" but something more, better, different...and that was the only word coming to mind. I'm very excited to hear this and build a better character in my story. I'm a new writer, unpublished, and hesitant to say "book I'm working on", but this is extremely encouraging! Thank you so much for your post!