Children (and Parents) of the Night

This Guardian article about grown-up Goths has been making the rounds:

What happens when a teenage goth grows up? Gets a job, takes on a mortgage, has a couple of kids…? Can you combine elaborate Frankenstein make-up and a lace-up bustier with getting a toddler ready for nursery and yourself to work on time?

Dr Paul Hodkinson, deputy head of Surrey University’s sociology department and an expert in youth music subcultures, has been re-interviewing a group of goths he first studied in the late 1990s to find out. “They were teenagers and in their early 20s then, and I thought it would be interesting to go back because a number of people do stay involved in the goth scene,” he explains.

Though many people who belong to youth subcultures such as punk and rave tend to drift away in their 20s, Hodkinson says it’s more likely that older goths will want to remain involved in the scene, even though it may become harder to combine with the responsibilities that come with age.

To outsiders, it’s the visual markers of being a goth – long, dyed-black hair, black clothes, pale faces contrasted with dark, dramatic eye make-up –that stand out. Taken on their own, these characteristics might be reasonably easy to cast off. However, Hodkinson says that although the aesthetic and clothing are important, the primary tenets of involvement in this subculture mean being “thoroughly passionate about goth music and style, and some goths would tell you they have an interest in the dark side of life, and a natural tendency towards a degree of angst”.

This means a level of commitment to the goth scene, and friendship groups and identity that develop around being a goth, which result in social lives that “are so intertwined that it would feel very odd to leave it,” he says.

Continuing with education and getting a decent job while staying involved isn’t as hard for goths as it may be for those involved in other youth subcultures, some of which promote disengagement with school to the point that academic failure is all but inevitable.

“It’s a relatively middle-class subculture, so despite … all the going out and being into the music, goths have always had a fairly positive view of people who are also achieving academically.”

What’s most fascinating about the article is something that goes unmentioned. Namely, the contrasting attitude about Goths. Back in the day, we were portrayed as morbid delinquents obsessed with death, if not out-right Satanists. We were blamed for the Columbine Shooting and mocked for being friendless losers who write bad poetry.

Now, we’re the bastion of Middle Class values, hard workers, flexible and friendly, easily adaptable (hey, we recently discovered the color brown!) and, unlike other subcultures from the 80s and 90s, we stuck around and had kids. Some of us, anyway.

The reason for this is mentioned in the article: Goth’s value culture. Specifically those outdated fashions like literacy, appreciation for the arts and the craftsmanship of things that were built to last beyond the owner’s lifetime, let alone just for a season. The punks wanted to destroy the culture that was hindering them and the Preppies eventually got their fondest wish, and were absorbed into the collective, but the Goths remain because we adapt, borrow and create anew. It may be the motto of the Addams Family, but it serves just as well as a Goth raison d’etre:

Sic gorgiamus allos subiectatos nunc

“We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.”