Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Clarifying Clarifying Goths.

For an idea about what I'm talking about, go see Nina's entry.

I know it's probably gonna make me look really lame (since, you know, I'm not a Goth), but it had to be done. So this is what I sent to the Star's Youth section:

I am responding to Ex-Goth Wannabe's 'Clarifying Goths' letter, dated September 22nd, which in turn was a response to Candice Chai's 'Testing a Theory', dated September 15th. Please withhold my real name and address from publication.

I must respectfully state that Ex-Goth Wannabe's purported experience and research paints a very stereotypical picture of the goth movement, which is more an aesthetic and philosophical ideal rather than a subculture of its own. It has ideas, traditions, role models and musical influences, but nothing of the monolithic features that Ex-Goth Wannabe describes.

Firstly, a significant number of Goths are depressed and prone to melodrama, not because they are hated and despised, but simply because of the emotional and philosophical traditions that they espouse. These Goths may embrace nihilism as a philosophy, and attempt to exemplify ideals like death, darkness and film and fictional horror, but those characteristics are not something inherent in them; rather, it is a conscious choice. People, as you may already have guessed, often react badly to this.

There are Goths who break this stereotype, known as Perkygoths. Despite exemplifying the goth aesthetic, these Goths have a light-hearted demeanour. The works of Jhonan Vasquez and Neil Gaiman's character Death are examples of this.

Secondly, while the black fishnet stockings and dark clothing are staples of the goth movement, denoting the classical goth look, it isn't necessarily the only kind of outfit Goths may wear. Again, some subcultures, notably the Cybergoths, buck this trend by having brightly colored hair (think Alias) as well as extensive bodily modification. There are commonalities, like androgyny and impressive-looking footwear, but these are commonalities, not uniforms.

Thirdly, it is true that not all Goths practise magic. But then again, neither must they necessarily be spiritual; it depends on what a specific person believes. Some Goths, but not all, are members of a neo-pagan religion known as Wicca; while most people recognize proponents of this religion as 'witches', this, again, is not the case, as Wicca has its own rituals, spells and core beliefs way beyond the scope of this letter.

And finally, and most importantly, I've never heard anyone say that you have to be a Westerner to qualify to enter the goth movement. The goth movement, if anything, is world-wide: it is more than not a reaction towards modernity and globalization, reflecting our fears of a uniform, bland world. Ex-Goth Wannabe, however, makes it sound like being a Goth is something like the Malay's propensity to 'amuk' and 'melatah' -- mental conditions restricted to a specific culture or ethnicity. After all, just because you become a Goth doesn't mean you have to give up your friends. That, after all, is their choice.

Besides, I've never met a goth who cared about what other people thought -- as a matter of fact, many Goths prefer to elicit any reaction, even a negative one, from people around them, rather than disappear into the crowd.

Tariq Kamal

Translation: Ex-Goth Wannabe doesn't know what the hell he/she/it is talking about.

Here's hoping it gets published, but if it doesn't, I don't mind. I've had my say.