Mods, punks, soulboys, metallers, goths, hippies: there was a time when young people made it clear what tribe and music they were into by the way they dressed. Not any more, writes Alexis Petridis. Read more
The problem with some young goths and the unintentional erasure of the goth subculture
I’ve complained enough about elitists over the years and to be perfectly honest, elitists arent the only problematic members of the goth subculture. If you were to put goth on a scale it would be be broken up into three major groups.
On one end you would find the elitist group. A group of goths who believe that there is absolutely only one way of being goth and in order to be it you must abide by their strict rules. These are the people who prefer to bully other goths than keep their opinions to themselves. This group is usually on the smaller side because most goths dont like engaging with them because of the drama that they bring. But i’ve already discussed this group many times before.
In the middle of the scale we have a very balanced group of goths. This is also the largest group. This group encompasses thousands of goths around the world of different styles and ages. These goths believe that goth is a subculture and is something that should be respected. These goths are also very aware of where and when goth started and how. This group respects the music and though not everyone in this group listens to goth music, they are still very aware of its importance to the goth subculture. This is the best place to sit on the scale. These goths often feel that goth should not dictate who they are as a person but at the same time these goths feel that the history and the music should be respected.
Now we get to the last group that unfortunately has been growing in numbers over the past few years. This is the group that poses a threat to the preservation of goth as a subculture.
First, i’m going to start with a definition for the word “subculture”
A cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture
This means that a subculture is a smaller culture within a larger one and that there are specific values, beliefs and interests that divide this culture from the larger. So in order to be a part of a subculture you must have these same beliefs, interests, and values. Of course there is a ton of wiggle room when it comes to the goth subculture. Goth does not restrict you to these interests and values, but instead allows you to include your own. You can be goth and have non goth interests. You can be goth and listen to non goth music. Also the values that are often considered more mandatory are simply based on respect. Many will say that you dont have to limit yourself to listening to only goth music but, it is important to respect the music because the subculture, fashion, etc. wouldnt exist without it.
This is where problems arise. In the modern goth subculture, we are seeing more and more goths throwing these values out the window and ditching all respect for the subculture. These people are treating goth as more of a fashion statement than a culture. Goth was never meant to be a superficial concept lacking any depth or substance. Like punk, goth was a strange and amazing phenomenon that occurred at just the right moment in time. Goth was this thing that connected people through a love of dark music and a taste for the darker, stranger side of life. The fashion sort of came after and was mostly influenced by the artists producing these dark genres of music. So no matter how you look at it, goth music is really what kick started the whole thing
But many of these young, new goths dont care about that. They believe that goth is anything they say it is. When this is just not true. You cant walk up to a member of the Rastafarian subculture and tell him that his values and beliefs dont need to be respected and that Rastafarian culture is completely subjective. Thats just not how subcultures work. Subcultures are not subjective. Goth as a subculture is not subjective. You can be a goth have your own views on the world. You can have your own interests and beliefs but goth is still a subculture and certain values NEED to be respected. If we dont respect these certain values than we risk losing our subculture.
By ignoring the history and beliefs of a subculture you are leading to its erasure. And if you know anything about today’s social issues, this should sound very familiar. We live in a time where all cultures, not just subcultures, run the risk of being erased due to racism, appropriation, the domination of mainstream cultures as well as other factors. So its important that we keep some of these values and continue to respect the history of goth as a subculture.
Unfortunately this is becoming harder and harder to do, with the rise in popularity of blogging and social media as an outlet for expressing one’s personal views and opinions. Many goth blogs on tumblr are getting popular for very superficial reasons such as fashion and aesthetic purposes. Its very easy for a blog that only posts goth fashion to become popular and though this isnt negative on its own when the person behind the blog starts divulging their opinions about the subculture, they already have a large follower base to listen to them.
So if this blogger who only cares about goth fashion, who doesnt respect the subculture starts pontificating on topics they know nothing about or respect, this will subsequently lead to a large number of less educated people to believe in misinformation about the subculture. If a popular blogger starts saying things like, “you dont need to respect or like goth music to be goth,” or, “you dont need to know anything about the history of goth to be goth” their followers will start to believe this, when its just not true.
If this keeps up like it is, eventually we are going to see a lot of young goths who dont care about the subculture. Who only want to be goth because “it looks cool” or “it scares my parents.” Goth will eventually become nothing more than a trend. Something a kid does for attention. This will also divide goths even more. You will start seeing a lot of older goths stop wanting anything to do with the younger generations and their lack of respect for the culture.
Yes goth should be something a person can have fun with but there is more that divides goths from the mainstream than just our look and many of us would like to keep it that way. Goth used to be about music, literature, art, philosophy and more. Goths were mature, refined and intelligent people who liked discussing topics such as philosophy and psychology. We were a cultured breed who enjoyed history and arts. Goth is not a gimmick. Its not a trend. Its a way of life and its a culture. And many of us are tired of seeing younger people try and ruin that.
And another thing. This is something that is not said enough and its so damn important. You do not need to be goth to like goth things. You dont have to restrict yourself to a label. Its okay to like goth things and not consider yourself goth, in fact i encourage it. If goth really is right for you, you will want to know everything about it naturally. You will feel a passion for learning about its music and history and above all, you will respect it. If not, maybe goth just isnt for you and thats okay. Even if you dont fit the label, you can still follow goth blogs and have goth friends and go to goth events but if you really want to preserve goth, you need to respect it as more than just an image. You need to respect it as a subculture that is rich with history, art and very importantly, music.
‘B-stylers’ Are Japanese Teens Who Want to Be Black
Dutch photographer Desiré van den Berg has spent the past seven months traveling around Asia. She lives in Hong Kong at the moment but when she was in Tokyo, back in December 2013, she met Hina, a 23-year-old who works at a trendy Tokyo boutique called Baby Shoop. Hina’s shop has the tagline “Black for life.” She describes its products as “a tribute to Black culture; the music, the fashion, and style of dance.”
Hina’s appearance is also loyal to what the Japanese call “B-style"—a contraction of the words "Black” and “Lifestyle” that refers to a subculture of young Japanese people who love American hip-hop culture so much that they do everything in their power to look as African American as possible.
I called up Desiré to find out more about her time photographing Hina and her gang.
VICE: How did you meet Hina? Desiré van den Berg: She appeared in a documentary about B-style a couple of years back, which I happened to watch. This is what got me interested in the culture. It took a lot of effort, but I eventually got in touch with her on Facebook, through other B-stylers. I said I wanted to take photos of her, and she actually thought that was pretty cool. It was all a bit of a hassle though, because Hina and the other B-stylers didn’t speak a single word of English. We needed a translator both to make an appointment and at the actual first meeting, too.
How does that work in terms of translating rap lyrics? Hina speaks some English but not fluently. She does like to use some English slang when she speaks Japanese with her B-style friends, like finishing a sentence with “man” or using bad words like “motherfucker” jokingly.