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By: Lindsay Thomas

If the western world were to partake in a survey to highlight the general view of Goths, I’m sure that words such as, “depressing”, “dark”, and “satanic” would be at the top of the list.  After such tragedies as Columbine, it’s no wonder that Goths have been seen as fiends from the netherworld who are under the thumb of their Lord and Master – Marilyn Manson.  It wasn’t too long ago that a teenager from Northern England was murdered, not for money, not for love, but because she was a Goth.  The tragedy of Sophie Lancaster rallied the Goth community together, and all of a sudden, for the first time since the emergence of the Goths in the late 70’s, Goths were seen as human beings – people who can suffer and feel a full range of emotions, just like everyone else.

After hitting London’s eccentric and diverse streets, I came to realise that not only are the stereotypes of Goths incredible generalisations, they’re completely and utterly wrong. 

Stemming from the 1970’s post-punk culture, Goths have been more rooted in music and art than perhaps any other sub-culture.  Being a Goth in London isn’t only about wearing black or back combing your hair.  These people, most of them grown adults as old as Robert Smith himself, are aspiring doctors, lawyers and social workers.   Physical appearance aside, the majority of Goths have astounding intellect and emotional sensitivity – hardly the gun-wielding, death-obsessed stylings of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

In an interview with English newspaper The Independent, Dr Dunja Brill, 32, spoke about her in-depth study of the Goth culture all across Europe. She said: "Going to do a university degree is encouraged. It doesn't encourage people to drop out of school. Whereas in the Punk scene you turn down the normal educational values, in Goth you gain status if you're perceived as being educated. You get people who are in it for the shock value, but they are usually the ones who grow out of it.”

Goths in London not only value their education, they value their literature.  Europe is obviously a spectacular resource for gothic literature.  Books such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” have been hailed as works of brilliance, and the Goths would be the first in line to nod their heads in agreement. 

Okay, so we know they have brains in their head, but let’s be serious here – what is with the black clothes?  Whereas most people might be content in jeans and a t-shirt, Goths seem to be happier in corsets, stockings, high heels that reach further than Big Ben, and enough eyeliner for an army of drag queens. 

Busy Londoner and self-classified Goth, Angel, 25, is quick to defend the scene.  “It’s about creativity,” she said.  “It’s about expression and finding passion and beauty in everything.  Not all Goths dress in black and not all Goths are obsessed with Marilyn Manson, in fact, most Goths don’t really like him.”

Surprisingly, according to Angel, most Goths are deeply spiritual people who have values more akin to hippies than to “mansonites”  - an affectionate term used by Angel for fans of Marilyn Manson.  “We value intellect and we value spirituality.  There’s even a church in Central London that is dedicated to the alternative scene in London, which obviously includes Goths.  I don’t think that I’ve ever met a Goth who worships Satan.  I think that’s an urban myth.”

Tragically, it wasn’t until the murder of Sophie Lancaster in 2007 that the people of England began to realise that Goths really aren’t so different after all.  “No one wanted to look at us before it happened,” claimed Angel.  “We were the people that parents would hide their kids from.  I’ve had people cross to the other side of the street just so they didn’t have to walk past me.  It’s amazing because if you look at any prison in England, you probably won’t find any Goths whatsoever.  The safest place to be in London is with a group of Goths.  It wasn’t until Sophie was killed that the media caught on to this. The only thing a Goth would be guilty of is being over-emotional and pretentious, but I think that calms down with maturity.”

To help satiate my curiosity, I decided to take a stroll through some infamous Goth haunts such as the Devonshire Arms and The Intrepid Fox. 

Despite demons hanging on the walls and people dressed as vampires, the pubs were warm, welcoming and delightfully positive.  Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves, and no one seemed to mind that The Cure only occupy one track on my MP3 player.

Angel found my sense of bewilderment amusing.  “Goths laugh and cry just the same as anyone.  Wearing a Bauhaus t-shirt doesn’t change that.  We just look at the world differently from other people, but that’s not a bad thing.”

Like any social grouping, there’s bound to be difficulties.  Depression is quite high on the Goth scene but Angel insists this has nothing to do with being a Goth.  “Goth’s feel things very strongly – like an artist or a poet.  A lot of musicians and artists deal with depression too – not because they’re creative, but because they connect to the world through their emotions.”

My time on the Goth scene certainly changed my perspective, and it could be years before the rest of the world realizes what it means to be a Goth. Until then, people like Angel will continue to face the scrutiny of skeptical onlookers, hoping for a chance of equality and open-mindedness.


All opinions expressed by Lindsay Thomas are solely her own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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