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Niccolo Machiavelli wrote, "It is better to be feared than loved,
if you cannot be both."

Goths. You’ve probably seen them around – the darkly dressed and quiet ones; the ones who walk down the street clouded in their own misery. Goth (considered the outcast subculture of our society) is a lifestyle, an anesthetic, a viewpoint, and a form of self-expression. These deep wanderers are unappreciated artists of modern literature. Throughout the centuries, their dark and depressing style has influenced society in so many ways.

History of Goths
The original Goths were a Germanic tribe that swept through Western Europe, conquering small villages with force. As a result of the collapsed Roman Empire, the term Gothic became synonymous with barbarism and signaled the advent of the Dark Ages. The term was later applied to a style of medieval architecture by critics who regarded it as similarly barbaric and uncultured. The early embrace of Gothic style was a self-conscious rebellion against good taste and good sense of the age. As a cultural term, the diverse style was initially dismissive, reminding people of how the Dark Ages had replaced the classical glories of Rome with uncivilized barbarity.

Revived Goth Movement
What began as a reaction to conservatism and conformity of the early 1980s, found new life in the ever-increasing anxiety and isolation of our culture. Music set the stage for the oppressed and led a lyrical statement against materialistic and superficial values of mainstream society. The Goth movement embraced the romanticism of darkness and the decadent persona. In its most basic form, Goth is an expression of alienation from societal expectations.

By the mid 1980s, the term Gothic was employed to describe a new musical subculture, born from the ashes of the dying punk scene and nurtured on the dandyism of 1970s glam rock.

The Gothic individual is labeled with a hegemonic wardrobe of predominant colors. Influenced by late 18th and early 19th century styles, Modern Goths incorporate their own fashion with a universal tone of darkness: black leather, dyed hair, silver jewelry, distinct makeup and fishnet. Crushed velvet tends to be another Goth favorite. This form of expression is an approach to understanding the world: through dark colors, they are able to reflect their innermost emotions as cultural art. Their extreme fashion is an outlet for their imagination.

Moreover, Goth's deliberate off-putting look is either a test for acceptance or a way to continue a life of melancholy that they are used to. Television reporters have incorrectly associated Goth with Satanism, white supremacy, and intolerance. Despite the stories of blood-sucking, Satan-worshiping, and virgin-sacrificing rituals, violence is not associated with the modern Gothic culture.

Often creative people, Goths enjoy intellectual discussions about the world, the evolution of religion and its place in modern society, but may not identify themselves with any particular belief. They usually proclaim themselves as agnostic. Teen Goths are more likely to be involved with the occult, Wicca , or some other form of alternative spirituality. Many feel that they do not fit into the arms of mainstream society. They find the light in the darkness and embrace it for all it’s worth. Some may have experienced a form of social isolation or rejection.

Being Goth is a form of tribalism, a way for people of similar interests and mindsets to find each other and have a place to belong. Like most tribes, Goths are often protective of their community and will keep out those who do not belong. Their company can be a welcoming and comfortable addition for those who accept them for who they are. They are full of patience and enthusiasm for people who are genuinely interested in finding out what Goths are about.

Despite their dark fashion and secluded personality, Goths are unusually gentle people with artistic and literary taste. Many enjoy reading dark literature such as Lovecraft, Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite, and Anne Rice. Others have a passion for the artistic expression through personal writing. Dark poetry is a reformed style that raises eyebrows and may cause heads to shake in disapproval. Most poems that reflect internal feelings deal with loss and grief. Although depressing and hopeless, most Goth poets are able to capture a detailed emotion through a fascination with death and the supernatural.

Goth Literature
In the eighteenth century, musing authors such as the Marquis de Sade and Mathew "Monk" Lewis gave birth to the golden age of Gothic literature. These stepping stones of grotesque and sexual images paved the road for modern dramatists.

Gothic literature’s principle innovation lay in evoking the contrasting emotions of terror and pity. This use of distinction is the heart of Gothic art: light and dark, good and evil, sex and death. Realism and character development are of little concern compared to effect, marking Gothic literature by this shameless emphasis of style over content.

Gothic tales were once referred to as Romances to distinguish them from the suspense novel. By category, the romance novel was an unashamed work of the imagination, where exciting and entertaining the reader was more important than being realistic or instructive. The Gothic genre was later adopted by a generation of artists, writers, composers, and above all, poets who reveled in the reflective rebelliousness that society condemned.

The Marquis de Sade was a fan of the Gothic Romance genre. While imprisoned in the late seventeenth century for crimes of sexual abduction, de Sade wrote several novels and manuscripts depicting morbid sexual behavior. He is most famous for his 1791 novel, Justine and his prior, Les Jourées de Sodome, an underground classic for over a hundred years.

Though his self-conscious efforts in the genre are disappointingly bland, Sade’s infamous and often suppressed experiments (dark moods, perverse sexuality, scenes of incest, cannibalism, and blasphemy) have been marked as Gothic literature of the most extreme kind.

Sade’s chief legacy is the term sadism – coined twenty years after his death to describe the derivation of sexual pleasure from inflicting pain. His monstrous thoughts, preserved in the form of novels written to ease his boredom while incarcerated, were inspired by turbulent times of the Dark Ages.

Mathew Gregory Lewis first published The Monk in 1795. Savagely attacked by the critics for its sexual explicitness and blasphemous nature, Lewis was forced to "tone down" the text. This novel tells the story of Ambrosio, a famously virtuous abbot in early seventeenth century Spain who is seduced by a young beauty called Matilda, later revealed as a demon in human form. Ambrosio slides into a life of vice, black magic, and murder, culminating in the rape of his own sister and murder of his mother. When retribution finally catches up with him in the fearsome shape of the Spanish Inquisition, Ambrosio devises his escape by summoning Lucifer himself.

The novel was condemned for shocking episodes that exhibited the perverted lust of a sadist. Critics labeled Lewis’ The Monk as the work of monster, an accusation leveled at Gothic artists ever since.

In one sense, Goth is the dark undercurrent of everyday existence, a twilight version of the daylight world. In another, it is sophisticated barbarism. It is a passion for life draped in the symbolism of death. It is a cynical love of sentiment. It uses darkness to illuminate. It believes duty is vain, and vanity to be a duty. It is the compulsion to do the wrong things for the right reasons. It is the unholy, the uncanny, and the unnatural. Goth is a fashion, a lifestyle statement, and freedom from a mundane world.

Open and read the pages of my DarkerMind
where one's style of writing comes from deep within.
I don't plan to change the world; just trying to leave my mark.


The following comments are for "Goth: Unappreciated Artist"
by KingDon

The Goth Culture
Most of the 'Goths' I've met have been really nice people with a great sense of creativity. Your article described them perfectly.

( Posted by: icymatt [Member] On: March 15, 2005 )

Silly goths
I was inclined to dismiss goths as silly, facile, and banal -- largely because all I knew of them was that they hung around downtown looking mopey. But your article has made me respect them a little more. I get what they're going for now. I wouldn't embrace it, but now I get it.

Excellent work!

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: March 15, 2005 )

As a subculture the goths work as a outlet for an aspect of society that needs the assurance of standing out as a way to fit in. That said I like goth culture the artistic component has been of great benifit.

( Posted by: bhagwandave [Member] On: March 22, 2005 )

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