Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Goth in the Public Eye: A Witch Hunt and A Quest for Peace

 Part I

"Goth." Just say it. Let it build up in your throat and meander along your palate out of your mouth, only to return with a swift kick to the teeth with the tongue. Goth. For some it brings about grins and perked ears, for others it brings about an awkward silence, discomfort, and judgment. Think for a moment of the negative connotations of the word- childish, violent, satanic, attention-seeking, silly, irresponsible, mental, dangerous, scary. Of course, more than likely, if you're reading this blog, your thought process is perhaps different and you may think of other words- moonlight and graveyards, Tim Burton, The Cure, mystery, quirkiness, fishnets and hairdye, black lace and elegant black and silver jewelry, body art, Halloween, The Crow, hearses, and classic black fashion, just to name a few. The former group, the group that keeps their distance due to their preconceived (and typically unsound) prejudices, may not even realize that they make us feel just as uneasy and wary as they are, perhaps even more so.

Personally speaking, I try not to watch basic cable. I get my news from various online websites and try to focus on local events. I indulge only in Netflix, where I decide what I want to watch with minimal exposure to sexualized toddler beauty pageants, degrading music videos, glorified bad behavior of bratty teenagers who have entered motherhood all too prematurely, and of course, reruns of the ever so mentally stimulating Jersey Shore. Whenever I do watch good ol' network television, which is never in my own home, I catch myself mumbling "I don't want to live on this planet anymore," which is a great quote from a TV show I do like, ironically enough. Aside from not wanting it to bring me down, I try not to watch TV because it also tends to just make me mad, not because someone has a different view on life than I do, but because someone with a completely backwards mentality is allowed a platform to spread twisted ideals that self-destruction and a lack or self-respect, selfishness, entitlement, shallowness, disregard for one's fellow man, misogyny, stupidity, sheep mentality, ignorance, and disrespect for all others around one's self  are desirable traits to have.

Brilliant work by my dear friend and brilliant Greek artist, JNK

 I could of course, write paragraph upon paragraph of examples, but before I start to sound *too* self-righteous and uppity, I just want to zoom in on a few of those characteristics of popular entertainment- mostly ignorance, sheep mentality, and disrespect for others. Fear-mongering and sensationalism are the two greatest weapons of manipulation that the media possesses. We all remember the tragedy of the Columbine incident. Two boys, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, fully armed and clad in black trench coats came to school in 1999 and mercilessly slayed 12 students, one teacher, and finally themselves, along with wounding 21 others. Rather than focusing on the bullying these boys faced leading up to this massacre, or the lack of accessible mental health facilities for young people, or even further investigating those who gave two teenage boys such an arsenal to start with, everyone instantly analyzed what music the boys listened to (Marilyn Manson, who many argue, is not a musician of the gothic genre) and how they dressed- which later resulted in many schools banning students from wearing black trench coats. Flash forward to the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, with a death toll of 32- over twice as many as Columbine. There was never any investigation about the type of clothes Seung-Hui Cho wore or the music he listened to; in fact, the shooter likened himself to Jesus Christ in his personal manifesto, though it would be outright wrong to link the entire Christian population with the actions of one individual. The very same goes for Anders Behring Breivik, a man who identified himself as "100% Christian," who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.

Voltaire made a pretty decent defense of the Gothic subculture to 
Fox News in the midst of the Scott Dyleski murder trial
Note how many times he ends up rolling his eyes at some 
of the preposterous questions that are heavily laced 
with negative gothic stereotypes. 

However, the media tends to breeze over acts of violence towards goths. Not many people have heard of the brutal and fatal assault of gothic teen Sophie Lancaster .In August of 2007, Sophie and her boyfriend Robert were walking through a park when they were heckled then viciously attacked by a group of teenagers. Robert was beaten to the point of unconsciousness while the mob focused their rage on Sophie, kicking and hitting her in the head while she cradled and protected her partner. By the time help had arrived, both were so badly beaten that their genders were indiscernible. 

Sophie Lancaster and boyfriend Robert Maltby
Although Robert survived, Sophie slipped into a coma and passed away 13 days after the attack. There is no question of whether or not their appearance provoked the attack. One of the assailants returned to his friends and began bragging to his friends about the assault; the couple's mosher/gothic look being the sole reason for his attack. The S.O.P.H.I.E. foundation-- their slogan, "Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred, and Intolerance Everywhere"-- works to promote tolerance and educate the masses on how quickly hatred can turn into malicious actions.

Ronan Harris of VNV Nation dedicated this song to Sophie and contacted the family to offer his condolences.

After doing some research, I've found that attacks on goths and other people who dress outside of the norm happen more often than one would assume, though they are rarely publicized.

A few years ago, back while I was still in college, I was in the lobby of one of the dorms, waiting on a friend. There was a television tuned to Fox News and I couldn't help but glance at it, but as I watched I became more and more enraged. A story was running about a young teenage girl who ran away from home to meet a grown man she had met online. The girl also happened to have a profile on VampireFreaks, a networking website aimed towards members and fans of gothic and industrial culture. Despite the fact that this young lady had blonde hair and bright clothes, as well as having profiles on a few other networking sites, the media chose to zoom in on VampireFreaks and the Satanic and vampiric lifestyles of all those involved in the cult of goth. Fox News, as we know, is always a reputable and unbiased source for accurate coverage on current events in the world around us. As the newscast continued, I noticed others in the lobby started to direct their attention to the wall mounted television, then I began to notice some of those spectators to distance themselves from me. It was almost hard for me to grasp- people were moving away from me after what they saw on TV; they felt uneasy around me-- short, plump, wide-eyed and combat boot clad me. They didn't care about the hours I'd volunteered at a nursing home a few months prior, nor the money I gave to the animal shelter, nor the countless petitions I signed and shared from change.org; they cared about my coffin backpack and what sort of heinous things I was capable of doing while wearing fishnets and a NIN tee shirt.

I came across this very clever comic in Gothic Beauty Magazine a number of years ago.

 ..to be continued

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