Goth Subculture and Normailty

Michael Wayne Simmonds, Christoffer Bagge Paaschburg, Alexandra Keramea & Nele Kukk

Studenteropgave: Masterprojekt


Succeeding punk rock music, a new genre was about to sprout to life in the beginning of 80s, something with an attitude, but less anger and aggression – goth. Steering away from political opposition and colourful clothing, those who affiliated with the new goth movement started exploring the darker aspects of life, introducing music that was often inspired by romance and had a dark, yet approachable, sound. The visual style of the bands, including pale skin, black clothing and heavy make-up, led to the adoption of these aesthetics by new scene.
However, their fascination with darkness and visual appearance occasionally results in misunderstandings of the movement; often located in social spheres such as workplaces and the general media. We set out to investigate what being goth means to its members and how their normality can clash with ones shared by the general public.
The methodological approach chosen reflects the option to explore firsthand the encounter between the goth subculture and mainstream society and how participants experience the goth subculture. To this end, three Danish interviewees, one male and two female, participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews. A structured e-mail interview was also conducted with RTSI (Rätten Til Sin Identitet), a Swedish based group of organizers who advocate rights for subcultural groups.
The theoretical literature employed is Michel Foucault’s paper on ‘The Subject and Power’ (1982) which focuses on how governmental forces have idealized a standard of living which is governable and monitorable to productive ends. The second major theoretical text is Erving Goffman’s book Stigma (1963), which explores how stigma arises based on the contradistinction between apparent social identities and actual social identities. For defining goth, we use Paul Hodkinson’s book Goth: Identity, Style, and Subculture (2002).
The data gathered from informants showed similarities and differences. Firstly, the three informants are all different ages, 19, 25 and 31, and have therefore been in the scene for a different amounts of time, which uncontroversially resulted in very different experiences in social and professional fields. The youngest has experienced the fewest difficulties in his current residential area, whereas the oldest had experienced the most resistance to her subcultural appearance. What united them was the concept of normality, a normality different from theirs, imposed on them by outsiders of the scene, be it clothing, beauty or social benefits.
Based on the interviewees and static sources we were able to observe that goths indeed are stigmatized, however, interestingly, they are often stigmatised prior to becoming goths. Many are socially outcast or cannot conform to mainstream groups. As goths, they lose their former stigma and are able to consider themselves belonging without being judged according to their former or current traits. However, as goths, they attract another stigma, the stigma of the subculture. The data shows that the informants would rather be stigmatized as goths than how they were previously stigmatised. Being goth helps them find their individual strengths, nurture them and confidently stand up to face the outside world.
Interestingly, RTSI says that during recent years, collisions between alternative subcultures and mainstream have become more serious, whereas our informants directly oppose that by saying that things have become better for them and that the mainstream is more open towards alternative looks.
We found out that being a goth is not only about embracing dark aesthetics and music, it is a lifestyle, which provides a sense of belonging. Many people do not actively choose this lifestyle, but rather naturally orient towards it due to other traits. Goths are often stigmatized in social circles, daily lives and professional settings. This is mostly due to the two sides, goths and mainstream, possessing different approaches and understandings of what is normal. This external normality is often proposed to them in ways they have to comply with.
This research could start a conversation for debates about cultural norms regarding subcultures. But it can also be taken forward to see what exactly the external ‘mainstream’ normality is and how members of general public see themselves differing from goths.

UddannelserKultur- og Sprogmødestudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato27 maj 2017
Antal sider51
VejledereZoran Lee Pecic