A Study of Gothic Subculture

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The Valley Eagle (a small weekly paper for West Valley, UT)
April 10, 1997
Jeff Richards, Contributing Writer

Dark 'Gothic' Movement, Sinister or Harmless Phase?

"Just because your kids are wearing dark clothing doesn't mean they're Satanists," a local law enforcement officer told a group of parents at Valley Junior High School last week. In fact, most kids who wear black or listen to certain types of music are probably just trying to get attention by rebelling against the norm. As one such teenager reportedly put it: "It's great fun to scare the 'normals'." Still, the growing influence of the so-called "Gothic" movement has more than a few local parents and school officials concerned. More than 150 people attended the adults only evening presentation, sponsored by the school's PTSA. Many of those in attendance expressed concerns that their children were being drawn into something more than they can handle. "Some kids are taking it from rebellion to religion," Capt. Randy Johnson of the West Jordan Police Department told the audience. "They're more sophisticated, and they're liking what they're doing and becoming deeply involved. It's hard to change these kids."

Johnson stressed that only a small percentage of kids actually get involved in occult behavior. But he says the ever-growing accessibility of potentially harmful information is cause for concern. "I'm not out to scare anyone with this information," Johnson said, noting that nearly all the information he shared with the audience is readily and easily available, even to teenagers, via the Internet and other media. "But hopefully, this well help some parents put things into perspective and not panic." Some of the material Johnson obtained from the Internet using a simple keyword. Some of the web sites are fairly innocuous, displaying only the mysterious aspect of Gothic, such as an Edgar Allan Poe literary archive. Others serve as sort of a resource guide to the Gothic movement, with information about clothing, makeup, music, different types of Goths, etc. Still other pages, however advocate nihilistic anarchistic behavior and describe death and killing, with violent songs, lyrics and poetry. "Music is a powerful medium," Johnson told the audience as he displayed some of the lyrics on the projection screen. "It affects your emotions." One song, which Johnson said seems to advocate suicide, was Marilyn Manson's "Minute of Decay," which includes the line: "I'm on my way down now, I'd like to take you with me." [As stated before, Marilyn Manson is not a gothic band.] Johnson also displayed and read aloud lyrics from songs by several heavy metal, rap, alternative, and Gothic music groups. He recited lyrics from groups such as Slayer, Exodus and the Veto Boys. "As I looked at all these songs, I couldn't find one that said anything positive," he said. "If a kid listens to this stuff for a half an hour, they're probably not going to be affected," he said. "But if they listen to it six to eight hours a day (like many teen-agers do), it will."

"I guess the main concept here is 'obsession,'" he noted. "Parents need to analyze: How obsessed are their kids with this? Why are they doing it?" Johnson explained that obsession, or acting in a compulsive way, can be detrimental to the person's mental, physical and spiritual health and damaging to personal relationships. Johnson said it is such an obsession that usually leads teen-agers from the category called "Theatrical Satanists," or the "wannabe" category, into the more sophisticated level of "Experimental Satanist," who are typically aged 14 - 21 and much more seriously involved.

Johnson was quick to point out that, like Christians, Satanists fall into a wide mixture of beliefs and practices. There are several different types of Satanists, and each has different characteristic beliefs. There are also differences between voodoo, Satanism and witchcraft. All three use "magic" as an attempt to control supernatural forces through the use of spells, charms and rituals. [Read more about occult groups here.] But as long as no laws are broken, all these beliefs are Constitutionally protected, he noted. "I'm speaking to you as a law enforcement officer," Johnson said. "I don't care what religion a person is, as long as they don't violate the law."

Johnson said some of the reasons why kids might become attracted to Satanism include: rebellion, peer pressure, a sense of belonging, freedom, a way to deal with pressure, curiosity, and fear. "Others get involved for the drugs, alcohol and sex that may come with it," he said. "If a child is losing perspective, then (Satanic materials) can be a how-to-do manual for negative things," he added. Johnson said the seven main themes of Satanism include: drug and alcohol use, promiscuous sex, degradation of women and children, use of magic, the concept of evil over good, gratuitous violence and suicide or death. [Read more on Youthful Satanism here.] "But Satanism's biggest lie is the idea that you've sold your soul and can't turn back," he said. "That's the lie we try to break down."