A Study of Gothic Subculture

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Updated 3-12-2009
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Terms and Phrases

Terms and Phrases

Described in their Relevance to Gothic Culture

alternateen: This term is meant to designate those teenybopper kids who listen to alternative music and try to be different by looking identical to other trend-following teenagers who are trying to be different. Usually used in reference to the kids who listen to Pearl Jam or U2, for example, and other such Top 40 bands that are classified as alternative for some reason. (The gothic version of these types are called baby bats.)

angst: The existential suffering and depression one feels when one can see the world in all its tragedy. See "oh the angst of it all."

baby bat: A derogatory term for those wannabe Goths who are only familiar with the superficial aspects of the culture. They may do their makeup horribly and only listen to the most popular of the goth bands. They are mostly the younger kids going through a phase and trying to look cool. However people tend to fling this label at anyone they don't like. A lot of people prefer not to use the label because it implies a "more gothic than thou" attitude.

Batcave: A club in Soho (London) that began in the early eighties and nurtured the first generation of gothics from their punk heritage. Bands like Alien Sex Fiend played there live. It was closed down years later with the apparent death of the Gothic movement in the UK. The term Batcave also refers to the more punk oriented Gothic.

bondage babe: Girls decked out in fetish clothing at clubs, including bondage collar, bondage bracelets, bondage belt and some sort of latex, vinyl, or rubber outfit. Usually intended to mean the people who are following the fetish fashion trend rather than those who know much about fetish and BDSM culture. Also bondage boy.

Bondage gear: For example, bracelets, belts, collars, etc. that will have a metal O ring or D ring attached. See Mary's picture for a look at a bondage belt. See Amy's picture for a look at a bondage collar. The purpose is to attach something like rope, for example, to the metal ring in some sort of way to restrict a person's movement, thus the idea "bondage". It is a popular trend among Goths to wear these, even if they don't use them for bondage. See BDSM.

BDSM: Represents Bondage, Discipline, and Sado-Masochism (also related, Dominance & Submission = DS). It is a form of sexual fantasy play between consenting adults often involving fetishes, focusing on mental, sensual and erotic experience over the standard sexual intercourse, and requiring a great level emotional trust and communication between partners. BDSM does not have anything to do with using pain or force on someone who is an unwilling victim. Although Goths tend to appear to be familiar with the practices of bondage by their apparel, most of those people wearing vinyl pants and bondage bracelets don't know the first thing about BDSM and are following a fashion trend. The majority of BDSM practitioners have nothing to do with gothic, and they view bondage gear as a tool, not an accessory.

*devil bunny: The term comes from a song by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. It is used to designate the people who think "Satan is cool," but are not exactly worshippers of Satan. See Theatrical Satanists.

Doom & Gloom: The type of Goth focused on morbid, tragic, depressing or apocalyptic themes. See mopey goths.

"Everyday is Halloween": this phrase comes from the song "(Everyday Is) Halloween" by the band Ministry. The unofficial lyrics are:

Well I live with snakes and lizards and
other things that go bump in the night,
but to me everyday is Halloween,
I've given up hiding and started to fight,
and I started to fight.

Well, anytime, anyplace, anywhere that I go
all the people seem to stop and stare.
They say, "Why are you dressed like it's Halloween?
You look so absurd. You look so obscene."

Oh, why can't I live a life for me?
Why should I take the abuse that's served?
Why can't they see they're just like me?
It's the same, it's the same in the whole wide world.

Well I let their teeny minds think
that they're dealing with someone
who is over the brink,
and I dress this way
just to keep them at bay
because Halloween is everyday, hey
is everyday hey.

Repeat Chorus

Oh, why can't I live a life for me?
Why should I take the abuse that's served?
Why can't they see they're just like me?
I'm not the one that's so absurd.

Why hide it?
Why fight it?
Hurt feelings,
best to stop feeling hurt from
denials, reprisals.
It's the same, it's the same in the whole wide world.

fetish: The dictionary's definition of fetish is excessive sexual focus on an object of fixation. Fetish fashion covers a wide range of fabrics such as leather, PVC, vinyl, rubber, and latex. It also includes items such as stiletto heels, thigh high boots, corsets and bondage gear or other items of clothing that one might become fixated on. See BDSM.

first generation/second generation: First generation emerged mostly in the UK in the late seventies and early eighties as a splinter from the punk movement characterized by bands like The Damned, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division. They were called Gothic later on, but most didn't consider themselves Gothic. By the mid to late eighties, the Gothic movement was waning. In the late eighties/early nineties, a new generation of Goth bands emerged, for example The Shroud, Rosetta Stone, Nosferatu and London After Midnight, who were the first to characteristically call themselves Gothic. This is when the U.S. Gothic movement grew significantly, and Goth became recognized as a distinct subculture. Whether or not second generation is authentically gothic depends on whom you ask. Many of those first generation adherents will say it is not, and many others will say that second generation is a bad imitation of first generation.

*glamgoth: A sarcastic term used for bands, (and their fans) who are excessively concerned with fitting the stereotypical Goth image. These bands might spend longer putting on their makeup for a concert than the actual concert lasts. Frequently during the set they might take a clove break or stop because their makeup is smearing. Their stage names will be something like Vlad or Lestat. You might find them singing about angst and tragedy, vampires, or doing excessively cheesy things.

gothic slide: A characteristically gothic dance move in which your boots do not leave the dance floor as you glide across it by moving your feet. Somewhat like the footwork in the movie Footloose, but much more chaotic.

integrity: A band with integrity will not compromise the artistic expression in their music in order to sell more records. Usually integrity means that a band is creating adventurous, meaningful or original music. See selling out.

"in the scene": 1) Being involved in the social scene, especially frequenting clubs. 2) Also refers to people who go to all the "happening" parties every night. Someone deeply involved in the scene wants you to think they know everyone at a club by giving anyone that is even a brief acquaintance a hug as if they were great friends. They might say, "You know, it's sad when I look around and realize I know everyone." They are also big name droppers. You might hear them say something like, "Yeah, William Faith (of Faith and the Muse) invited me to come on tour with them, but I told him that I just didn't have the time."

kindergoth: Also, kindergothen. It can be derogatory, meaning a poser much like baby bat, or it can also be neutral, meaning a very young Goth, usually 16 or younger.

Mansonite: Much akin to the ninny, the Mansonite worships the band, and the lead singer who goes by the same name, Marilyn Manson. This term is usually used for those fans who like to dress up like him, do their makeup like him and wear Marilyn Manson t-shirts. Many goths will use this term in a derogatory way towards the teenagers they think are foolish for liking Marilyn Manson.

melodrama: Also, psychodrama. In the dictionary, melodrama means a work characterized by extravagant drama and theatricality, appealing to the emotions. Melodrama is used to describe the way a social scene often seems like a soap opera.

mod/waver: A term for fans of Modern/New Wave music. Mods usually love eighties music and British pop such as Depeche Mode, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, etc.

mopey Goths: Goths who have an overdeveloped sense of angst. These Goths are the ones you may find brooding in dark corners, pondering the pain of existence, wondering why their girlfriend/boyfriend has torn their heart out (again). In general, they tend to take life very seriously.

"more gothic than thou": A sarcastic phrase used to designate a snobbish attitude, or describe people who take themselves too seriously. A play on "'holier than thou." Someone with a "more gothic than thou" attitude will likely tell you about the gothic bands they are into by saying, "You probably haven't heard of them."

net.goth: A term for those Goths who frequently post to the alt.gothic newsgroup and have a fairly well known presence among the internet Goth community.

ninny: A derogatory term for enthusiastic fans of the band Nine Inch Nails . The Nine Inch Nails symbol is . The term ninny is used to express the idea that people who worship Trent Reznor (who essentially is Nine Inch Nails) are foolish.

"oh so gothic": 1) A sarcastic phrase to express one's opinion of something as Goth-worthy i.e. "I see you have all of the Bauhaus albums on vinyl. That's oh so gothic of you," or "Those skull shaped candle holders are oh so gothic." 2) A sarcastic phrase for those who take fitting the image of being gothic too seriously. Say it with a really cheesy English upper-class accent to add emphasis.

"Oh the angst of it all": A sarcastic phrase used to mimic Goths who take themselves too seriously and are constantly brooding. To add emphasis when saying it, put the back of your hand to your forehead and look like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

perky Goth: Some may say this is an oxymoron, but perky Goths are people who like the gothic style and music, but don't like the doom and gloom attitude some Goths have. Perky Goths try not to take themselves too seriously and don't brood. They like to have fun. You'll often find them wearing, for example, body glitter, a mixture of black and non-black clothing, and telling the mopey Goths to lighten up. The mopey Goths say that they are missing the point of Gothic entirely.

raver: Can either refer to a fan of techno music, or techno music itself. Techno music is characterized by an electronic, digital, fast beat created by drum machines. There is also a large subculture surrounding it. Large, secret, underground gatherings of techno music and drug use are called raves.

rivethead: A fairly recent term used to describe fans of industrial music. The term Industrial was coined in 1976 (another child of the punk movement) several years before Gothic emerged. However, it remained only a music form for much longer before a culture developed around it. Gothic as a subculture is older than industrial subculture. See Industrial in the Music Related Definitions.

selling out: A term used to describe bands who were once underground and then became popular, Top 40 music. Usually the term selling out refers to the band or artist compromising their musical quality or artistic expression in order to sell more music. They are essentially selling themselves. It often is used by the underground elitists to justify not liking a band based only on who else listens to them. Music that has sold out has somehow become diluted, common, and generic when it once may have had specialness, power and force. Whether the artist did the diluting or the constant repetition of a song on the radio, MTV etc. dilutes it, the effect is the same. See integrity.

spooky kid: This is a very recent term which doesn't have much widespread usage quite yet. The spooky kids are followers of Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails and are mostly under 18 years old. (Originally the name of the band was Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids.) People confuse spooky kids for Goths, which is frustrating to Goths because Goth culture gets blamed for the stupid things spooky kids do. Spooky kids and Goths don't associate with each other very much, and they tend to not like each other. Goths resent them for being poseurs and giving Goth a bad name, and they resent Goths for being snobs and elitists. Spooky kid is usually used as a derogatory term similar to baby bat, but it specifically refers to the younger and ardent Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails fans. I'm not sure if spooky kids call themselves spooky kids, I think most of them call themselves Goth.

ultragoth: 1)In the pie chart, Ultra Goth is described as those for whom gothic is who they are, not what they dress up as. 2) Also, the Goths who have a more extreme appearance and/or have been in the scene for a long time. They are usually over 20 years old. 3) Often used to designate the gothic snobs, ones who have a "more gothic than thou" attitude.

underground: Something that is not widely known about among the general population. It is secret, obscure, hidden, rare, only for a selected few who are knowledgeable enough to pursue it. There are two tendencies that often occur in those who adamantly participate in an underground culture. The first is elitism. In general the elitists view themselves as having suffered (persecution, harassment) to become a part of something rare and unusual. They dislike those who have not suffered to join the culture, those who are following a trend. The trend-followers defile what was sacred and make common what was once rare. The elitists view that culture as something they had to search for, discover, and suffer ridicule for; and they despise those who had it handed to them. The second tendency of those in an underground culture is a wide familiarity (often acceptance and friendliness depending on the person) with other people in the social scene or those who appear to be a part of the same culture.

*weekender/weekend Goth: 1) In the pie chart, weekender is defined as the kids going through a phase. See also baby bat. 2) Also, weekend Goths are the people who dress normally when around normal people and dress gothic when they go to gothic clubs. Basically, they are the ones who conform to whatever environment they are in. It has nothing to do with their knowledge of the culture, it has to do with their appearance in different contexts. Some weekend Goths have to dress somewhat normally because of a professional career but are Goth at heart. Some don't dare to suffer the ostracism they would receive by looking different among normal people and are only closet Goths Depending on which type of person the term is applied to, it can have either neutral or negative connotations.

* These are the terms I'm not quite sure if only I use. Other people may use different terms.

Note: These definitions are only my view of how these terms are used and some could vary by region. Since you won't find many of these terms in the dictionary, someone else might offer a slightly different definition. However, they are helpful terms to understand.