SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 72
To Fear or Not to Fear
Preparation is the Key
The Gothic movement gained notoriety when the Collier County Sheriff’s Office began its investigation into six Lely High School students for plotting violence at the school. So far, three students have been arrested while the others remain at home as the investigation continues. The Lely students were reported to have dressed in a black clothing style that’s drawn media attention to the Gothic movement, a subculture characterized by a macabre fascination with all things dark and dramatic.
School Violence is very real. The current school year, 03-04, has been more deadly than the year of the Columbine massacre. This has local, state and national agencies looking for answers. The danger from such a search is that an urgency to find solutions often causes hasty generalizations. Black trench coats and Gothic dress are being pointed out by some around the country as a common trait of those who plot or commit school violence. This raises the question, “Are those who follow the Goth or Gothic life style prone to violence?” However, trying to analyze the fundamentals of modern Goths proves to be a daunting task. The single most common characteristic of Goths is individuality. This article will attempt to identify some the basics of Goths for non-Goths who have a need to understand what affects and motivates young people.
The origins of the Goths can be traced to ancient Scandinavia. The Visigoths, or western Goths, were the “barbarians” who brought an end to the Roman Empire. Gothic architecture dominated the Middle Ages. In more modern times, Gothic themes have been prominent in art, literature and movies. The most significant platform for Goths has been and remains in music. In the 1970’s Punk Rock was a recognized style of music that rejected the established forms of Rock and Roll and Disco. From Punk Rock, Goth developed as a music form. The dress of the performers and the listeners as well as the music and lyrics reflect this rejection of the established and an embracing of individualism as the highest form of realization. There are common traits that can be seen in Gothic styles and thoughts today that can trace a history from their first origins to today’s teens. Goths cannot be separated from the music any more than they can be separated from the color black. But it would be a mistake to identify Goths by the music or by wearing black. For a detailed work on the history of Goths, go to the web site of the Department of Greek, Latin and Ancient History, University of Calgary: http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/jordgeti.html.
TYPES OF GOTHS
“I can count 153 different types of Goths because I know 153 Goths.” This statement is from a letter to the editor of an on-line news page that attempted to identify three different groups of the Goth subculture. In a personal interview, another professing Goth stated that if there were three Goths in a room there would be three totally separate individuals who hold totally different ideas about music, dress and life. He went on to say that they might not even speak to each other but if someone were to make a derogatory remark about anyone of them or about Gothic, they would unite and defend each other and the culture. A common trait among Goths is their rejection of others who the “world” sees as Goths. The music artist Marilyn Manson is perhaps the most high profile person whom the media has labeled as Gothic that Goths uniformly reject. Those who do accept him place him in a separate group they refer to as “Neo-goth” or “Shock-goth.” This same rejection or compartmentalizing is evident on numerous Goth web sites and in personal discussions with profession Goths when talking about other from the famous to fellow students and co-workers. From their historical beginning, Goths were called “barbarians.” This is a term devised by the Romans to describe all races who did not speak Greek. Similarly, the main-stream world tends to put all who wear black into a single group called Goth. The original Goths were not Huns nor Gauls and they had many divisions within own race, but the established Roman order lumped them all into “barbarians.” Learn more
The Kidz World website at http://www.kidzworld.com/site/p4095.htm lists the five essential elements of dressing Gothic as
- Black Nail Polish – whether you’re a boy or a girl a good bottle of black nail polish is a must-have for the aspiring goth.
- Black Boots – search out a pair of boots that you know you’ll wear a lot. If you’re a girl, make sure they look good with skirts and pants. Versatility is key.
- Hair Dye – this can either be black hair dye or some exotic, bright color used to highlight your dark hair. Try something like Manic Panic.
- Studs and/or Zippers – if you don’t have anything with studs or zippers, add some onto an old bag or grab a cool, old leather jacket from a thrift store that you can alter.
- Black Eyeliner – Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl, you gotta have the black eyeliner. Great for lining lips, eyes or drawing stuff on your face.
This is how most of those outside the movement will recognize those who are Goths. Unfortunately, not everyone who wears black is Goth and not every Goth wears black. There are Goths who prefer to wear white and some who wear bold colors such as vibrant greens or blues. Very few will be seen in pastels as they tend to make bold statements and dislike soft ones.
As with other aspects of Goth, the music is difficult to categorize with a single explanation. Here is what some have said in a survey about Goth music-> click here. Groups tend to make bold statements with dress and lyrics. Some of the more commonly heard names among the Goth groups include Rob Zombie, Switchblade Symphony, Rasputina, Sisters of Mercy, and Cradle of Filth. Most of these have web sites and are happy to share their lyrics and ideas with the public.
Goths do not subscribe to any particular religious belief. In fact, they appear to rebel against established religion just as they refuse to accept other established norms. They can be seen wearing any number of religious symbols, crosses, ankhs, pentagrams and others. Learn more (goth symbols). When asked, they will usually say that they wear it because they like the way it looks. Goths can be found who follow the belief systems of Christianity, Gnosticism, Wica, Atheism, New Age and others. Goths have been unfairly labeled as being aligned with Satanism or some other darker religious movement. There are Goths who may embrace or follow dark religions or more mainstream religions, as with any other individual. An excellent source for more on religion and Goths is found at: http://www.religioustolerance.org/goth.htm
DEVOTED and DABBLERS
For the purpose of this article, there are two broad types of Goths that should interest those who work with youth. They are the devoted and the dabblers. Devoted Goths have adopted a life style and belief system that makes them comfortable. While their appearance may shock the mainstream, they dress that way because it is what makes them feel right and they have little regard for anyone else’s opinion. The primary desire appears to be wanting to be left alone but not ignored. They are generally well versed in Gothic history and know the reason s they dress and act as they do. This group is mostly passive with a live and let live approach to life.
The second group is made up of Dabblers or Wannabes. These are mostly young people who are developing socially and want to be accepted by a peer group, express their separation from the establishment and quite often to shock both peers and mainstream adults. They tend to want others to talk about their appearance so they will be seen and not be invisible. Author of H2g2 said it this way, “…the wannabe just considers it cool to dress in an attempt to intimidate. They have no respect for the messages… [they] are trying to convey about individuality; they just want to be part of a ‘weird, scary group’. The wannabes express their individuality by belonging to a group, while Goths belong to a group by expressing their individuality.” Some members of this group may react violently when they are picked on or tormented by others. Since this group also tends to change life styles as they develop socially, they could be pursuing another fad when the violent tendency comes out. In other words, the violence is not necessarily associated with the Gothic but with the individual.
“Just because you don’t want to be a jock or join the spelling team doesn’t mean you want to kill people,” said a self-described Goth from Naples, Florida. These are sound words of advice. However, when assessing a student to determine if they may be in need of immediate intervention, it would be prudent to consider any involvement in Goth. By itself, this life style does not indicate anything relative to violence. Coupled with other factors or traits, such as, depression, being victimized, uncontrollable anger, self mutilation, and aligning with others who are Gothic Wannabes could be significant. Only in context should Goth be a point of concern. As one 15 year old said, “Labels are for soup cans!”
What you do makes a difference!
- Learn more about … Resident Assistant Training
- School Site Safety Surveys for Schools and other Youth Organizations
- To Learn How “Keys To Safer Schools” Can Help.
- Learning what to look for – “Early Warning Signs”
- Map of School Shootings
- Learn about National Reports on Violence
Keys To Safer Schools.com