I’m sure you all have seen at least one post saying young kids aren’t getting into goth anymore. A lot of the reasons I’ve heard people try to justify as answers to this pressing question are just shots in the dark and don’t seem to be backed up by facts.
People like to blame the younger generation, the economy, the rise of hipster culture, the “generational difference” between goths, people already in the scene being assholes, etc. The thing is, we’ve had these problems since the dawn of goth. Young goths in the 90′s didn’t have much money, just like young goths now, and club cover charges don’t seem to be increasing or decreasing, so that issue is irrelevant. Goths are always going to be dicks to each other, because the world is not full of nice people and there are assholes everywhere, in every scene. The generational difference is way less noticeable when you realize that it’s only been a thing for 10 years or less, and the older group of goths are just like you are, only they’ve been doing it for a bit longer than you and have already gotten used to it.
I think the main reason for the whole debate is this: Goth isn’t a youth culture anymore.
In the 80′s, goth was the new, shiny, dark and twisted world that attracted curious young people with it’s dark romanticism, mystery, emerging music scene full of talented innovators and soon to be dedicated fans. The fashion and music flourished, and eventually branched off into sub-genres that took on their own personas inside the rapidly growing world of goth.
The 90′s hit and goth changed and grew in popularity as bands like Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy, Ministry and Marilyn Manson hit the spotlight and fused goth with industrial, eventually introducing it to the mainstream, subsequently creating a magnetic dark youth culture centered all around the beauty of the darkness, and embracing your true self. Hot Topics were in malls, goth kids were in 24 hour diners drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes into wee hours of the night, Nine Inch Nails was on the radio and Manson was on tour getting chased down by protesters and making the news. The fusion of goth and industrial culture birthed a new kind of darkness that attracted even more darkly inclined young people to the darkside, and EBM was born.
EBM and eventually cybergoth culture brought a very large crop of new bats to the scene and sort of took on it’s own life, almost overshadowing OG goth and staring a mini war between EBM and traditional goth. The elders refused to accept EBM and cyber as a legitimate part of the subculture since it deviated so much from the original and caused many of the participants to be completely unaware and disconnected from the roots, or just forgetful of them. Obviously this was not the case for all us, I personally love EBM and traditional goth music, but you can see where issues arose with those who are afraid of the original changing.
EBM and rivethead culture was quite popular up until the early 2010′s, when the world started to change even more. With hipster culture on the rise and general weirdness being more commonly accepted by the mainstream; goth seemed to lose a bit of it’s mystery as darkness became fashionable again, but this time it wasn’t because of Marilyn Manson. Goth-industrial culture and EBM suffered a significant blow after this, and fewer new people started showing up to goth clubs and EBM events.
This was a cause for the wave of young people getting into darker fashion without the backbone of goth music or the lifestyle to fully assimilate them into goth culture. The slow death of cybergoth and the lack of youth in the EBM scene has turned what was not too long ago the favorite subgenre of goth by young people into a slightly zombified state, lacking the energy it once had. This and the backlash from eldergoths lead young bats away from EBM and industrial and sparked a traditional goth and deathrock revival that has seemingly taken most of the new blood away from the EBM scene and industrial goth.
It’s great that oldschool goth is attracting new people to the graveyard scene again, but I personally can’t help but wonder if some of the dire need of today's goth youth to be as oldschool as possible comes from the fear of being ridiculed by more experienced goths. The deathrock revival has definitively caught on in the scene in recent years, but unfortunately there’s no wave of popular new dark music for this part of the scene to latch onto. Modern deathrock and trad revival bands are a niche market, and unfortunately we all don’t know when they’ll have the spotlight shone on them again. The current wave of goth youngsters in the revival scene have almost no connection to the darkly inclined, not goth youth who are sampling black clad fashion and adorning themselves in upside down crosses while listening to witch house.
Witch house is probably the most popular modern dark music genre and unfortunately it’s considered too far off from goth to really be connected to it and to be that new dark genre we want to attach ourselves to. With genres like witch house on the rise and more bands creating new dark sounds, I have hope that goth will find it’s new musical muse to act as a black light to attract all the young little goth moths to our scene again. There seem to be more and more bands that could be goth but aren’t, and this is the new shit young people are flocking to; witch house nights, experimental shows, dark fashion collectives and shopping at dolls kill and killstar instead of hitting up their local goth shop and Hot Topic, or heading to industrial shows and goth clubs.
Personally I hope that EBM will make a comeback and coldwave will continue to rise in popularity so that goth has more outlets to draw in new people. Until then, I will keep on supporting my local clubs and venues, continue going to shows and investing in goth clothing brands, and will do everything I can to keep our subculture alive, and unified. Our strength, dedication, and resilience has kept us going, and continuing to support each other is what’s going to keep us alive.
Keep being goth, keep being you and don’t let anyone else dictate your place in the subculture. Real goths will support each other through thick and thin and will remind you that no one can take this subculture away from you. All of the love, support and darkness in this subculture is something you carry with you forever. As they say, “once a goth, always a goth”. This subculture will forever be my true home, and I hope it’s yours too.
-Laila Autumn has been a relatively well known blogger in the online goth community for a number of years and is the current Ms. Gothic Seattle for the LGBT and goth focused nonprofit organisation Gothic Pride, located in Seattle Washington. They also run the popular alternative meme page called Some Like It Goth