It is true that cultural patterns decide the fate of generations and contextualize every aspect of human life and society. This includes acknowledging behavior problems, distress, and development and if contexts are seen to be interwoven, we might say that the daily activities, or cultural practices, are the fillings of a youth’s life fabric, whereas development is the deflection. Culture is the plan that when implemented, provides meaning to the society even at intervening at the macro-systemic level that might lead to new designs for cultural practices for a segment, or for a whole ethnic group, or even for society at large. Such intervention results in the formation of various subcultures creating their own identities that occur when members of a minority group acculturate to the majority culture.
Hodkinson in Goth as a subcultural style has explored how the Western cult of individualism has spread via consumerism in a short span, thereby influencing many subcultural groups. Goth has presented many dimensions of Gothic subculture within a single chapter but has not by any means demonstrated any direct structural expression of resistance. Even being a member of the Gothic scene, the author has not spontaneously expressed his reaction against the subcultural groups, instead, he has conformed to the post-punk movement and labeled it as ‘identifiable movement’. We analyze in this paper the various aspects of Gothic subculture in the light of critics.
The author has highlighted a sense of community and individuality in the form of Gothic subculture and has addressed his audience who have failed to conform to the norms of existing society. This, he has done by encouraging participants of the Gothic subculture that has provided an important way of experiencing a sense of community and validation, not found in any other culture. Though the author has remained unable to highlight critical issues that may address loopholes of Gothic subculture, but overall Hodkinson has conducted a good effort in presenting various subcultural elements like punk music, style, fashion and fabric, helpful in gaining subculture status through enthusiastic participation and creativity. The author has neglected the true nature and culture of individuality and has appreciated the self-conscious artificiality of Gothic subculture as a valid alternative choice in a post-modern world.
The Gothic Style
The crux of Hodkinson’s argument raises the question that in the umbrella of Goth style, how far have we remained successful in preserving our true identity? This question is answered in simple words by the author as “individuals are no longer constrained in their appearance, their music or any other tastes by any particular cultural affiliation, instead, it is argued that we have a range of mix artifacts available at a veritable supermarket of style” (Hodkinson, 2002, p. 38). Western cultural identity in the name of Gothic style has struggled over various arenas in which the realms of art and artistic roots are neglected in the name of religion, truth, and cultural identity in the shadow and wake of subcultural transformation. Replacing the word ‘subculture’ with ‘neo-tribe’ and ‘lifestyle’ does not depict the notion that traditional subcultural theory has its own significance as perceived by Hodkinson. In fact, subculture has been polluted due to the fact that it has been mixed up with other cultures of the supermarket where Hodkinson states that style and taste are separated and individualized, while giving our youth distinct collective styles on the basis of ‘tasting cultures’. The author in the name of ‘diversifying subculture’ has not seriously taken into account how the characteristics of Gothic subculture has influenced our youth to adopt stylistic features of the subculture, without even considering the true values of our cultural patterns. The orthodoxy with this subculture started with the hatred of punks against hippies, and that is the era where youth was thwarted into sexual permissiveness in the name of sexual liberation. Punks objected to what they saw as hippie idealism, therefore they adopted a unique approach of ‘not bothering about anyone’ that failed to take account of the rigors of late twentieth-century urban life.
Manifestation in Music and Fashion
Punk, too many is a notorious concept which is an essential component of Gothic theme transgressed the youth to fix them somewhere in between outside and inner boundaries of subculture. However, they are perceived by Hodkinson on a certain artistic level which is characterized as being part of the youth rebellion. The music associated with the Goth was more depressive, loud and somber to hear, whereas the fashion revolved around dark colors like black where even feminism was persuaded to wear black in fashion. While Gothics were consistently manifested what they realized as ‘fashion’, such somberness negatively influenced their behavior and attitude, while at the same time making their outlook somewhat weird to look at. These negative influences have been ignored by the author, and since these influences created depression within the youth and to which the majority of them resisted, but were unable to keep displaying interest in vampirism, they presented a negative stereotypical Gothic subculture as envisioned by outsiders. Though Hodkinson has to some extent, touched the significance of what Gothic negative or miserable outlooks carried on punks’ life, however still the author never bothered to emphasize the consequences that uphold Gothic styles of music and fashion.
Gothic culture effect on Gender ambiguity
The main drawback of the Gothic subculture was that it had equal significance on both the genders through makeup, jewelry and piercings as main symbols of style and modernity that not only alleviated the main difference between genders but also eradicated the traditional masculinity and femininity of the previous traditions. Gothic culture is responsible for spreading the concept of homosexual identity and in a most fundamental way, has infused in the name of ‘subculture’ acting sexual beings. That is to say that the Goth scene has lost the most fundamental characteristic of the masculine and the feminine, that the only culture-free portrayal of gender holds. It would not be wrong to say that Gothic subculture emerged as a new era that from a psychological standpoint created the transition from the male fear and awareness of women’s receptivity and of their own lack of it to the overwhelming emphasis on their own creativity.
The consequences of Gothic culture not reflected in Hodkinson’s writing is the lack of youth’s consciousness which of the same object differs in represented modes of consciousness or of what it means to be conscious. An analysis of youth punk followers’ secondary modes reveals, that some of them were more directly or actively involved while others were only receptive. The gothic scene brought contention about the actively inquisitive modes characteristically masculine, while the actively receptive ones as typically feminine. However, as long as the followers of the Gothic subculture imitated, thereby losing their own gender identities, they remained in distress and remained aloof from the usual patterns of aliveness of consciousness, the fact of its being the consciousness of a living being. It is the subculture that provoked among youth the notion that erotic daydreaming is not a threat to feminism, therefore they seemed to reinforce a stereotypical dynamic between gender and power that raised the question of how feminism defines the relationship between subculture and Gothic scene.
Many authors believe that the Gothic subculture did not eradicate the gender difference abruptly, in fact, it also had its own sexual codes, but with certain limitations that do not allow males and females to look different. Therefore, the Gothic scene invoked the fetish culture of gay and lesbians and despite the prevalence of fetish gear and provocative clothes, it was curiously asexual. The emphasis of the Gothic subculture allowed diversity by permitting sexual freedom that meant that many people felt compelled to be heterosexually active, but their choices to be asexual, gay, androgynous, or celibate were usually accepted without comment. This was felt like the most prominent object that attracted youth towards the Gothic scene and since it was important for girls on the punk scene to find some kind of solidarity and contrary to myth, punk was not necessarily gender-friendly, and it was hard to make an impact as an artist or musician without adopting the punk style.
Apart from a few high-profile artists that no doubt helped in spreading the Gothic style, those women who thought that while adopting the style they would create their own identities suffered the same discrimination they had always done, treated as a novelty, decoration, and not as serious contenders. Gothic style on the other side created a void in emphasizing technical expertise that referred to the fact that many women felt able to enter a world from which they’d previously been excluded. But the subculture helped promote only a few and those that signed record deals often found themselves at loggerheads with a music industry that was still locked into marketing women as disco dollies or raunchy rock chicks. Only a few were able to enter the commercial mainstream, where a new challenge was waiting for the youth.
The author states that the Gothic style and the taste were unique but not ‘meaningless’, as it created within its participants a hope to perform creatively. Such a ‘diverse’ style represents a homologous connection between communities and their distinctive society an issue of social and moral problems that later transforms into societal crimes and fulfills the criteria of being affiliated with criminal activities. According to Hodkinson, “Many participants felt there was some sort of link between their style and certain general qualities they shared with other Goths, including individuality, creativity, open-mindedness and commitment” (Hodkinson, 2002, p. 62).
There is no doubt that the situational map created by Hodkinson is a perfect picture of subculture, but the social reaction to such youth culture upholds many ambivalences. For example, he has not mentioned how Gothic culture diffused a psychological mindset among youth that was responsible for creating links between the growth of mass culture and an apparent rise in juvenile crime. However, with the passage of the growing scale of commercial youth and youth market, mass media as an opportunist emerged to make the most of commercial youth culture and delinquency. It was through the possibilities of the Gothic culture that advertisers and political pundits presented patterns of youth consumption and celebrated it as a positive type-casting of youth. The gothic culture created a new teenage caste with its own culture and lifestyle, but critically imitated from others.
The main characteristic of Gothic youth is the composite dimension of procrastination visible in the work of Hodkinson. Such delay is obvious because it is clear that different types of youth requires various dimensions to be experienced and instead of building and relying upon regular stages in one’s period of life, the younger generation is more concerned about family cohabitation, residential independence, obtaining employment, gaining access to sexual life, becoming a political citizen, and becoming a consumer, which is not stages that can be set out according to a regular coherent schedule. Not only did Gothic culture marginalize youth, but helped them understand the perception of life on a trial and error basis. What the youth picked is to live together as couples before forming a new family, even some of them find bisexuality as the best solution to get rid of their depression.
Another aspect of the way youngsters preferred Gothic subculture is for the reason they came out of this experience as constituted by the retreat to local identities, to those of the residential quarter, to ethnic identities, and a sense of ethnicity. What most of the followers perceived was the affirmation of an identity as a response to the impossible integration rather than as a return to cultural traditions which have already been destroyed. So, youngsters under the shelter of the Gothic scene, visualized as if they have developed a separate style that has made them distinct and superior from others. With such cultural activity and more or less legal networks of assistance, which may be more or less based on social and municipal policies, Gothic lovers made an attempt to redefine these behaviors but only in terms of delinquency and marginality.
Hodkinson Paul, (2002) Goth: Identity, Style, and Subculture: Berg: Oxford.