Day 1: Goth and Where to Start

Day 1 of revisiting my love affair with goth and I’m trying to choose a starting point.

How would most newcomers get into goth?

Instagram seems the most likely option, as it offers both video and photos and is expected to reach an audience in the United States alone of 111 million. (I’m weird, just let me be weird and care about numbers.) So, if we look under #goth, in the top section (versus the recent)…

We get a lot of pictures of full body outfits which are primarily black, about 2/3 people featured are wearing at least some makeup, and a couple scrolls down decor, cartoons, and Marilyn Manson. 

Personal takeaway: It’s not that the images aren’t aesthetically appealing, I just wouldn’t call it engaging. It seems fashion centered (if this were to be my actual entry point) with zero reference to music of any kind. Breaking down the pieces of clothing through this precursory scroll, you’d find a lot of: jersey knit material, followed by cotton / cotton polyester blends, collars, at least 1 inch in width with, at minimum, an O ring in the center, platform shoes, most shoes were at least 2 inches thick, midriff exposed or, if covered, clothing was fitted to the waist, so cropped shirts but also noted, rarely any loose clothing. Less prominent features were: heavy makeup and then it was special effects makeup, harnesses on various parts of the body, Sinner or occult images or messages, and a few pictures of Robert Smith. 

I can see why the whole aesthetic argument is even a thing. But I don’t know if people are doing that because that’s the game of social media or if that’s really what they think goth is about.  I am a little put off by the lack of music (no pictures of records, playlists, podcasts/radio shows, song lyrics, album covers, event promotion of any kind, bands, artists, etc.[unless we count the one Hollywood Undead bandanna]) Most of the backgrounds were solid color walls, or blurred out forest backgrounds, so little focus on decor or…really anything not fashion focused.

I mean, obviously we’ll get to fashion eventually, but let’s say someone did want to start with music….

Using IFPI Music Consumer Report for 2018 for how 19,000 people globally (across 18 countries*) discovered new music:

-86% listening through on demand streaming (16,340/19,000)
-47% of time spent listening to on-demand music is on YouTube
-17.8 hours was the time the average global consumer spent listening to music a week (2.5 hours per day)

*The 18 countries were: Poland, South Africa, Germany, France, United States, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Russia, Argentina, Spain, United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, South Korea, and Japan)

Because geographic location is taken into account for how search results appear on YouTube (in addition to a ton of other factors like past search history), signing out of my account on YouTube and searching for “goth music” brought up:

  1. 1 Hour of Gothic Music Instrumental (1:08:21 video) [elements primarily from classical and chamber music]
  2. Top 200 Greatest Gothic Rock Songs (playlist)
  3. 80s Gothic Rock/ Darkwave Mix (1:09:13 video)
  4. 1 Hour of Dark Winter Music & Gothic Music (1:01:22 video) [elements primarily from classical and chamber music higher tone than (1.)]
  5. Baby Goth by Mary (2:50 video) [the trap version of Melanie Martinez]
  6. 1 Hour of Dark Vampiric Music [Dark, Seductive, Emotional, Gothic] (1:01:35 video) [classical and composed entirely by Peter Gundry]
  7. Dark Cybergoth Mix by The Enigma TNG (43:16 video) [leaning closer to industrial, created by The Enigma]
  8. Batcave Tracks: Goth Rock & Darkwave Mix 6 (32:29 video)
  9. My Favorite Goth Bands (31:26 video) [blogger video]
  10. Gothic Music Medley [Instrumental] (43:42 video) [elements from classical and chamber music]

I included the time stamps because of how YouTube recommends videos to users based on how much of that video has been “watched” and how many people have watched it (Game Theory sums this up pretty well.)So I’m guessing the longer mixes (seriously guessing) were just put on in the background, which is cool (provided they aren’t monetized which is a story for another day.)

I also clicked through the mixes to find the general sound if it wasn’t obvious from the title or accurate.  This made me so sleepy and I definitely didn’t want to watch more after this. Again, these things aren’t bad, just getting a lay of the land for general searches.

Although I don’t know how to translate this feeling into words (yet) I can see why if you like the fashion you would be drawn to a different kind of music than gothic rock (not because my top 10 results were mostly classical based). I think the general summary of today is goth is way more approachable as solely a look than music or a culture. From just using the images (and a really user friendly interface) it’s easier to piece together some idea of goth fashion than actively listen to hours worth music and cognitively process which sounds are the most applicable to goth as a genre. 

Overall feeling: Man oh man, this was not a fun day for me.
Total time spent: 2.5 hours

Day One Prompt: Short version: What do you expect goth to be?  Legwork: Using Instagram and YouTube what are the most common themes for goth fashion and goth music today.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

 

 

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Rediscovering Goth

Currently, I can only imagine what a nerve-wracking hellscape someone new to goth must be experiencing. There are so many different ideas of goth and things to like, people to support, people to vehemently dislike, in addition to the constant flux of defining an identity under a label that is more volatile than ever. I imagine it’s a nerve-wracking hellscape for someone new because it’s like a joyless wasteland to me.

That’s a gross exaggeration, but…

Honestly, while I still remember all the things I love about goth, both the experience with it online and offline have been more negative than positive. The scene has been breaking down in factions more aggressively (but kind of knew that was going to happen five years ago, just not the way it did) and rageful rants about something trivial, superficial, on an aesthetic level at full volume is easier to find than someone just talking about what they like.

Maybe that’s just me?

Possibly. Do I hate goth now? No. Do I hate what it’s become? No. I just miss how I used to interact with it. It used to be more like an easter egg hunt and you could choose from so many different things. Now it’s more like a broken structure and you have to guess which piece of the floor is going to cave in from underneath you and drop you into irrelevancy or will it support your climb to the one true interpretation of goth. (I being a little sarcastic but also…kinda not.)

Again, this could just be my experience because of changes I’ve made personally, but I don’t quite feel like I’m wholly alone in this.

So I would like to try a little project. 

I’ve been flirting with the idea of doing A Year and A Day of Goth, obviously lifted from Wicca. I don’t practice Wicca itself, but I admire the structure of a studious and interactive approach. I don’t know if it will translate perfectly to the goth community or culture, but it seems better to fall back in love with goth then to just stay where I am, you know, kvetching.

While I’d love to write every day, that probably won’t happen. I haven’t written much in a year so I’m kind of out of practice. I might write more formal(?) pieces throughout this, but the year and a day is more for me and whoever wants it. (Formal pieces where there’s an outline and an effort to make a serious coherent thought take about three to seven days to write. The last one I did, Ambiguous Goth, got a lot of great feedback and I like doing them, but I want to keep this more lucid and fun.)

This is more for my own reference point.

I want to talk more about the definitive features of why things fall under the goth category and others don’t, so I’m going to avoid just listing bands and books. I am a little concerned because I don’t have the correct terminology to talk about music in the same way I could talk about literature or fashion but that’s what the internet and coffee is for!

I liked how the 666 was working out, so I might do some variation of that so other people can do their own Year and a Day, baby bats and otherwise. I feel like it’s actually going to be more intense.

When it comes to approaching categories, like music, fashion, literature…it’s going to be significantly less structured than my other stuff. So instead of doing music all in one month or a week, it’ll be like “this is rabbit hole I fell down today”. Many of us talk about the research process we expect baby bats to go (or we went)  through, I’d actually like to capture that feeling of discovery again or feel it for the first time. For some reason, I think that would take the pressure off trying to “get everything perfect” and be more inviting.

So away we go.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

Fake Empaths and the Shallow Hero

 

To be honest,  I’ve been drafting this piece for three years. Three years of reading, rewriting, interviewing, surveying, and observing to find anything that could support the idea that highly (and I mean highly) intuitive people are as common as the posts on Facebook would suggest. As with all my posts, I understand this perspective I have formed will irk some, so I would like to invite the shaken and bothered to question not only my perspective but theirs as well. If you do feel called out, however, I sincerely dedicate this post to you. Links are in bold and underlined.

Empaths are highly regarded as these supernatural lie detecting, room reading, emotionally giving people. But all they seem to amount to when repeatedly given opportunities to demonstrate these abilities is self-serving demons masquerading as angels in a society full of the broken and the sheltered.

Do I think empaths don’t exist? I feel a need to specify that we’re not talking about actual empathy. You know, the feeling one step above sympathy (understanding a situation is bad, ) and is born of having the experience of that very situation to offer a perspective (knowing the reality of the situation instead of imagining its gravity and ultimately knowing how that can make people feel). We’re talking about the people who glorify the emotional return they get from half assedly displaying a superficial idea of empathy, usually to people who know even less about empathy than they do. 

In my mind, it stands to reason that if we can have a pool of people where a small fraction of a fraction of them can be devoid of any empathy at all then we must imagine a world where people can also be overtly in tune with the emotions of others. I do believe these kinds of people exist. I just don’t believe I would be so fortunate to find so many of them in one city…

The qualifiers for empaths tend to be rooted in a heavily guarded and shallowly formed idea of other people, relying strongly towards misconceptions and stereotypes. 

From Live Bold and Bloom of the 29 traits listed, 20 of those traits are based off of trusting other people’s standards for supportive or empathetic behaviors or using your own judgment of demonstrating those things well. (Which if not actively pursued and challenged can be a recipe for a shallow understanding of the world around you.) One of the traits listed is being considered a great listener. Now you can be a great listener to someone who has never met a great listener before (or someone you want something from) and still be bad at truly listening to other people because you don’t like how they communicate.  You can be a bad listener in the moment because you are human (and emotional labor is really hard, surprise) and not have that negate your past experiences of being a good listener. My question is how do you challenge yourself to be a better listener to fulfill this narrative?

Is it in filtering out people with enough life experience to know when you’re just paying lip service and fostering relationships solely with people who make you feel good? Or is it in forcing this trait you would like to have  down other people’s throats until they (sometimes begrudgingly) agree to let you believe it? Or do you actually take the time to check in with people to find out if they feel you did what you claim to do? Do you ever ask if there are ways you can improve?

But maybe Live Bold and Bloom isn’t a good reference let’s look at five others…

Exemplore, Your Tango , MSN , Intuitive Souls Blog , and Bustle   all cite “being overwhelmed in public”, “experiencing other people’s physical ailments”, “being a great listener”, and some variety of emotional repression and/or difficulty with intimacy as traits of being an empath.

Hold up, difficulty with intimacy? Bitch, I know. I have been led to believe that being an empath meant you experienced a high level of intimacy with people sometimes even when you don’t want to. So how would someone with problems of intimacy be capable of effectively recognizing moments of vulnerability and honesty? How would someone with problems with intimacy be capable of exploring that relationship with empathy?

Overwhelmed in public? The majority of the population experiences some form of anxiety in various ways and several of those ways cited as triggers for anxiety include interaction with groups of more than one person. Experiencing other people’s ailments? Have you heard of the multitude of ways we try to reflect others to build a sense of familiarity and endear ourselves to people? And being a great listener? In a society that frequently tells anyone remotely marginalized to shut up and cannot be bothered to separate narcissism and narcissistic behaviors? I just….I’m at a loss.

So are these fake empaths actual a new breed of narcissist?

No, not really. These empaths tend to have a long history of being bullied or ostracized for being too sensitive (we’re defining it as high emotional reactions because not a single source did and that brings up more questions than it answers), too direct (“telling it like it is” was cited as a trait for empaths), or too emotionally withdrawn (which leans more to psychopathic behaviors than empathic ones because that limits your emotional vocabulary). But narcissism isn’t a word that should be casually thrown around because at the root of it there is no separation of the narcissist’s idea of self and other people…being other people. The empaths we’re talking about tend to, at the very least, allow people to live lives separate from them without their influence or control. Just because they aren’t outright narcissist, however, does not exempt them from their predatory behavior. And yes, sometimes the empath is the narcissist.

The empath has one goal in mind and that is primarily to fuel and cultivate an image of a benevolent, understanding to all and any, supernatural being. They will pursue this goal to the point of their own detriment (“constantly fatigued” was cited across multiple sources as a trait of being an empath). They tend to latch onto “troubled” people (Attracting “energy vampires” or narcissists was also cited.) who are broken in a specific way that the empath can achieve one of two things with. One is pull off a miracle of transforming the troubled person into a character that represents what they’re capable of as a benvolent, understanding to all and any, supernatural being. Usually, this is done according to a highly coveted group’s standards for what makes a person good or desirable and done where the trouble person doesn’t actively know it’s happening and has little say in the matter. The other is forming a relationship where the “prey” will constantly feed the empath’s narrative. The empath then forces their desired idea of ideal prey onto the person, dramatizing distressful body language, emotionally unstable behaviors, and the like to create a position of heightened awareness and eventually, authority. “I know exactly what you’re talking about. I could feel it before you said anything. I know….I know… I know….” to which the expected response from the prey is “Oh my god, you know me so well. Thank you for helping me.”

Hang on Zakkarrii, people can do those things and not being preying on people. 

Absolutely, but usually being a good listener means asking questions without an ulterior motive even when you might not like the answer. Cultivating relationships with genuine interests mean investing time, energy and caring about a person even if it doesn’t serve you. So for your empath friends you’re seeking to defend, do they ask you questions that sound like leading you to respond a certain way or do you genuinely feel you can tell them you disagree with their read of you without backlash? When you are masking your emotions for whatever reason do they fill in the blank or force you to play a guessing game? Do you ever feel like you’re being made to see yourself sicker or more broken than you really are? And here’s the real kicker for your bestie…while you were getting your ego bruised, your heart broken did they ever seem more excited than concerned? And then when you had outgrown some of your broken ways, did your friend the empath seem to grow in their own way or stay the same for years? I just want to know.

So what would a good empath look like? 

Generally, someone who is capable of establishing clear boundaries between their friendships and trying to solve everyone’s problems to the point of martyrdom, constantly questions and challenges their own perspective of other people, can admit they’re wrong and apologize, can recognize their own limits of experience and seeks to gain some understanding from the countless resources available to them.

The ultimate point of a good empath is that to be good at anything takes real work and I believe that work will be rewarding regardless of their real or imagined powers. If more effort is being placed in amassing relationships where the empath is not challenged in a healthy way than being invested in becoming a better empath…then I think you know how this story goes. (Unhealthy would be to achieve the two goals we mentioned earlier or to the point of sacrificing their own well being to uphold this narrative in their head. The part where it becomes unhealthy is when proving you can solve other people’s problems with or without their desire for help becomes more important than listening to what will help them.)

All fake empaths must be punished. 

Calm down skippy. Fake empaths lack the malicious intentions to qualify for truly monstrous beings. They’re hurt like a lot of us and their way of healing is to try to build a self-image that they don’t think anyone has for them. They don’t generally seek to control people but instead look to aggressively control this image of themselves, cutting out anyone from their life that would challenge it. Being an empath is very desirable and if you can convince several people you are one without doing any real leg work, it is unlikely you’ll continue to actively try to live up to it or be open to being questioned. If you want to help your empath friend live up to this idea of themselves you need to question them. If you want to believe in your empathic abilities, you have to be questioned and you have to take responsibility for putting your fantasy self before the real story people are trying to live with you. People correcting you or telling you the truth doesn’t make them harmful or toxic…but instead presents an opportunity for growth in all parties. Shutting them out doesn’t mean you won…it means your world and your life get to remain small and stagnant and eventually you will push away anyone who could have helped you actually be an empath.

Honey, they punish themselves every goddamn day of the week.

But being human is hard. 

For empaths and non empaths alike, I’m hearing this excuse for being a barely tolerable human being thrown out a lot. Yes, when your way of existence is called out, challenged with an alternative or is not measuring up to standards you thought you were measuring up to, it is hard. Because now you have to reflect, sometimes quickly, about where the difference between your idea of self and others’ idea of you truly lies. You can end frienships over it, you can change and grow and not be forgiven, and you can both grow to demonstrate new traits and behaviors and learn to appreciate them being demonstrated in different ways. The line between actual abuse and meeting a question for how you exist is bigger than some people seem to think. And we do not get closer to defining these things by ourselves feeling “threatened” or solving those problems by closing ourselves off.

In the same way fake empaths seek validation in declarations on Facebook, we seek to excuse our shortcomings by dismissing our potential to survive whatever imagined hell we think comes of changing our behavior. You’re right, you can’t please everyone and not everyone can appreciate you being this current version of yourself. But I doubt any of us have been 100% correct, or in the right, in the way we carry ourselves 100% of the time, especially when some of us don’t explore past the selves we “finished” creating in our youth.

It is perfectly fine to be comfortable with who you are and how you choose to express that, but at some point you had to put in time and thought into becoming that person. Maybe it didn’t seem like real work because remind me, what was your biggest objective as a teenager? Meeting all the new wonderful versions of yourself will take work, and you can choose to never venture out your comfort zone till the end of your days or dive into the bounty of all human existence has to offer. There are consequences for every decision, just some suck less than others.

The empath’s greatest sin is grossly overestimating their ability to perceive the absolute truth of the world around them and the true nature of the people in it without a real intimate conversation. The pursuit of the absolute truth is a problem philosophers have been looking to solve for centuries so I highly doubt an empath focused primarily on their own narrative has enough knowledge of the words “absolute” and “truth” to solve what many couldn’t and still can’t. If it is any consolation to the empaths I now leave in my wake angry and/or at a loss, there are people who enjoy the mind games you play. There are ways to play them ethically and with actual results that better everyone involved. Instead of tricking people into buying into your lies to set them up for failure because it makes you feel all big and magical inside. But that would require an actual conversation with a human being whose demonstration of self you don’t erase when it stops serving you. Everything is hard the first time you try it…

My idea of making a fake empath’s job even more difficult is to openly question them and do the things they don’t. Have real meaningful conversations with people, say how you really feel, and when listening to others instead of being defensive and shutting people challenge yourself to try an alternative. Because if everyone else become better informed at being an understanding and real human being…the empath will have less people to prey upon.

If you like strange rants and seeing how surreal a life can be, follow me on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. If you like supporting that weird ass life and keeping the world strange, my store is your oyster. If I hurt your feelings, @ me.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

The Summer of Ambiguous Goths and My Discontent

I never thought I would say this…but I miss Nu Goths.

Look, while Nu Goths were fashion-centric with their interests bleeding occasionally into superficial occultism, their successors, the Ambiguous Goths, are just, in a word, annoying.

Ambiguous Goths are Goths when it’s convenient. 

Nu Goths took at least a fraction of pride where their clothes came from, be it thrift stores or high end retailers that marketed to alternative crowds. Ambiguous Goths are all about convenience and comfort. If it’s black, coming from Walmart so they can laugh about “the struggle” (if you really were struggling black dye is cheaper) or ridiculously overpriced but trendy clothing and will last two (count them: two) runs through a washing machine; they’ll buy it.

An Ambiguous Goth is more likely to buy clothes from Hot Topic, which, of itself, isn’t necessarily a sin, but they solely shop at Hot Topic for alternative wear. Their knowledge of Goth culture (and I say Goth culture to encompass all its aspects in a convenient term) stems from whatever is marketed to them rather than defining that in their own terms pulling from a variety of resources, not just one.

You’ll probably never see an Ambiguous Goth wearing make up reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux but they’ll be the first one to pop up as representative of Goth Culture in a magazine. Ask them about music and they only know the artists that cross the delicate line between Top 40 and a “darker” sound. When they are featured in this way to a much a wider audience than solely Goths, it makes it approachable, but it’s seen as a definitive look and doesn’t address any of the things that Goths experience. That is to say, the features from a mainstream perspective will water down Goth culture rather than show what it actually is, ultimately corrupting the expectations of those who devel into it. Speaking of lowering standards for the sake of an image, they’ll agree with anyone who looks enough of “the part” on any issue, Goth or otherwise. I don’t know where this “yes to anything Daddy says” attitude came from, but it’s bullshit all around. (Or whoever their vapid icon of the week is). As long as kissing someone’s ass or stroking someone’s ego will get them a little social equity “Oh I totally agree” should be their goddamn motto.

 

A woman holding a skull with horns close to Halloween pumpkins and lit candles in Barczewo
Spooky AF

 

But Zakkarrii, why can’t they just be a “different” kind of goth, like all the others?

I am so glad you asked. As much as the different groups (Victorian, Cyber, do I really need to list them all?) may argue about the others’ validity, at least they have something to argue about. Every single one of them has some genre they derive influence from, an actual dress code (of some sort) that transcends simply looking cool and is a bigger part of an identity. Their styles, if we must focus on fashion, are dependent on a community of like-minded people producing them, the success of the producer therefore dependent on the community supporting them. (Which is why Goth vendors try to not step on each other toes and avoid making things that look too similar. We all want to survive here.) If we focus on the music it is a rite of passage to either create more of it, curate and mix what already exists, or attend the events.

So I’ll ask you how you can lower the value of every drop of blood, sweat, and tears that has gone into Goth as a whole for the half-assed, image-obsessed, passive participants in plastic crowns who want to rewrite our history into an adult coloring book so it’s easier for them to understand because they’re too lazy to learn it?

Nu Goths at least had the audacity to fight for their space and if we count Pastel Goths as a thing, they’d notably wage war on social media in a unified takedown of anyone who shamelessly stole an artist’s work. So no, if they want to have space while simultaneously burning everything to the ground “because lol, it’s not that big a deal” to them, they’ll have to steal a leg from an actual goth to stand on, and you and I both know they’ll be hard-pressed to find one.

Ambiguous Goths don’t care about…anything.

The hardest point to communicate to an Ambiguous Goth is why any of this matters. Not because we can’t, there are plenty of tangible examples why, one being they have a place to go to play tourist, but because they don’t care.

Goth culture doesn’t actively seek to distance itself from social or political issues the way other subcultures do. Goth, as a collective, doesn’t have to address any of the issues that affect its members, but it does. Racism to sexual harassment, mental health to allowing certain ideologies into the spaces the individuals build for themselves online, Goths aren’t afraid to take a stand. Not that is a political or social movement, but it does try to take care of its own and create an inclusive and safe environment.

There are things that Goths pride themselves on that have real-world applications: going from a small artist to a business, learning how to participate in a community, who you are as a person and how to interact with other people. It lends itself to a kind of kindred spirit attitude “I’m strange. You’re strange. Let’s learn to be strange together.”  Somewhere through the years, it became an unspoken rule that a Goth should at least have a singular skill that could apply to their Goth life and their not Goth life. Intellect was a huge aspect of being a member of the scene and “questioning everything” was a way of life passed down through the variations.

So Goth culture has an underlying desire built into it somewhere to see its members better themselves and others through intellect, support, and compassion.

 

 

“Don’t make me thiiiiiiink.”

 

Ambiguous Goths will literally tell you that you’re bullying them when you correct them about history or influences or anything, because they do it with everything. 

I can show a little mercy for the survival tactic being forced upon them to disassociate from any harsh realities in the face of current sociopolitical upheaval in every other aspect of their lives. So it doesn’t come at any surprise that Ambiguous Goths would do the same to Goth culture. However, how long must this practice be allowed to continue? How much longer do we allow a cognitive regression and “forgive” because we are afraid of being called “bitchy”, “elitist”, “gatekeeping”?

May I have the argument that the reason these Ambiguous Goths see so much pushback is because they are rejecting the established collective order (that was pretty inclusive, to begin with) and the rules members of that collective agreed to for the right to that membership while simultaneously receiving more “rewards” (attention, offers, social equity because of that one time they were on Buzzfeed) than those rule abiding members? They are the equivalent of children who have learned to run and jump into and onto anything and have no ability to entertain consequence or other people. This is why it’s so frustrating to interact with them. Their only skills, truly, are name calling and rejecting anything that makes them feel bad (and they’re really good at the second one.) 

Every other variation of Goth, no matter how silly or far-fetched, recognized the loose core idea of goth (because to this day we have not been able to collectively agree on what that is as a whole hint we should get on that hint), gave each other the space and respect to make their arguments, and support the branches that differ from their own with an understanding of what that support means. Ambiguous Goths won’t even attend a closing night of a club…

Ambiguous Goths want all the credit and will do absolutely none of the work. 

Attention is the most valuable currency right now. If no one is paying attention to something, it doesn’t make it on say news channels or receives funding. (I hold it above information because information is only as valuable as you know what to do with it.) Attention is the thing that anyone trying to build an identity, a business, a community needs in order to take the next steps. It brings with it validation, interactions (both social and business wise), and loosely allows whoever gets the most of it to redefine the rules of the group and, sometimes, what the very words of those rules mean.

When the attention is worth more than say credibility and can be measured in a way where that number is shared publicly (so we can weigh the value of that attention for ourselves) we’re not readily going to question what that number actually means or if that number means anything at all.  The bigger, the better, right? So Goth culture, with its long history of being the unwanted, weirdo sibling who has always owned its small numbers against the bigger members of the culture family, is now at the mercy of a strange problem. The people who are the most informed are the ones who receive the least attention. Why?

Personally, I think it comes down the mystery of where to put your time. Knowing how to market, let’s say a YouTube channel, means playing by a certain set of rules. Those rules include things like simple language, bright lighting (adequate doesn’t fly anymore) and a little bit of fan service. The topics of interests that hit that sweet spot between mainstream and goth, tend to stay in the beginner level of Goth culture. So the information is approachable, using easy enough language for a middle schooler to understand and as long as you have enough energy to hold someone’s attention for 9 minutes: you have a show. Being a good Goth, however, requires something a little different. The biggest rule of all is that you have to be informed and be able to communicate a point effectively. You can’t just say anything. Generally, good Goth content is created for Goths, not mainstream audiences, so the numbers get cut there. Depending on the type of goth, what the topic pertains to, and how well they know how to promote their channel the numbers get cut even further. So actual Goth content while good is too heavy on darkness for a larger audience that isn’t just goths. It seems the crux of this issue is having the time to either learn about the thing you think is pretty cool or how to get a bunch of people to think you know that thing…with most choosing the latter and the attitude “it doesn’t have to be right, it just has to be spooky”.

 

“A yo, where my big tiddy goth GF at?”

 

Ambiguous Goths will proclaim loudly they know everything about Goth and promptly call you an elitist if you so much as look at them. 

As belittlement became a part of daily life when conversing with anyone about anything, immediately leaping to a defensive stance when presented with new information became the new handshake, “I feel attacked”, the new hello.

Arguing among Goths is sport basically. How significant is music to the culture and how much should it count when identifying as a Goth? How dead is Goth culture? Why don’t people read more Gothic Literature?! At the root of most of these arguments, it’s personal preference, there are no real winners or losers. It’s to see how well you can make a case for your point. When it comes to big issues like arguing the morality of doxxing someone who has done something deemed “unacceptable”, it’s useful to know how to actually argue.

This is important because when these conversations happen in a public forum, we all watch each other to understand what it means to “win” an argument or what a successful discussion looks like and how to “lose” gracefully.

This is a foreign concept to Ambiguous Goths. There has to be a winner and a loser and there’s no such thing as compromise. While actual Goths argue for sport and occasionally for deciding how the community should conduct or define itself, Ambiguous Goths argue because they don’t want to lose in the eyes of their audience. They don’t want to lose the attention they’ve received for building themselves as an authority figure. So, there is no such thing as new information. If they don’t know it, then it must not be true. They rely heavily on the “Anything can be goth!” argument and while that’s not true, they need the sympathy points of inclusivity and for you to feel bad for making them feel unwanted.

Ambiguous Goths will kill the scene harder and faster than anything. 

We used to fear the death of Goth culture through financial issues, elitists pushing people out and everything else but being inclusive. While on the surface Ambiguous Goths look like they’re just jumping on the dark side of the early 90s fashion revival trend, they’re taking a lot more than a label with them.

They genuinely have no interest in learning about the word they seek to claim for themselves, which leaves club nights in a weird spot. Do they realign their musical tastes with this larger influx of new people or continue to spin for the lifelong regulars who were there since day one?  Do we completely give up the most sacred of arguments “What music is actually goth?” and allow anything to be goth music? To our goth businesses, do we cast them aside for cheaply made, overpriced, disposable clothing and accessories, because they aren’t a darkly done pop culture reference? Can you see where I’m going with this?

I’m not saying Goth can’t change or evolve, but is this really evolving? We’ve generally become so inclusive even some members don’t recognize what is actually goth anymore. Sure, there’s a spectrum, different ways to do Goth, be Goth, but when throwing out everything that came before the Ambiguous Goth’s awareness of the culture becomes a common practice just so they feel included, I don’t know, it seems like a really shitty way to thank Goths for keeping it alive.

For more on being an Actual Goth and Living the Strange Life, take a moment to join the Strange Collective at the top of this page. For a living, breathing demonstration of the Strange Life, follow me InstagramFacebookTumblr and YouTube.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

Madewell Goth is a Joke and Apathetic is the New Black

Ah, Paper Magazine, Meagan Fredette, we meet again.

Today your piece was about glorifying the effortlessness  laziness of a company that does nothing for goth fashion through haphazard nostalgic 90s connections disguised as relevance. And you’ve made reference on Twitter to receiving “hate” mail for this piece, notably, quoting you, from cis men. Welp, now you can add gender queer to the list.

Madewell Goth isn’t goth at all. Not even if you squint. 

Madewell screenshot 90s beach vibe
They use a minimalistic layout with big pictures, but this is just a couple of their new things.

A glance at the website for Madewell doesn’t feature anything particularly “goth”. Almost every tab in their store from jeans to dresses to shoes features white, off white, or faded colors. The cuts are for comfort and suggest casual late 90s beach vibe just before it met bohemian hippie. The prices are slightly higher than I would expect for a low maintenance wardrobe and with most of the clothing designed for an aesthetic-friendly distressed look.  For goths, however, there isn’t much you’d want to buy here and honestly, how would you know where to look?

Goth, as defined by Meagan Fredette, “It’s a nearly 40 year old subculture that stubbornly refuses to die; rather, it’s proven surprisingly malleable in its determination to remain part of the pop conversation- if not a language within that conversation itself.”

This why I talk about perspective and how I know Fredette continues to glance at the superficial articles about goth fashion that reference Taylor Momsen and Katy Perry. Goth fashion has always stood on its own. It’s big on key words like “unique” and “personal” and why its style is so hard to replicate person to person. It’s not trying to be a part of any conversation, although it will converse with anyone who can show it some respect leading to the multitude of goth variations we now have.

“In 2018, fashion plays a huge role in how we translate our hopes and fears.”

You are in your late 20s and need to be mad at your editor.

“Those fears include a pervasive sense of existential resignation that blankets our generation like the Zoloft sad cloud.”
You get 1 point for making me laugh out loud. I love this sentence.

“Madewell goth is a subtle, low-pressure style that combines the melancholy of the Great Recession with the well-meaning aesthetic of Madewell’s signature skinny jeans and loose button-downs…It’s gothic minimalism, with modern tailoring and silhouettes that belie its lack of forethought in the morning.”

Not even minimalist Goth is low pressure, first of all. Modern tailoring is on the list of paradoxical phrases like “Jumbo Shrimp” because it’s definitely the opposite of being tailored. And “lack of forethought” is not a look, it’s lazy and if you saw “lazy Goth” you would think it’s still too much.

“It’s for those who gave up obnoxious, vertiginous heels the moment Lady Gaga’s career quasi-tapered off.”

That’s unnecessary. Did you just throw her name in there for the traffic? Oh wait, this is Paper…

Don’t get me wrong. Fredette is a good writer. 

Fredette’s twitter…

It’s just this piece is one more to add to the pile of dumpster fires that “Anything can be goth and we’re going to shout you down until it is.” But as emails you’ve received probably demonstrate, Goth isn’t everything and anything. There’s just something about it you can’t quite find the words for that appeals to the overworked, tired of caring youth in you and that thing isn’t goth at all. It’s not even goth’s little cousin, Emo, either.

Goth as a whole is resilient in every aspect, and your managing to wrap a 90s trend as something darker and different from the maddening crowd is good for what it is. But it’s not Goth, your piece isn’t for Goths, it’s for pop culture, trend-hungry, “don’t touch me, I’m fragile, fuck your feelings but can you buy me a taco” 20 somethings. So we’ll do this again, you and me, Fredette in the fall when you want to talk to me about ox blood lipstick, boyfriend sweaters in mustard yellow and black skinny jeans that somehow SOMEHOW go with a Tears for Fears record.

The phrase you’re looking for is “Apathetic is the new black.”

Madewell Goth is being touted up as some overpriced retail solution as if actual goth fashion is far “too complicated” and not using the hashtag #nugoth would kill them. Goth as a word is heavily being applied as a catch-all for lazy, nostalgic fashion that comes in black. The problem isn’t the clothes, have them, if that’s how you want to spend $75, but call it what it is. Before you were too good to learn anything about Goth culture, fashion or music, now it’s all you talk about in super generalized terms with crystals and lattes and maybe a unicorn because it’s Thursday. And maybe that’s the problem, it’s not that you’re too tired, it’s that you don’t care.

And the sooner we get that, the sooner we can get back to writing shit that actually matters.

Cloak and Dagger

It’s impossible for me to write about C&D (Cloak and Dagger) objectively, it’s an incredibly personal thing to me. I am aware of the people who love it and all its mysterious glory as well as those who went to town when they announced the C&D Dusk till Dawn Festival. So we’re going to have to do this the only way I know how…personally. Links are underlined.

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It started downstairs…with a view of yourself descending those stairs, in all your decked out glory reflected in a large mirror and through a door on your left with the word “Sinners” over it. Diana Dzhaketov would check you in, sign your hand with a knowing smile and usher you off into the shadows. Swing around a tight corner and come face to face withAdam Bravin, the DJ, and co-producer and you’d take a step forward to find a bar lit with candles to your right and table service to your left. Despite how crowded it could get some nights, I swear that room always seemed bigger than it was under the low lights and between the sticky bodies that refused to stop dancing as breathless as we became. I swear you could feel the magic wash over the crowd and everyone became something larger than themselves in the moment. It started in a candlelit basement of a bar where only on Tuesday, you could get drunk off the experience alone.

I was 23 when I first went to C&D. I had never really gone out before so I didn’t have any real expectations, no preconceived notions. The few club nights I had gone to I mostly hid behind a camera and never danced, and certainly never spoke to anyone. I didn’t know what C&D was when I was put on someone’s guest list. I was simply told “All black everything, no pictures, let’s dance.” Sure, I thought, why not. I got there early, not sure if I was too dressed up or not enough, had a mild panic attack in the car and went up to the doorman. “You’re early.” He told me. “Come back at 10.” So I waited and at the time I thought it was just the anticipation of a new experience that made the air hum electric the closer it got to opening, but it never stopped feeling that way every time I walked up. 10pm on a Tuesday and the air hums electric. I come back, I get checked in, and I go downstairs to be told that I’m not allowed inside for some reason, I can only go upstairs. “We’ll get you inside.” The friends who I had met only the week before promised, and I shrugged it off. “I’ll just have an adventure upstairs.”

Upstairs in the front room was for white card members with Ming Vauz of the band, Sleep Mask usually DJing. Although there was more room for dancing, I spent more time on the smoking patio. I would sit in the corner and just relax, something that is normally impossible for me to do. I watched other guests and members come out onto the smoking patio, eyes wide with curiosity or twinkling from the experience (but regardless of how they walk in, at the end of the night everyone is glowing). Maybe it was how open the front room felt but there was definitely a lighter feel to it, like the anticipation of a kiss, and downstairs was the satisfaction. I had wine, cigarettes and a place to sit, I thought that was all I needed but I was not prepared for everything that came after.

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Every Tuesday we go to Church…I went every Tuesday, was always early, having to contend with traffic since I came up from Anaheim. “Quite a drive every week for a club in a crowded basement, was it worth it?” Everytime. I got there early in case I had panic attacks about being social, which I did. I frequently had to call friends to help calm me down so I felt brave enough to go in. “It’s okay if you go home. You can try again next week.” and for the first time in my short life, I wasn’t going to let the anxiety win. I never knew what I was going to do once I got inside, but I was going to get inside damn it.

Now, two years later, it’s no longer in the basement, but it still has much the same intimate feel. There are no longer white cards but there is still a variety of DJs that spin in the front room. The members who experienced the evolution of C&D carry those memories with them and carry that same vibe with them back out onto the dance floor. I’m no longer scared of going out, I haven’t had a panic attack at the thought of socializing in months.

Church…we called it Church. A girl and I recognized each other in the light of day at an event so after I became a member. We were about to say Cloak and Dagger when we figured out where we knew each other from, when another girl neither of us knew walked up and asked what we were talking about. We looked at each other with sly grins and said Church at the same time. And it is like church in a weird sort of way. Dancing all night in the shadows next to friends and strangers while heady incense fills the room, getting lost in conversations about anything when otherwise I would avoid them… it’s always cleansing from the beat down of the week before. It is healing and inspiring, at least to me, it is.

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Cloak and Dagger is…

You’re going to hear a lot about what Cloak and Dagger is from the variety of people who attend; old school goths, fashionistas, other DJs, cute lost souls, transient artists, city witches, it’s a festival unto itself. To me, it’s home. The overlap of everything I love about Los Angeles, a standing reminder of how taking a single chance leaving the house can change your whole life. It’s where I met most of my friends, I’m sorry, I really mean, family and you’d think that’s a cute line for a 20 something that doesn’t know how harsh the world can be. I assure you, if you could see my family…the way they dance under the smoke and candlelight, they throw their hands up like they’re casting spells for us all, love like it’s what they were born to do and know the meaning of the word “soul”.

Obviously, I have to be a little vague. The experience of C&D is a secret for various reasons, but mostly because it’s hard to describe. It offers something different for everyone. Some need a place to call home, some just want to get lost for a moment in the sound and others need the something else that comes with a strange girl silently taking your hand and leading you somewhere others are not allowed. The experience is a gift, so if you get it, don’t waste its magic talking about it like it was something everyone got. You got it. Hold it. Channel it.

I think this review of one person’s experience at the festival wraps it up quite nicely.

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All this talk of magic…

Whether or not you believe in the intricate rituals and far too accurate fortune telling, Cloak and Dagger will never be like other clubs. You can’t boil it down to its individual parts and give it a score in comparison to its gothic cousins in the club scene of Hollywood. It’s the combination of things. Every immersive experience is tailored to you and the women who work at C&D put their soul into it. Every band that’s performed lays their soul out before the crowd for a one of a kind show. You standing against the wall or writhing on the dance floor makes a difference, the DJ notices. “Are you having fun?” Michael Patterson, the co-producer, will ask and it’s a genuine question. So if you are going to walk in with expectations and a checklist for comparisons you are going to miss everything.

But what about the music?

Start here with the playlist.

I always get nervous when people ask what music do they play there, expecting it to be a familiar variety of gothic music. They ask like there’s an alien in their throat ready to eat you alive if you answer unfavorably. To me, the music Adam Bravin plays is for the weird kids of the weird kids, the ones who would be starved being given a singular branch of the tree of dark genres. Yeah, they play Prince, yeah they play Siouxsie, and yes, they do play something new to you if you get there at the right time. Personally, the first 30 minutes have been these beautiful melodies where I’m frantically looking up lyrics before the next one comes on. That’s my favorite part of the night. “No one dances that early in a club.” A friend told me once. “All the more reason to do it.” I told her.

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Now as Cloak and Dagger grows…with its most recent opening a monthly night in Chicago, I can only hope that others get to be as lucky as I did, to go from being alone and invisible to finding a brighter version of themselves in all that it offers. I only offer my perspective as someone who does not regularly go out to clubs for a typical club experience. If you get invited, I hope you can see it all for its worth, there’s quite a bit to love.

How do you become a member?

Rumor has it there’s an application page (for Los Angeles and for Chicago) and that’s it. That’s all I know. I was never here. You didn’t see me.

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For more on Living the Strange Life, take a moment to join the Strange Collective at the top of this page. For a different perspective of that same strange life, follow me on InstagramFacebookTumblr and YouTube.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

Throwing Down the Gauntlet: How Big YouTubers Cheat Us All

This has been a long time coming and I always held back from writing about my issues with the larger goth youtubers because it’s basically online goth suicide to fight them. But I mean it, they do cheat us, would be goths, elder goths, and most of all themselves out a more genuine and worthwhile goth experience.

There is a template to the whole online personality success story.

You’ve probably laughed or stared in disbelief at some of them, the mainstream YouTubers with millions of followers who suddenly lose themselves and scare their fans, or maybe the Instamodel who starved herself to look more appealing to followers so they could keep getting sponsored. Bloggers have a similar template too, but the three biggest rules of all is if you want to succeed you keep it light, keep it short, and keep it general.

I am thoroughly convinced goths don’t have to play by those rules. That was the whole point wasn’t it? We didn’t fit in with the other kids in school so we did our own thing, found other people doing a similar something and we’re so happy that being on the outside didn’t mean you had to be alone. Too mushy? Okay, fine.

They do not give a fuck about the community.

And that’s a word you’ll hear a lot of people say, argue about sometimes. But when was the last time a single one of the goth poster children mentioned an independent artist? New band? New book? How about anything that doesn’t involve getting you to buy something from one of the mass manufactured companies who don’t have a single employee who has heard of Siouxese and the Banshees? I’ll wait. It’s not like these things are in short supply, but I suppose without the reigning royalties approval it’s like it never fucking happened, isn’t it?

Just so you and I are clear, you do know that’s how the hashtag got started right? Before it was in the clearance section of Forever 21 because they couldn’t rebrand it as “witchy”, before actual goth clubs had to shut down and reinvent the entire format because you only looked for them on closing night, before…*sigh* I digress. The point is people showed up for people. That is the basis of the entire goth culture you don’t know of that produced the people you’re holding up now as the be all, end all of goth. Not saying you have to worship every single person you come across, but respect for the individuals who make up the community is the first of the 10 Goth Commandments.

Put that on a t shirt you’ll wear for the ‘gram.

They do not give a fuck about you.

Unless you make them fan art, in which they’ll tag you in it.

I have a lot of disdain for the people who only see wallets and not people. There are too many artists in so many different mediums both on rockstar levels and those with a handful of followers who genuinely give a damn about you for me to let it slide. There are too many people who will make time to answer your question even if they’ve heard it a million times. Not because you had the money to show up and buy a t shirt or a print, but because what they made meant enough for you to be there now and that is where our artistry lies.

I have more disdain for people who follow the money and continue to promote corporations that capitalize off of cultures (like ours for starters) and churning out disposable fashion that is not made to last. Traitor.

Traitor because they lower the value of everyone’s contributions.

The number of times I’ve heard someone say to their friend in front of vendor’s booth at an event “I can probably find this on eBay for cheaper.” is painful and ridiculous. Because they taught hundreds of thousands that they don’t have to pay as much for goth fashion, that it’s not worth as much. Or rather it’s what they don’t say.

Because they hold you hostage, once they get big enough numbers they can’t just share things they actually like, no, that would betray business. They can’t just reference other YouTubers in their videos but they’ll happily do a reaction video with 14 minutes of them watching it in silence, 20 seconds of them fake laughing, and 6 minutes of the same three sentences said nine different ways so they can rack up that ad revenue. (Although that is probably a thing of the past now, considering how frantic YouTube is change their guidelines these days, but if they profited from it, it’s still fucking theft.)

Meanwhile there are actual goths who brag about their lastest record find and have what few real goths remain dripping with jealousy. But you don’t listen to records, that’s fine.

Truth of the matter is, if this is your only exposure to goth, you are cheating yourself. 
Because you are holding a snowflake blown off the tip of the iceberg and have no clue what a beast of a glacier the goth world is.

No. I.D.E.A.

But gosh, that snowflake sure is pretty.

And now for the Q&A portion of our feature.

Q. Fuck you, they’re awesome.
A. I don’t doubt their ability to follow the business model for content churn out is impeccable. I have serious doubts about whether they should be held higher than the Count from The Belfry (who does more work for this community than anyone else and the last person who want to fight) Nephilim Grave (who you have been sleeping on* since day one) or Angela Bennedict (who has done more for goth history 101 in her videos than you apparently deserve) and that’s just three off the top of my head.

*oh look, a black colloquialism because yes black goths do exist while you wear an ankh** like it didn’t come from Egypt

**how new are you where you don’t know…

Q. They don’t have to make stuff for the community. Why are you picking on them?
A. Oh these are problems I would have with anyone with a large enough platform, goth or otherwise. It’s just I deal with backlash of their no accountability personally, daily. Would you prefer if the wittle nobodies stayed quiet? Because I went through all the trouble of climbing up the damn soapbox on top of a damn chair and I’m not scheduled to come down to basic goth any time soon.

To be fair, it’s not even them personally I have a problem with, it’s how they do it like it’s going out of style. I know they could talk about goth music, that’s why I didn’t call them shallow, bottom feeding parasites in too much eyeliner. I think they could contribute far more substantial work and still be just as successful.

Unless…they are shallow, bottom feeding parasites in too much eyeliner, but who specifically did you have in mind?

Q. You sound angry that you’re not getting more attention.
A. Oh honey… I was going to write some scathing sassery, but I’m going to level with you instead. I think you deserve better than regurgitated pop culture nonsense, better than light-hearted sheltered posts that never question anything or start a conversation. I think you deserve the truth and not scene politics and cowardice in the face of a hierarchy. There are people who don’t like me personally or vice versa, but if the work is good, the work is good. Not because I want you to find me noble or cool, but because the old goth ways taught me that artistic dialogue is the most beautiful thing to be a part of as a goth.

I could have been a cute girl who went by Raven, but I missed and became the strange goth named Zakkarrii. Whoopsie.

Q.You don’t write about that stuff you called them for, so who do you think you are?
A. I know I’m the kind of person who writes about dealing with anxiety and suicide in a format that lets me speak freely and quickly. I write about identity and relationships, group formation and identity within groups. I spend most of my free time making things though because that’s what makes me happy. But you’re right, I should talk more about those things. That’s a valid point.

But before you get all smug with checking me, I have written about those things I called them out for.

Follow up questions, comments may be directed to my caffeinated self in the comments.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels