This coming Sunday, May 22, is World Goth Day. Yes, you read that right—there’s a whole international holiday all about goths! World Goth Day was created to celebrate the gothic subculture and promote visibility and acceptance of goths—a group who are often feared, maligned, and misunderstood by the general public. The event originated in the UK in 2009, but quickly grew into an international affair. On Sunday, groups all around the world will host local goth events under the World Goth Day banner. You can look around online for events near you, start your own, or just take the day to indulge your inner goth in solitude or with friends. Here at The Gothic Library, I’m celebrating World Goth Day by sharing some of my thoughts on what the subculture means to me and how I got into it.
I know on this blog I tend to mostly talk about Gothic (with a capital G) literature, or gothic works of derivative genres, but not so much about goths, themselves. However, I feel that all of these are intimately related. To me, goth is a mindset. It’s a philosophy and a way of looking at the world that involves seeing beauty in darkness and being fascinated by the taboo (especially the taboo of death). This dark and morbid mindset has existed throughout history, but was especially indulged and brought into the limelight by the Gothic writers of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Separate from, but related to, the gothic mindset is the gothic subculture. The gothic subculture is a music and fashion scene that arose out of punk in the late ’70s and ’80s. The defining feature of a subculture is that it is a community. You can have a gothic mindset all by yourself, but you’re not part of the gothic subculture until you engage with other goths in some way—whether that’s by consuming gothic media, wearing gothic clothing, going to goth clubs, or just sharing your spooky interests with some dark-minded friends. Though goth, in this sense, is expressed largely through music and fashion, even these elements have been heavily influenced by cinema and literature, including by the Gothic novels from which this subculture takes its name.
In my experience, one generally recognizes one’s own gothic mindset first, then discovers the gothic subculture when looking to find others with similar interests. For me, it started (as it always does) with books. I’d been reading horror and mystery for as long as I could read chapter books, but my life-changing moment came when I picked my first vampire romance novel up off the shelf in fifth grade. From that moment on, I was captivated by these creatures of the night and propelled along a path that led to me reading both Anne Rice and Stoker before graduating middle school. It was around the same time that I also began taking on a darker aesthetic (though I’m not sure the two are related). It took me a while to come around to the label of “goth,” but I’ve come to embrace it with open arms. So if you see me next Sunday, I’ll be flying my goth flag high!
What are you doing to celebrate World Goth day? Know of any good gothic events going on in New York City (I’ve actually been having trouble finding some)? What aspects of goth are you celebrating this week? Let me know in the comments!