Goths: Subcultures and Criminal activities
Oftentimes, adults view youths as problems that need to be managed, combing efforts and policies designed to limit drinking, curbing teenage pregnancies, and low self worth and medications to address depression and eating binges. It is a given that subcultures such as the Goths are usually attributed to youths, the sense of wariness and fear of not knowing, or not wanting to know, is ever present, and the fear that drives to ridicule or disparage is also ever present (Haenfler, 2013, p. 27).
The Goth subculture can be understood as the interplay of the music, model and the individuals who created the subculture. There are three main groups of people who seemed to have banded together and formed the Goth movement. There were the “disaffected punks”, looking for a new avenue after the movement lost its early drive in the early 1980s.
These were joined by the disenchanted New Romantics, formed as a more “classy’ option to the increasingly masculine direction being taken by the punk movement; however, the Romantics soon entered the mainstream of society becoming one of the fixtures of the Pop music scene. The last groups to join the burgeoning culture were the “post punk teenagers”. Considered as too young by the Punks, and generally apathetic to the remaining elements of the scene, these found themselves being slowly enamored to the Goth lifestyle (History of Goth, n.d., p. 1).
In the California Crime and Violence Prevention Center website (2014, p. 1), street gangs can be segregated by ethnic origin. Among the groups are African American, Asian, and Latino. With regards to gangs, these can be classified into the following categories, Skinheads, females, Tagger crews, Tag Bangers, Party Crew and Goths. Within the gangs themselves, are so-called “cliques”. In the state, it is estimated that there are 300,000 gang members belonging to more than 6,000 street gangs.
In the context of Goths, though these groups have been “operating” as long as the other gangs, Goths have only risen again in the middle of the 1990s. Though the Gothic fashion sense is meant to shock, with a penchant for black, most of the members of the Gothic subculture are law abiding members of society, with very few members who are engaged in criminal activities (Mariposa County, 2014, p. 1). However, there are others that have monitored that compared the rise of the Goth lifestyle to the earlier social movements such as New Age travelers and anti-capitalism, environmentalism as well as anti war social movements (Cieslik, Simpson, 2013, p. 19).
Though subcultures, in the work of Haenfler (2013, p. 24) may be regarded and comprehended as silly and even weird or even dangerous, these groups must be studied; these subgroups have introduced many youths into their adult years, offering secure and positive spaces for youths who would otherwise feel misplaced or ostracized among their “normal” peers and developing unique value systems that they would bring them as they grow into their adult years.
The Gothic subculture prevalent among the youths became “fashionable”, in that the movement spread and lasted, and was classified as a distinct sub group in a number of countries; in the United Kingdom, the Goth subculture rose in the 1980s as an adjunct of the “punk rock” movement in the country. The symbols and the conduct of the Goths are identified as reflective of 19th century literature from Gothic authors as well as the present day horror pictures. In the analysis of Hodkinson (2002), in describing the Gothic subculture from a sociological viewpoint:
“Elements of punk, glam rock and new romantic, were gradually fused into a distinctive style of music and fashion described as dark, macabre and sinisteronce the general Goth theme had been established for a time, many elaborated on its association with horror by drawing upon various images originating in macabre fictions such as crucifixes, bats and vampires” (Center for Mental Health, n.d., p. 1).
With its dual capitals in Soho-Camden and Leeds-Bradford, Goth gained the reputation of becoming one of Britain’s largest youth “tribes”. The look associated with the Goth culture-the ghostly white skin color, the heavy eyeliner and the fiery red lipstick, among others, became an easy identification code for those who were in the subculture. However, the subculture began to die out with the rise of ‘new” fads, such as “acid house”, grunge and British pop (Price, 2013, p.1).
People associate the Goth subculture with the horror genre as these consider the Goth scene as a profane, irreverent subculture, apposing itself in direct “confrontation” with the more mainstream or “sacred” culture. Danesi (2010, p. 129) states that all cultures strive to make a digression between the sacred and the blasphemous, traditionally essayed as a segregation of the body and soul. The manifestation of the distinction is practiced in the narrative, ritualistic and artistic modes of that culture, particularly in the clothes, music and literature of the group.
Besic and Kerr (2009, p. 113) describe the adolescents in the Goth as well as the similar Punk subculture are primarily identified by their utterly shocking and unusual appearances. The appearances of the Goths, according to the authors, are believed to be a coping mechanism for the members of the subculture to address socialization deficiencies by restricting their social contacts. The authors used a sample lot of 1,200 7th to 11th graders. Identifying as a Punk or Goth is stating that the appearance is an integral component of the identification process of the person in the group.
The formation of Goths: Response to society
As mentioned earlier, the adoption of a radical appearance is part of the coping mechanism of the individual who cannot fully express themselves in a social context. Simply put, the authors claim that the adoption of the appearance is the person’s avenue by which he/she can conceal and avoid dealing with an inordinate degree of shyness. By “behavioral inhibitions”, these can be taken to define a “temperamental based” aversion to strangers or instances that is relatively stable over a period of time. Children, in the work of Fox, Sobbel, Calkins and Cole, (1996), are hostile to structured patterns of behavior, and when these grow up, take on coping mechanisms such as those in the Goth and Punk lifestyle.
Though Goths would usually laugh off media reports of members of their subculture in violent criminal activities such as drive y shootings, Goths have earned the reputation and tag of a “gang” as there is a degree of criminal activity that has been documented within the members of the subculture. Among the criminal activities that are being attributed to the Goths include “ritual sacrifices” as well as rabid illegal drug use.
However, it must be stated again that the criminal activity being attributed to the present day Goths are personal choices and not resulting from the decision of a hierarchical structure for all members of the group to practice, and if a Goth does practice ritual sacrifices, it is mainly due to mental imbalances and not because the person practices the Gothic lifestyle. Simply put, the person wanting to practice the Goth lifestyle is a personal choice, and not as a cultic decision (Gothic Subculture, 2014, p. 1).
Hence, a proper understanding of a “subculture” is that of an emblematic resistance- a direct assault on the culture of ‘hegemonistic’ mainstream society and being able to carve the niche that the members of the subculture are looking for within the society. Again, it must be understood that members of the Goth community are not typically law breakers though the stereotype is that of one (Hodkinson, 2012, p. 561).
However, a gang can still be considered as a subculture. Commonly composed of economically deprived youths, the work of Frederic Thrasher and William Foote Whyte of the Chicago School noted that in the same manner, gangs have norms and codes of conduct that separate them from the mainstream society. For example, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, one of the largest in Central as well as North America, has its own language made up of hand signals and tattoos to be able to differentiate its members of other rival gangs. Other gangs, such as Japanese Yakuza, have a more stylized and formal structure compared to other subcultures (Haenfler, 2013, p. 21).
Goths emphasize that the members of the subculture practice the lifestyle well within the boundaries set by the law. But again, there are those that follow the Gothic milieu, particularly the “black metal” borders, which do pose a danger to the community and can be involved in various criminal activities. Police must be on the watch for these fringe groups, particularly if these combine the doctrines and philosophies of devil worship as well as Neo-Nazism. Unnecessary media targeting on the practices of this subculture can result in extremely adverse events such as copycat attacks that mimic the signature elements of the movement (Kaplan, Loow, 2002, p. 150).
“A hatred of Goths that is driven by fear of not knowing”
Sophie Lancaster and her friend Robert Maltby were brutally attacked by a group of teenagers in Manchester. Their crime as to why the group killed Sophie? She was different. Sophie was killed in the attack, victim to the ferocious bigotry that Goths and other similarly situated individuals face in society. Robert landed in the hospital with extremely severe injuries that, even though the attack was a year old, had not fully healed.
When the gang was arrested and finally tried, the judge, who eventually found the gang guilty of the crime, ruled in his decision, that the attack “was a hate crime [perpetrated] against completely harmless people who were targeted because their appearance was different”. In essence, Judge Anthony Russell QC ruled that Sophie was attacked and killed not because of her race, religion or gender preference, but because she chose to practice being a Goth (Hodkinson, 2008, p.1).
As earlier stated in the paper, the subculture of the Goths in society is often met with skepticism at the very least, to outright hatred in the most extreme. The case of Sophie Lancaster is reflective of the extreme hostility society assigns not to something that it does not understand, but something that it fears to a point that society does not want to understand, and just move to destroy the threat that is lurking in its midst. Here, one should be overly dramatic against Goths; as also mentioned, Goths rarely are involved in criminal activities, and much of the Gothic community that are involved are those in fringes of the movement and not the “mainstream” Goths. Goths, like any other movements, must be understood as this is one of the gateways that youths are being guided to becoming productive members of society, and not grown as walking targets where some deviant members of society can vent their fears.
Besic, N., Kerr, M. (2009). “Punks, Goths , and other eye-catching peer crowds: do they fulfill a function for shy youths?” Journal of Research on Adolescence Volume 19 number 1 pp. 113-121
Center for Mental Health (n.d.). “About the Goth subculture”. Retrieved 25 March 2014 from <http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/youth/goth.pdf>
Cieslik, M., Simpson, D. (2013). “Key concepts in youth studies”. California: SAGE Publishing
Danesi, M. (2010). “Geeks, Goths, and Gangstas: youth culture and the evolution of modern society”. Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press
Gothic Subculture. (n.d.). “What is a gang?” Retrieved 25 March 2014 from <http://www.gothicsubculture.com/gang-definition.php>
Haenfler, R. (2013). “Subcultures: the basics”. New York: Routledge
History of Goth (n.d.). “Subculture”. Retrieved 25 March 2014 from <http://www.historyofgoth.com/>
Hodkinson, M. (2008, August3). “United in the name of tolerance”. The Guardian The Observer
Hodkinson, P. (2012). “Beyond spectacular specifics in the study of youth subcultures”. Journal of Youth Studies Volume 15 number 5, pp. 557-572
Kaplan, J., Loow, Helene. (2002). “The Cultic Milieu: oppositional subcultures in an age of globalization”. Maryland: Rowman Altamira
Mariposa County (2014). “Types of gangs (California)”. Retrieved 25 March 2014 from <http://mariposa.networkofcare.org/ps/library/article.aspx?id=1813>
Price, S. (2013, April 4). “Violence against Goths is a hate crime’. The Guardian Series