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The Goth Subculture

The Goth Subculture

Subcultures have increasingly attracted the attention of scholars and the media because they have not only been theorized as distinctive but also stand in antagonism to the dominant culture. Therefore, the concept of subculture has been a major tool explored in the explanation of criminology and sociology in attempts to comprehend crime and deviant behaviors. Being placed in the center of mainstream culture, popular youth subcultures have been seen to adopt a hegemonic outlook and oppose the societys dominant culture that emphasizes conformity. The Goth subculture is the one that has continued to grow and is increasingly attracting more young people. An in-depth analysis indicates that this growth and the conduct of those identifying with the Goth subculture emanates from the resistance to some of the societys values and cultures that they perceive to employ ideological and forcible control over them.

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Origins and History

The Goth subculture traces its roots to the early 1970s in the U.K when a somber, yet darker offset of punk rock became popular. Issitt (2011) notes that the term Goth was first coined by the Siouxsie and the Banshees bandleader in an attempt to explain the direction that his bands music was taking. Back then, such bands had a massive influence on their followers, so whatever they coined or suggested was easily embraced and adopted (Issitt, 2011). This explains the view that Peter Murphy and Bauhaus Siouxsie, who were the lead singers of their band, were the parents of Goth. However, it is likewise suggested that the first Goth inspiration song was Dead by Bela Lugosi released in the 1970s. The song had what can be described as eerie lyrics and piano notes that would have been perfect for a horror movie or a Halloween party (Williams, 2013). The Goth subculture constitutes of followers that are rock lovers and appreciate Victorian and feudal history. They have a deep connection with horror cinematography, and their fashion is dark, unnerving, furtive, and intricate (Issitt, 2011). The Goth subculture embraces films such as the Crow and edifies icons such as Robert Smith (Williams, 2013). Additionally, they have a great appreciation for bands such as the Sisters of Mercy, the Cure, and the Evanescence, all of which possess Gothic characteristics (Issitt, 2011). Since the 1970s, the subculture has been seen as tolerant of non-violent interrelations, but in the recent past, they have increasingly been seen as a group that is skeptical of societal iniquities and who have an enthrallment with death.

Groups Activities and Theoretical Explanation

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From as early as the 1970s, the subculture has been opposed to conventional values and standards. Instead, they have a strong preference for activities and practices that are uncommon and bizarre; hence, they embrace deviant sexual practices. For example, the subculture followers adopt an active sexuality which encourages women to resist mainstream and societal notions of passive femininity. Therefore, most of them will engage in dangerous behaviors such as having sex with multiple people, despite the risk that comes with such a practice (Williams, 2013). Research has shown that there is an increased propensity for self-harm among young people who identify with the Goth subculture. Research conducted by Young, Sweeting, and West found that though many young people self-harm, the practice was increasingly high among the youth who identified with the Goth subculture. The prevalence for the same was 53%, an issue which is not only alarming but needs attention from relevant professionals (Dekeseredy, Ellis, & Alvis, 2014). Additionally, the study found that there were increased suicide attempts among youths who identify with this subculture. 45% of the respondents who reported having made suicide attempts identify with the subculture (Dekeseredy, Ellis, & Alvis, 2014). It is important to note that in the study other subcultures, such as Straightedge and Punk, were also associated with self-harm and suicide attempts. However, the association was strongest for those in the Goth subculture.

The youth in this subculture have likewise been associated with violence and crimes. Downes, Rock, and Mclaughin (2016) state that in an urban setting between the Straightedge and Goth subcultures, those who identified with Goth recorded increased crime as well as drug-abuse. In an attempt to explain such findings, Downes, Rock, and McLaughin (2016) assert that delinquency is not personal or individualistic. Instead, it derives its sense and attractiveness from the acts of togetherness and inseparability that are promoted by a common understanding, shared attitudes, and loyalty in the group. The acts of delinquency observed among youths that identify with the Goth subculture may also be informed by the fact that the individuals delight in the relief and protective and sympathetic comfort that the group offers. The Goth subculture, as is the case of the other subcultures, is relatively secluded and largely opposed to the values of the dominant group (society). These values create disintegration and, in some cases, open violence against the society or dominant culture.

The biological, psychological, and sociological theories offer different views and perspectives that may explain the deviant nature, resistance, and illegal activities among youths identifying with the Goth subculture. In this case, some sociological and psychological theories offer the most relevant explanations. Psychologically, it has been suggested that trauma from the past can explain the deviant behavior among such people. It makes reasonable sense to make the speculation that some youths in the Goth subculture suffered from abuse either at home, in school, or elsewhere. Such people may be overwhelmed by feelings such as anger, alienation, and other negative emotions. Joining others in the subculture may offer comfort as they share a bond that brings them together (Courtois & Gendron, 2016). Other psychological issues, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, may trigger an individuals deviance. For example, if one was sexually abused as a child, there are increased chances that such an individual may be deviant in the future.

Moreover, the sociological theories offer some understanding of the behavior and conduct of the youth in the Goth subculture. Durkheim, in the structural functionalism theory, asserted that values in a society help to cohere different populations together by establishing boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. The author further asserted that deviance is imperative in affirming the cultural values and norms that society expects of the members who identify with it (Dekeseredy, Ellis, & Alvis, 2014). Additionally, this creates an us-versus-them culture. The members of the Goth subculture may behave as they do because they do not want to conform to the societys values and norms. For instance, they believe that most societies expect a woman to remain submissive and passive in relationships. This explains why most women in this subculture lead an active, though risky, sexual life. Additionally, their activities and lifestyle are a form of resistance to the expectations set by mainstream society. One may question how obnoxious hairstyles, cynical lyrics, and eerie clothes are a form of resistance. According to Courtois and Gendron (2016), such youths revel in the discomfort of the common people when they are confronted with this difference. Additionally, they also resist against direct control agents. For some youths in the subculture, this delinquency may be a liminal characteristic of their adolescence or struggles with discrimination and injustice.

Recommendations for Societys Response

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It is imperative to understand that though the youth may identify with a certain subculture, it does not translate to the need for ultimate condemnation, demonization, and segregation. The concerns emanating from the Goth subculture need to be multifaceted, comprehensive, and proactive, and must shun the tendency to perceive subcultures as being discrete from others. Parents, schools, peers, law enforcers, religious organizations, and health professionals all need to work together to provide solutions. The first recommendation is to develop effective intervention methods that provide schools and community stakeholders with information on the group (Downes, Rock, & McLaughin, 2016). This will help them understand the subculture and reduce the demonization and condemnation. The approach will establish functioning alliances between the educators, key community members, the youth in the subculture. They can reach an agreement on the behaviors that are tolerable and acceptable. Moreover, it is recommended that the group members be protected from harassment and bullying, because this may increase their delinquency, illegal behaviors, and crime indulgence (Downes, Rock, & McLaughin, 2016). It may likewise increase incidences of self-harm and suicide attempts. It is important that the needs of the youths in the subgroups be identified and met. This may include individual interventions, such as those emanating from suicidal thoughts and clinical depression. A safety support net would be developed.

Given the intricacy arising from negative behaviors of subcultures such as the Goths, it is important for all stakeholders to work collaboratively tp prevent growth of such groups. It is recommended that people be informed of the motivational factors that lead to an increased need to associate with such groups. Corrective measures can thus be taken. It would be helpful that the youths be provided with interaction opportunities where they can share their feelings about the relevant issues and concerns (Williams, 2013). This would provide the comfort and togetherness that would otherwise be sought in subcultures such as the Goths. Additionally, children who go through traumatic issues while young need to be taken care of. This would address the stress disorder that would increase their predisposition to delinquency and illegal behaviors in the future.

In conclusion, most youths in the different subcultures derive pride from being distinct and in opposition to the mainstream culture. For youths in the Goth subculture, in particular, the dark style is seen as an indication to separate from the conformist norms and principles. Theories show that they may participate in such activities as a form of resistance or because they derive some satisfaction from the togetherness and comfort offered by the group. Thus, it is recommended that all key community stakeholders cease from demonizing the subculture, be informed of the factors that may lead the youths to join such groups, and provide children with interactive activities that would lead to a similar sense of togetherness subcultures offer.

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