Friday, January 18, 2019

So Your Character is Goth ... Featuring Elliana Reickard

It's the first So Your Character is From Another Country of the year! Woo hoo! And Elliana is back to share with us! You may remember her from So Your Character is from the Midwest United States ... and I'm excited to have her! I've always had mixed thoughts about the gothic subculture and honestly when I think of it the first thing I think of is Sam from Danny Phantom (Did anyone else here watch that show?) hence the above image, but Elliana shed so much light on the subject!

I’m Elliana, but I write under the name of E.K. Reickard, and I’m eighteen. I’ve worked on several retellings of classic novels, and while none are published at the moment, all take full advantage of a public domain, which I have an odd interest in. Some other likes include gothic horror novels, coffee, cats, and anything involving Halloween.

What is being “gothic” in your words?
Well, first, here’s some history. The gothic subculture isn’t something invented by edgy teenagers who want to rebel against their parents. It’s actually an offshoot from the post-punk movement in the 70’s and 80’s, usually credited as created by Bauhaus’ song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” which is, unsurprisingly, about the titular actor’s performance in Dracula (1931). From there, other bands were given the gothic label, examples being Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, and Sisters of Mercy, though none gave themselves that label. since then, goth has evolved, not only from which bands are considered “goth”, but also in genre. Some examples of modern goth bands would be Type O Negative, Aurelio Voltaire, Creature Feature, and The Birthday Massacre.

The Cure
However, gothic literature has played a big part in the creation of the gothic subculture. That started with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, followed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Other works include, but are not limited to, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Examples of modern gothic literature would be Shirley Jackson’s novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Gothic architecture is also a key component, being one of the earliest contributions to what people consider “gothic."

Siouxsie and the Banshees
Fashion also plays a key component in expressing oneself as goth. There is no one “goth look”, but rather different types, each with different fashion styles. I consider myself a Victorian goth, which generally includes ruffles and lace and pointy shoes. Others might go for Trad goth, adopting a style with band t-shirts, fishnets, and intense black makeup. There’s cyber goth, gothabilly, steampunk goth, carnival goth, and a lot more, each with a slightly different fashion style. Most styles include the color black with possible color accents, dramatic makeup, fancy shoes, and jewelry. A pendant with an ankh symbol is very common, being the Egyptian symbol meaning “life”.

There is a bit of arguing over if it’s considered a music genre, literary, or fashion subculture, but I say it’s all three, along with being an outlook. I think that each piece plays a crucial part in the formation of the subculture. One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely not just an edgy teenage fad.

Creature Feature
When and how did you start being part of the gothic subculture? 
Well, I’ve been interested in the darker side of life for a long time, having been obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven ever since I was in third grade, and Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. In middle school, I got into the paranormal genre, which was followed by horror. I read Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, then Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, both of which fascinated me. 

Trad goth

It was only when I learned of Jillian Venters, the creator of Gothic Charm School, that I really began to understand what being goth was. Reading her blog was one of the most helpful things I could’ve done in becoming who I am now. For anyone who is interested in the gothic subculture or wants to know about being goth beyond what I’ve said here, I highly recommend her blog (and for any writers writing a goth character, I recommend you do so anyway!). 

I listened to some of the goth music, both old and modern, and ended up enjoying a lot of it. I connected a lot with the modern goth band Creature Feature, especially since one of their songs matched my current novel quite well. From there, I explored other bands and continued to enjoy the darker, more somber side of music.

What do you like about being gothic the most?
I like the fact that I’m able to express myself in ways that I’m comfortable with. I also love the music and literature, which I feel far more comfortable with than mainstream music and literature. Don’t get me wrong, though, I still have interests that are considered mainstream because most goths aren’t goth 24/7. 

One of my favorite parts of goth is the literature. Some will say that to be goth, music has to be the main focus, but I’ve always been a reader, and I do love classic gothic literature a lot. My current favorites are The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein, along with the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I recently memorized and recited his poem “Annabel Lee” for my English class. 

I’m also writing a retelling of the two novels, with elements from each combined together in the same book. I also do love the music. It has such a unique sound that sets it apart from other musical genres, making “goth music” a genre of its own. Given that the label of goth might put some off from listening to genuinely good music, people inside the subculture can take away something from the music that not many others can, and I think that’s incredible.

Is there anything you dislike about being gothic?
I don’t like the stigma, which is part of why I’m writing this. There’s far too much misrepresentation in media, from basic and boring stereotypes to harmful ones.
I also hate it when people say that goths are just “looking for attention”. Pardon the annoyance, but I highly doubt that people spend hundreds of dollars on ruffled shirts, fishnet tights, boots, silver jewelry, and hair dye just to freak out the cashier at the grocery store. That doesn’t even take into account the money spent on music, gothic novels, and room decorations. 

Do you have any interesting experiences being a part of gothic subculture?
Well, I don’t get many of the “it’s not Halloween yet!” comments from living in a more open-minded area, but I have had a couple odd experiences. 

If I wear anything not black, even if it’s a black and white shirt or skirt, I always get comments about it. I do prefer to wear all black, but when I do use accent colors, it can be annoying to be constantly bombarded with people acting like it goes against everything they’ve ever known. 

One time I was at a grocery store and I stopped to talk to my friend who works there. I didn’t see this happen, but my friend told me that afterward her manager stopped to ask her about me. When told that I was her friend, the manager said that I looked like “I would sacrifice him”.

One of my teachers, an elderly lady, had us write adjectives that described our personalities and explain them to her, as a “get-to-know-you” game. I chose one of mine to be the word “unusual”, based on the Beetlejuice quote: “I, myself, am strange and unusual”. She asked me why, then asked, “You’re not goth, are you?” When I told her yes, she was very sweet and said that she’d been to many gothic weddings. 

I was passing out candy on Halloween and I told someone at the door (a teenager, even) that I liked his costume. He said, “thanks, I like yours too.” I wasn’t in costume; just my normal clothes. Earlier that night, I was asked if I was dressed as a goth for Halloween. I told them no, I’m already a goth, so that would just be repetitive.

I’ve also been compared to Morticia and Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family, Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, and Sarah from The Craft, all goth girls.
Do you have any other details about your experience in the gothic subculture to add?
Not anything broad at the moment, though I’m happy to answer any specific questions people may have!

Victorian goth
What are some stereotypes about the gothic subculture that irk you?
We’re not all depressed. We’re not “looking for attention”. We’re not violent. We’re not creepy loners. We can be happy. We have nothing to do with violent attacks on others any more than other groups. And for many, it isn’t just a phase and calling it a phase can be incredibly annoying and disrespectful. 

Goth also isn’t just for teenagers, either! Jillian Venters, one of the most well-known goths, is fifty years old as of writing this, and Aurelio Voltaire, a modern gothic musician, is fifty-one. Goths under 18 (or to some, 21) are generally called “babybats” and middle-aged goths are generally called “elder goths” (though neither of those terms is required, just a way to identify age in the subculture). 

Goths aren’t all the same in looks either. Yes, there is some variation in clothing styles and music genre, but people themselves are just as diverse inside the subculture as outside. The idea that one has to be pale to be goth is a complete myth, along with other “gatekeeping” ideas that keep different people groups outside the subculture.

Oh, and Marilyn Manson’s music isn’t goth, no matter what the newspaper headlines say. 
What media portrays the gothic subculture inaccurately be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Most media, honestly. Any time you see a goth being depressed (as in, it’s part of being a goth, not that depression is clearly mentioned as a separate problem) or violent is inaccurate. 

One book that annoyed me with goth portrayal is Never Slow Dance With a Zombie by E. Van Lowe. It’s an otherwise fun, short read, but the main character spends a good page insulting everything about goths, and most of what she says is incorrect anyway (Evanescence isn’t even a goth band, much less what she calls “goth pop”).

Another one is Gwen from the show Total Drama Island. She was given a pretty good goth design, but her portrayal was half-hearted. That show plays on and exemplifies stereotypes, but she was just shown as a vaguely moody teenager. Sure, not all goths are goth all the time, but for a show based on stereotypes, she seemed rather dull and boring.

What media portrays gothic subculture accurately be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
The Addams Family was goth before the subculture existed. Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Wednesday, and Fester Addams are a creepy family trying to live alongside “normal” families, and a lot of their interests and aesthetics are very appealing to goths. I know that I’ve said before that I’d like to be an Addams, and my friend calls me “the long-lost member of the Addams family”.

Most Tim Burton films are considered “goth staples”, such as “Corpse Bride”, “Beetlejuice”, and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (though technically he didn’t direct that, only produced it). They highlight the creative whimsy of the subculture alongside the gloomy aesthetic.

I’ve also heard that Abby from NCIS is a great goth character, though I’ve personally never watched it. From what I’ve heard, she sounds amazing and very accurate.

Who are your top three favorite characters who are in the gothic subculture in books, movies, or shows?
Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice. Even though she was a melodramatic teenager throughout most of the movie, her ability to see ghosts is fascinating and I love her sense of style. I’ve got the same hat that she wears during the movie, and I also have the same hairstyle as her, so it’s no surprise that I’ve been told I look like her.

Lucy Loud from “The Loud House”. I don’t generally watch TLH, but I do like to watch the episodes that Lucy’s a main character in because she’s a great representation of goth. Sure, she’s only eight years old, and she’s based on stereotypes just like the rest of her siblings, but most of what she’s into are quite accurate for the gothic subculture. 

The whole Addams Family. Yes, technically cheating since they’re not one character, but I couldn’t pick one favorite. I already listed why they’re so wonderful, but I had to mention them here again.

Thank you again, Elliana! This is such a wealth of information! Thanks for reading!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)
Do you have any characters who are gothic? Did this inspire you to write a gothic character? Are you gothic and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Elliana? Be sure to thank them!

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