“You’re not Goth because…” Take your pick: Because you like a particular band/genre, because of your personal religious beliefs, because your aesthetics aren’t “Goth enough,” or even because you don’t know the entire history of the subculture. Whatever the case may be, if you’ve ever been told this or even said it yourself, congratulations. You’ve had an encounter with one of the most annoying, self-righteous pricks in the scene: The elitist.
What is an Elitist?
An elitist, by definition, is “a person having, thought to have, or professing superior intellect or talent, power, wealth or membership in the upper echelons of society.” Elitists exist in every culture, subculture, scene and group. The Gothic elitist is someone each of us has run into at least once. He’s the guy who is so engulfed in the scene that he follows this invisible Gothic rule book to the T. He thinks anything outside of 80’s Goth music isn’t really Goth, he’ll shun anyone who doesn’t know the history of the scene, he’ll judge you by the way you’re dressed if you’re not “Goth enough,” and if you listen to any other genres other than Goth then you’re a poser. The possibilities are endless. The irony, in fact, is that the Gothic elitist has basically become everything that they claim to be against: A self-righteous, upper-class snob with their nose in the air, disrespecting anyone who doesn’t dress like them and puts down anything that doesn’t conform to their standards.
(In all honesty, I found myself becoming an elitist in my early twenties, due to my encounters with other elitists. I started monitoring the music I was listening to, and also making sure that my style of dress was very in-your-face Gothic. I didn’t want to go out and not be obviously recognized as a Goth, and I wouldn’t allow myself to enjoy certain artists or genres, simply because I didn’t want to appear to be a poser. Couldn’t like music that Goths aren’t “supposed to” enjoy. But thankfully, I grew out of that as time progressed.)
The Problem Elitism Causes
Aside from the fact that elitists are just all-around assholes, it causes a real problem in the scene. The biggest problem being that elitism stands for so many things that the Goth scene doesn’t really condone, so to speak: Bullying, judging others, and conformity to name just a few.
If there’s one thing all Goths have in common it’s that we all seem to have a history of being bullied or abused in some fashion. Picked on in school because of our weight, religion, social status, or just not being “cool enough” for the in-crowd. That’s what drew many of us into the Goth scene to begin with. I know it’s true in my case. Now imagine someone who’s been bullied and rejected all their life, thought the Goth scene looked cool and was familiar with some of the music, and they felt they could seek refuge with the outsiders. Instead, they’re met with the same hostility and disrespect that they got everywhere else. That person has been ousted by those who were ousted themselves, basically adding to that feeling of rejection. Oh, the hypocrisy!
Individualism is also something that’s extremely celebrated in the Goth scene. That’s why many of us came in as well: the refusal to conform to the standards of the mainstream thought and fashion. We want to dress the way we want, listen to the music we want, and if you don’t like it then tough. So what happens when an elitist follows that invisible Gothic rulebook? They will only dress in what they deem “Gothic” fashion, and have a very limited catalogue of “real Gothic” music, and will frown upon (big surprise) anyone who doesn’t conform to their ways. So they’ve put themselves in a box smaller than the one they were trying to escape. And if all Goths are supposed to conform to this standard and be the same, individuality is lost.
I think Aurelio Voltaire said it best in his book, What is Goth?: “It’s whatever you want it to be.” For some people in the scene, they’re Goth because they just like the look. Others are heavily into the music scene. More identify with the fashion, music and philosophy in the scene. Whether Goth runs through the blood or just skin deep, each of us should be able to listen to and dress in whatever we want, without getting stopped by the Goth police.
Reverend Leviathan photo: JT Hanke