Monday, February 25, 2013

Mini post: New Theme

Hey guys! I decided to switch up the theme of this blog a while ago, and have been tinkering with a background and banner for a while now. My goal was to get something more readable because apparently I have terrible eyesight and wanted a lighter background with darker text rather than the inverse. I hope you all like it, but if in the process of changing things around I messed something up please let me know!

-Mary Rose

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Goths and Gothic Architecture

A familiar situation for school aged Goths: You're sitting there in class, and the professor is talking about architecture. You're fine through most of it--Byzantine, and Romanesque, and Baroque. That's all fine. But then your professor mentions Gothic architecture and suddenly you're aware that all eyes sidle over to you. I'm sure I'm not the only Goth who has experienced this. Even as most of us patiently (or not so patiently) explain that the Goth subculture isn't related to Gothic architecture (or, like my art history professor, the professor makes a point about Gothic architecture not being "about large amounts of black eyeliner." and everyone stares at you even more) the stigma remains. Even more curiously, many Goths are attracted to Gothic Architecture. Why? They're not related, are they? Today I want to make a case for the reason why Gothic Architecture might be more related to Goths than we think, and why Goths like it at all.


But where would this post be without a little history and explanation? No where, I tell you! Alright then, so let me tell you about homestuck architecture. The architecture of churches and cathedrals all, essentially, had one goal in mind: conveying the power and majesty of God and the Church to the people who went to church. Now, the movements that surround Church architecture all stemmed from a central question: How do we do that? Everyone had different answers. Domes, mosaics, doorway relief sculptures... all of these were used in different combinations over many centuries to drive home the message in Church goers that God is Great and the Church are Cool.

Gothic Architecture began in churches as an off-shot of Romanesque Architecture. The first Gothic Church as we know it is the Basilica of Saint-Denis church in France, consecrated in 1144. Abbot Suger, the abbot in charge of the church's style and inspiration, imagined that "the whole [church] would shine with the wonderful and uninterrupted light of most luminous windows, pervading the interior beauty" (source.) Now windows existed in architecture before, of course, but the amount of light and windows that Abbot Suger wanted required a bit of ingenuity. So, after some tinkering and a few more churches, the Gothic style started to come about. Here are some defining features:
  • Emphasis on height
  • Pointed arches
  • Groin vaults
  • Flying buttresses
  • I will give you a moment to stop giggling over those names.
  • Lack of mosaic/painting wall art
  • Painted relief statues around doorways
  • Large stained-glass rose windows
  • Pointed "lancet" windows
  • Emphasis on the Virgin Mary
All of these went a long way to answering the question of how to show God's might to the people entering a church. Of course, the Gothic architectural movement wasn't all churches, but they were the defining structure of the era. All together, Gothic architecture looks a little bit like this:

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris:

The interior of Notre Dame Cathedral in Chartres:

The interior of Notre Dame Cathedral in Laon:

The exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims:

Now that we know a bit about Gothic architecture, I've got some explaining to do. What does Gothic architecture have to do with us Goths?

Gothic architecture wasn't very popular in the eras that followed. The very name Gothic was an insult given by Giorgio Vasari, a classically-inclined Italian man in the sixteenth century, because the buildings were "crude" and "barbaric." The thing that must be understood here is that in the renaissance, there was a hearkening back to classical (that is, Greek and Roman) ideas, and a belief that everything that came between the classical era and the contemporary renaissance era was unworthy of discussion. This attitude gave way to many of our modern terms for those ages--the "dark" ages, or the "middle" ages, for example. So he called it Gothic, and the idea that these structures were very out of fashion pervaded the cultural mindset for many years. (It didn't help that the French revolutionaries liked to take their frustrations out on Gothic cathedrals because Gothic architecture had been a favorite of the french royal family for so long.)

So, we've got architecture that the mainstream culture deems dark, crude, barbaric, and weird. Sound familiar? I thought so. A large part of the connection that I perceive between Goths and Gothic Architecture comes from a kind of food chain of influence, and it goes thus: Gothic Architecture influenced Gothic (Romantic) novelists, who wanted to evoke the same sense of darkness and foreboding that the buildings did, and sometimes included the Gothic architecture and settings in their novels. Then, when the twentieth century horror films were looking for inspiration, they look back at the Gothic novels of the Romantics and Victorians. At the same time, more modern horror writers took inspiration from the novels and horror films. Then, when our favorite bands took influence from either the films or the novelists, and incorporated them into the lyrics of their songs. Thus, the influences are preserved.

Don't believe me? Let's do a bit of tracing.

We'll start with a building done in the Gothic style. Or, more specifically, the Gothic revival style of the Victorian era. After the original Palace of Westminster, where the English parliament had met since the Middle ages, burned down in 1834, there was a movement to replace it. Since the Victorians were, in modern terms, "all up in their feels" about Gothic architecture at the time, it was proposed on committee that the building be rebuilt in a Gothic architectural style. The building was completed in 1870, and you will note some of the Gothic elements that I listed previously. Pointed arches, spires, and multi-dimensional facades all make an appearance on this particular Palace.

Now, fast forward almost forty years. A middle aged gentleman is working on a novel, part of which is set in London. He's watched the Palace of Westminster go up since he was about thirty years old, and is extremely familiar with the Gothic architecture in London. The clever-clogs among you might know who I speak about already. I submit that Bram Stoker, being a citizen of London and Westminster, was fully aware of the Gothic architecture around him, and incorporated it in designing the tones of his most well known work. Of course, he wasn't the only Gothic author, and may have also been taking inspiration from the Gothic novelists who were equally inspired by Gothic architecture in their home cities. The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis comes to mind, as do The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, but for now we're going to stick with Mr. Stoker.

Fast forward again, this time about 1931. Bela Lugosi stars as Count Dracula in the black and white horror film Dracula, directed by Tod Browning. I don't know how o justify my claim that this follows on from my last paragraph because it's well known that this is an adaptation of the novel, so let's look at a picture of Bela Lugosi in all his glory.

The final leap that I make here is one that should come as no surprise to you all. In 1979 the band Bauhaus recorded "Bela Lugosi's Dead", a song inspired by the actor who played Dracula in the aforementioned 1931 film. Considered by many to be the iconic Goth song, it clocks in at over nine minutes of pure gawth:

Hre is where I end my little diatribe of the "Gothic foodchain" I believe connects us and justifies the almost collective love that Goths seem to have for Gothic architecture. But there are things beyond just mainstream reactions that make us like Gothic Architecture, and it doesn't require as much explanation, don't worry. This post is already too long for that.

On the very basics of what Gothic cathedrals look like, I think there's an aesthetic appeal there that draws some Goths to like Gothic architecture. Gothic structures tend to be weather worn so as to be very dark stone, they look pretty foreboding, and the ornate stonework is reminiscent of spiderwebs or venetian lace. They look elegant in a way that (in my opinion) modern architectural structures don't, and whether some Goths like it or not, Goth style tends to be dark, ornate, antique-inspired, and a little creepy or foreboding.  Not only that, but Gothic architecture is often in a state of disrepair. It's historical, dark, gloomy, and broken. Goths make no secret of the fact that we tend to find beauty in dark places where others might not. So, in my opinion, it makes sense that Goths (as a whole) like Gothic architecture. What do you think?

This post has been brought to you by my switch from being a History and English double major to being an English and Art History double major.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Approaching Bloggers In Real Life

Maybe it's because it seems like my entire campus is on Tumblr where I have semi-internet presence, but I'm becoming very acquainted with the concept of people coming up to me in the real world and mentioning that they recognize me from my blog. Usually it comes in the form of a dialogue-- are you Mary? Did you study abroad in Scotland? Are you on Tumblr? Oh, yeah, I recognized you from your blog. but sometimes it can be as blunt as "THE EVERYDAY GOTH!" which is pretty much guaranteed to make me jump like a frightened rabbit. Anyway, in this post I'll discuss how to approach someone you know from the internet and  not give them a heart attack.

And this is where the magic happens. Yeaaaaah.

Now, for my intents and purposes, I'm not talking about people who have serious internet fame going on. I don't know how to address celebrities. I'm talking about how to introduce yourself to people of minor internet significance that you, for some reason, are seeing in real life. For example, when I moved onto campus at Mount Holyoke I posted a quick note to Tumblr saying so, and there were some people who I follow who are also here. It's okay if the person doesn't follow you back, by the way. That shouldn't be a factor in your deciding to come say hello, and hey maybe you'll get a new follower or reader out of it.

First, try to be pretty sure it's them that you're talking about. I know this sounds obvious, but when you have just seen webcam photos of someone and only have a vague idea of who they are, you want to be more careful. If all else fails, just ask them if they are _____ and they will probably be honest with you. If they say no, don't push it (even if you're very certain of this) as they might not be ready to allow their online presence and real world identity to mingle.

Then, you should consider who is around. If they're around a group of people, you might want to hold off blurting out their username or their presence on a website. Not everyone wants to make their blog publicly known to people they know in real life, especially if it's a place they confess their private thoughts to. And don't assume that you can just ask them if they're on Tumblr without mentioning their username, because someone else might be in the group who will blurt out "Oh, so am I! What's your URL?" which could be embarrassing to your intended. So, wait until you're in a much smaller group and can ask them in a one-on-one conversation.

Also, be sure to consider what the person is doing. I got stopped once while almost running to an activity I was late for, which was a little bit annoying (flattering, but annoying.) So, try to observe their personal state before approaching them. If they look busy, anxious, hurried, or distracted, perhaps it can wait until another time.

Now, how to approach them? Really, this is just general politeness, but attract their attention, make eye contact, smile, then introduce yourself (you should probably use your real name and your username) and ask if it really is _____ you're seeing. I would use their name (if you can remember it) and their username, because it's slightly disconcerting for someone to know my first name and I don't know theirs or know how they know mine. Here are some examples:

  • Hi, I'm _____, and I'm sorry to bother you but I thought I recognized you from _____. Are you _____?
  • Hey, are you ______ on ______? I'm ______, I think I follow you.
  • Hi! You're ______, right? I've seen your blog on ______ but I wasn't sure if it was you or not. I'm ______, nice to meet you. 

You can also sprinkle in some compliments about their blog if you really feel like making their day. If or when you've actually started conversing about your shared internet experience, it's alright to discuss posts but try not to voice anything that they may have hidden under a read-more tag or that is just sensitive information. If they were complaining about personal issues, don't bring it up, even to be consoling. That is, unless they bring it up first. And even then be careful.

If ever during the brief conversation they start to look uncomfortable, you should gracefully exit the conversation and move away to another location. If for some reason you cannot exit the person's vacinity, make yourself busy with something else. Then, when you get back to your computer, shoot them a quick message. Something along the lines of "Hey, I'm the person who came up to you today about your blog, and it looked like it made you a bit uncomfortable. I'm sorry for freaking you out, I didn't mean to. Have a nice night!" should do nicely.

I speak for myself when I say this, but I'm sure there are other bloggers who agree, but most of us don't have a problem with someone recognizing us from our blogs and saying so. Having someone come up to me and tell me they read my blog is a lot less creepy than getting an anonymous message later that day saying "I saw you today" and wondering if I have a stalker. However, with that said, use your best judgement. And don't forget keep your eyes peeled for any faces you might have seen on the internet last week.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

4 Tips for Non Goths Dating a Goth

Readers, next week is Valentine's day, as you're probably aware. No, I don't also consider it "Singles Awareness Day" or what have you, since you don't need to be in a relationship to show appreciation to your friends with little cards or to stuff your face with chocolate. Now, this post isn't about Valentines day specifically, but it does take cues from the romantic air around this time of year. I'm here to give four tips for dating a Goth, mostly intended for those of my readers who are more "Goth-lovers" than "Goth-livers," if you see my meaning. So, here are four tips for dating a Goth:

  1. If you have a question about Goth, do your own research first. Yes, it's true, most of us don't mind answering questions about ourselves, but being treated like a walking Encyclopedia of Goth all the time can be a bit exhausting. Your question can usually just be answered with a simple Google search and your beloved will surely appreciate the effort you took to learn about the subculture that they call home. 
  2. Know that as they don't sign a contract with the Goth Cabal that they have to look or act super Goth all the time. If you're someone's significant other, you're probably going to be seeing them more often than other people and some of the time, your beloved probably won't be Gothed to the nines. I've lost track of how many times my various significant others have seen me sans makeup, wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt, curled up on a bed playing x-box. Try not to make a big deal about it.
  3. If you aren't in the same friends group as your Goth (or if you intend on inviting them to meet your parents), prepare both your intended and your friends/parents/guardians/coworkers for their eventual meeting, especially if you think the familial party will take issue with your partner being ooky and spooky. This Do your best to explain the situation with both parties, and be prepared to play referee if things go wrong.
  4. Remember that, above all, being a Goth is just a part of who your beloved or be-tolerated is. They are their own person with their own interests that may or may not be Goth related, and while we may be boiled down to Goth caricatures by people who don't know us, that probably isn't going to work out so well in a relationship. Phrases like "But, babe, I thought Goths were supposed to..." should be pretty much banned from your vocabulary. 

And with that, I leave you with my four tips for dating a Goth. I tried to err away from specifics of romance, like date ideas or things, because lets be honest that could be a fun post on its own, but more than that I want to stress that every Goth is different and lumping them together like that in a romantic context is asking for trouble. I hope you all found those useful and that you can now shower your darling in all the fripperies of the season. Or just be extra awesome to them on a daily basis. Whatever works.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fat Goths

Hi, I'm Mary, I am a fat Goth, and this body-policing and fatphobia in the Goth subculture has got to stop.

For all the claims of acceptance in the Goth subculture, the community isn't perfect. I've already written about Goths having prejudices. Assholes are likely to creep into any subculture, but I think the fact that Goth is usually interpreted as being very open-minded makes it all the more insulting when certain individuals go around policing and insulting other members of the subculture. Usually it's along the lines of Wai u no goffick liek i goffick? but sometimes, oh sometimes, it's much more rude. And today I'm here to talk about Fatphobia in the Goth subculture.

An older outfit shot. Still fat, still a Goth.

I sincerely doubt that I need much evidence of this. Chances are, you've seen it. Usually screencaps of 4chan posts making fun of a fat Goth (the image macro which claims that the fat Goth depicted is going to "Cut herself...another piece of cake" comes to mind), but sometimes other people sharing their opinions of any Goth who dares weigh more than X pounds or is above X size. If you want to be repulsed by our own subculture, just google or search Tumblr tags for the phrase "fat Goths" and you can see many people complaining about fat Goths. Some of the most popular complaints being:

  • We're disgusting
  • We're unhealthy
  • We're attention seeking
  • We're trying to be special
  • We're repulsive

The odd thing I've noticed is that many of the people complaining about fat girls participating in the subculture are people who aren't in the subculture but are attracted to the elusive "sexy gawf chick." And, I'm going to be honest with you, it's usually men. Towards women. And when they get into the subculture and find out that we're more than just walking, talking, kinky sex-drones with DD tits and waists you can wrap your hands around and have the finger touch, they get on the offensive. They whine about the fat Goth girls who obviously must be doing it for male attention or because we don't look good in "normal" clothes.

Let me tell you, the only reason I don't look good in "normal" clothes is because the most attractive accessories are self-confidence and a smile, and I'm not wearing either when I'm dressed in skinny jeans and a Hollister t-shirt. Those clothes don't make me happy, so I don't wear them with confidence and happiness. It has nothing to do with being fat.

Now, I'm not about to tell someone that they can't have aesthetic preferences. If you have a thing for pronounced collarbones in your sexual partners, that's fine. Really. But I am telling people that insulting others, or attempting to, based on your sexual desires is not only wrong, it's pathetic. It is reducing someone's worth to how sexy, beautiful, attractive, etc. you personally find them. And how narcissistic is that? My worth, and the worth of other fat people, is not dependent on the sexual or aesthetic preferences of shallow douchebags with narcissistic complexes.

An aside: From within the subculture, it seems to mostly come from individuals who want the subculture to stay within its roots, they want every guy to be the perfect high-cheekboned and gaunt Peter Murphy and every woman to be the willowy and sultry-but-intimidating Siouxsie Sioux. According to these people, none of the original Goths were fat, Goths can't be fat. Or something. But they also seem to be the type of people who most viciously guard the "you must listen to Goth music to be a Goth, it's nothing to do with fashion" trope, which seems more than a little hypocritical. I wasn't aware that I had fat deposits in my ears that specifically prevented me from listening to Sisters of Mercy, but what do I know?

And, yes, I do say the word fat, unless asked not to by someone who I might be describing. It isn't a dirty word. Promise. The thing is, many of the conventionally attractive aspects of women are those which are made possible by deposits of fat. Breasts are mostly fatty tissue, and so are our asses. Strategic placement of body fat, in the chest and on the hips, makes up the traditional "Barbie" hourglass. Everyone has fat on their bodies, it's absolutely necessary to our survival. It's used as insulation and energy sources, but yet if it's not in the "acceptable" areas of our bodies (or is in those areas but "excessively" or more than the body-police deem attractive), it must be disgusting. Or if you have too little, of course. And if you have just the right amount, you're probably criticized as being fake and a slut (more concepts they seem to think are insults.) So there is no winning, even if you do have the "ideal" body.

And, because I never get tired of saying this, let's dispel that one big rumor, shall we?

Being fat does not make someone unhealthy. 

If you've ever looked at the 2012 Olypmian lineups, you'll see that there are people of all body-types there. There's even an index on the BBC to show you whose body you most closely resemble (I apparently very closely resemble Anita Marton, a Hungarian woman competing in women's shot put.) Think about it, these are Olympians. They're some of the strongest, most passionate, and most talented athletes in existence. And, yes, some of them are fat.

I find it laughable that some people find "fat" to be the biggest insult to give someone. It certainly doesn't work on me, I got over hating my body and trying to be someone I'm not a long time ago. Someone telling me "You're fat" holds about the same weight as someone telling me "You have blue eyes" or, from people further outside the subculture, "You're such a Goth."

So why get upset about it, then? Because I know I'm lucky to be as self-confident as I am. I've gotten over my own body demons, smacking them down with the twin war hammers of I Don't Give a Fuck What You Think and I Am More Than Some Anonymous Poster On The Internet's Fap Fantasy. But I know there are other people who have bigger demons than mine, or who don't have the support than I am lucky enough to have, and who don't have the self confidence yet to just brush off those insults. And that's why I'm getting angry. Because not everyone has a thick skull and a give-'em-sexy-hell attitude, and the people that are still working their way there don't need the absolutely vile amount of criticism.

This whole fatphobia thing is also evidence of something that at seems quite obvious, but nonetheless is difficult to keep in mind at all times. It's evidence that Goths are pretty regular people and very influenced by the culture trends and media of our day. It's easy to think that the relationship between Goths and media is very Us against Them, but it's really not. We're bombarded with media messages just like other people, and so our ideas and opinions are motivated by vast cultural trends, even when we profess that we find certain "alternative" aesthetic qualities attractive. So, we absorb some of the prejudices, including against body fat, that the media is currently assailing us with.

But, it's not at bad. Some independent Goth clothing brands have begun expanding their sizes and taking custom orders to allow for size differences. Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School has had multiple posts which outline some of the best ways to accumulate a plus-sized Goth wardrobe. There are plenty of plus-sized rolemodels abound for Goths (even branching out of the Victorian, Romantigoth, and Medieval styles that are so commonly associated with larger Goths), and many of our peers are supportive. It's just the few who are being truly discriminatory and rude to fat individuals, but unfortunately the few who do tend to speak loudly, and anyone who has had self esteem issues can tell you that one bad experience can ruin months of can-do, body-positive attitude.

I know that this article seems to have been mostly tailored towards fatphobia against women, but that also seems to be the brunt of the fatphobia that I've encountered both personally and in my research. That does not excuse Fatphobia against Goth men or other genders, and if you would like to contribute to the discussion from those perspective please do feel free to contact me via the usual methods about it and I'll add it to this post or make another which includes your testimony.

I'm not big on some of the popular fat-positive slogans-- I'm not "more to love" or "chunky and funky", I'm a Goth who happens to be fat. That doesn't make me any worse, or any better, than Goths who happen to be skinny, or "average", or any other body type. As hippie as it sounds, we're all beautiful and attractive and no body is better than any other body. I'm Mary, I'm a fat Goth, and I'm as worthy of respect on my own merits as anyone else. There is no room for fatphobia, or any other prejudice, in the Goth subculture. So please, the next time you see it, point that shit out. The only way any prejudice in the subculture is going to be erased is if Goths make the effort to stamp it out.