What is Goth?
Goth is a subculture of people with an interest in darker music, literature, art, fashion, and other kinds of aesthetics.
Where did Goth begin?
Goth started out as a musical offshoot of the dwindling Punk music scene in the United Kingdom in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Earlier musicians have a more noticeable punk influence but as the eighties went on the post-punk Goth genre became more distinctly dark and melancholic. I'm fond of describing the difference as being more ""lullaby about unrequited love" than "screaming about the benefits of anarcho-capitalism."
Like any popular band from yester-year, Goth bands had followers. These (primarily) young followers, called Goths, translated the melancholic sounds of their favorite bands into an aesthetic and intellectual sensibility. Goth fashion is perhaps the most iconic of these aesthetic sensibilities and is often what non-Goths will think of when they hear the word Goth, but these interests can also include darker taste in literature, films, etc. The subculture has also spread from the UK all over the world and incorporates people of all different social backgrounds.
What are some common misconceptions about Goths?
The most popular misconception is that Goths must be depressed because we have an interest in music that is best described as dark and melancholic and tend to dress in all black. Of course, there are Goths who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses but I know just as many non-depressed Goths as I do depressed non-Goths and the assumption really is just false.
The general populace, spurned on by fear-mongers in the media, assumes that because Goths have an appreciation for darker things that we must be somehow dangerous to ourselves or others so we get cast as suicidal or, indeed, homicidal. This is absolutely not true.
People often assume that Goths are either Satanic or practitioners of Wicca/Paganism but while there are Satanist and Wiccan/Pagan Goths there are just as many who are members of more mainstream faiths, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
Goths are also stereotyped as "sexual deviants," often in reference to being LGBT+ or a practitioner of BDSM, possibly in reference to the fact that Goths often wear clothing that is described as fetishistic, but that is also not necessarily true.
The last common stereotype is that Goths are all angsty young teenagers who will grow out of the Goth subculture. While some people do dabble in darkness during high school and then abandon it, the Goth subculture hosts many people who are older, including the lovingly-named "Elder Goths" who have been with the scene since the beginning. Goths can be of any age.
What are Goth interests?
Some common interests: Dark music (1980's post punk, rockabilly, metal, industrial, etc.), Goth fashion (in all its various forms), graveyards, Halloween, bats, anatomy and skeletons, night time, history, crumbling ruins, vampires, horror films, rainy weather, the Addams Family / The Munsters, high fantasy, occult studies, Tim Burton films, etc.
That being said, Goth doesn't own the above interests and there are absolutely people who enjoy them who aren't Goths.
That being said again, Goths can and do enjoy things that are not on the above list. There are no interests that would make someone less Goth. Goths can like sports, popular music, daytime television, etc.
How does one become a Goth?
Goth is all about identity. If a person decides that they like many things associated with the subculture and that they enjoy being around other Goths, they will likely decide to refer to themselves as a Goth. They might decide to attend Goth clubs, meet-ups, or music festivals, or otherwise interact with other Goths. That being said, there is no official induction into Goth. It's really just about what you call yourself and to what extent you involve yourself in the scene.
Does the Goth subculture involve any rituals?
No, the Goth subculture does not involve any rituals.
What is the goal of the Goth subculture?
There is no real goal for the Goth subculture except to network with other people with similar interests and make friends.
Are there any rules or laws for the Goth subculture regarding diet, dress, etc?
No, Goths can eat whatever they want. While Goths stereotypically dress in all-black, it is all a matter of personal preference and Goths can wear whatever they like just like non-Goths.
Are there health or any other forms of risk associated with the behaviors in the subculture?
No, unless you count risking heat stroke while out in the sun in all-black.
Are any forms of the subculture’s activities and beliefs considered taboo/illegal/or another way of violating social norms?
The Goth subculture as a whole doesn't condone or encourage illegal activity. As for violating social norms, yes, dressing a certain way and liking certain music does upset some non-Goths but there are just as many non-Goths who aren't at all bothered by the way Goths act or dress.
What other sources should I use?
Some of the most popular books about the Goth subculture which should give you an idea about the history are:
Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them by Jillian Venters
Gothic Dark Glamour by Valerie Steele
What is Goth? by Aurelio Voltaire
Goth: Undead Subculture by Lauren M. E. Goodlad and Michael Bibby
The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined by Nancy Kilpatrick
Goth Chic: A Connoisseur's Guide to Dark Culture by Gavin Baddeley
Goth: Identity, Style and Subculture by Paul Hodkinson
The Art of Gothic: Music + Fashion + Alt Culture by Natasha Scharf
And there you have it! This page should serve to answer most of your questions about the Goth subculture. If you still need to interview me for your paper or project you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.