A R C H I V E
Main Page - Return to previous page
Main > Resources> Archive > Bay Area Goths Say Media Has It Wrong

Title: Bay Area Goths Say Media Has It Wrong

Source: www.sfgate.com, April 22nd, 1999.

NOTICE: The following material is copyrighted as indicated in the body of text.  It has been posted to this web page for archival purposes, and in doing so, no claim of authorship is expressed or implied, nor is a profit being made from the use of the material.


Bay Area Goths Say Media Has It Wrong
Many teens offended by snap association of subculture and suspects 
Neva Chonin, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 22, 1999 
1999 San Francisco Chronicle

URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/04/22/MN45866.DTL 

A day after the massacre at Colorado's Columbine High School, Bay Area students were appalled -- not only at the senselessness of the tragedy, but at media coverage they say unfairly disparaged the Goth subculture. 

The media were quick to slap the Goth label on the two teenagers who are suspected of carrying out the shooting, citing the suspects' affinity for black clothing, musicians such as shock-rocker Marilyn Manson and a role-playing game called ``Vampire.'' 

But local Goths call the association misleading and just plain wrong. They say the two teens were simply mentally disturbed. 

``Violence is not what Goth is about,'' said Karen, a 14-year-old Berkeley High School freshman with fuschia-tipped blond hair. ``Those two guys were just insane.'' 

Several Berkeley High students who gathered yesterday in Martin Luther King Jr. Park between classes accused the media of exploiting the Goth subculture for the sake of a good headline. 

``It's always society's solution to blame something other than itself,'' said Carolyn, a 17-year-old senior. ``They just want a scapegoat.'' 

For the Berkeley High students, the two suspects in Colorado were just a lot of youth trends and fascinations gathered under a single umbrella. 

Some members of the clique that called itself the Trenchcoat Mafia have worn Gothlike black clothes to school every day. Others have mixed homegrown white supremacy with a fascination with Nazism and paramilitary hardware. Still others have spent enormous amounts of time online and had their own Web pages. 

Jessie, a 16-year-old Goth in black lace whose porcelain face powder could not hide her freckles, said, ``Just because someone dresses in black doesn't mean that they're Goths -- or that they want to murder people. The media goes crazy about this stuff because it makes good reading.'' 

With their haunted look and other-worldly makeup, Goths may look startling, but most say their attire does not reflect a love of violence. To most Goths, their brand of rebellion is an introverted, artistic turn away from materialism and conformity, not a campaign to collect weapons and kill people. 

Inspired by Gothic artists and authors from centuries ago, members of the Goth subculture turn to fashion, music, art and literature to explore themes of death, pain and isolation. The scene was born in the early '80s as a fusion of glam rock and punk, and it has undergone a national resurgence in the '90s, led by cities such as San Francisco and New York. 

Mainstream rock stars from Madonna to Jewel have adopted Goth motifs. Marilyn Manson also has borrowed heavily from the Goth world, as have many prominent fashion designers and screenwriters. 

``Every form of music has something violent about it, even opera and classical,'' said 16-year-old Roxane, a hip-hop fan in a baggy T-shirt and jeans. ``And besides, Goths are not people who want to fight. They're wimps who dress scary because they have no other way to defend themselves.'' 

``Hey, I listen to Marilyn Manson, and there's no way I'm gonna go out and start killing people,'' said Jane, 17, a former Goth, as she gathered her books for her next class. ``Something wasn't wrong with the music -- something was wrong with those two people.'' 

The teenagers said they often have played the ``Vampire'' game and have never seen any violent behavior. ``There are the occasional nuts who think they're vampires, but they don't hurt anyone,'' said Jessie, shaking her head in disgust. 

Skippy, a towering but soft-spoken 18-year-old dressed in black -- including a trenchcoat -- called the media's generalizations ``bull--.'' 

``It's just a way of segregating people,'' he said. ``You can always find some random way to identify anybody with anything. I could relate Jessie to a slug because their bodies are both composed primarily of water.'' 

1999 San Francisco Chronicle  Page A4

Main Page - Return to previous page