Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Propaganda Magazine and the birth of the übergoth.

 If you were a goth in the 1990’s you probably remember Propaganda.  It was a low budget, black and white magazine that was vital to goth culture in America. 

Between the music reviews and adverts for cassette singles of up and coming goth, industrial, and punk bands, there were gorgeous models lounging on tombstones, entangled in fishnets, or resting (one would hope) peacefully in exquisitely fitted coffins.  Pale and slender with heavy lidded eyes and languid postures, these exquisite creatures inspired a generation. We saw them laid across the page like freshly cut lilies and projected ghostly and dim on the walls of countless club nights and after parties. For better or worse, they were guideposts to what we were supposed to be.

Back in the day, or more appropriately, the night, Propaganda was the only guide we had to help us navigate the dark waters of our personal weirdness, and many of us still have stacks of back issues hidden away like nostalgia landmines waiting to go off the minute we open that box in the back of the closet.

In addition to helping create the American gothic subculture, Propaganda defined the way that goth was supposed to look. There were two basic styles in Propaganda, fetish and aesthetic, but in the real-life subculture, there was much more going on. Post punks and early goths came in all shapes, sizes and colors. We took our cues from glam, punk, horror, and metal – taking what we liked from wherever we found inspiration.

Before the carefully curated images in Propaganda, goths expressed ourselves differently. It wasn’t just attractive people in poet shirts draping themselves over tombstones (Dave Vanian being a delightful exception) there was also HUGE hair, bright colors, and the many of the trappings of the Punk movement from which we were still emerging. I will NEVER stop loving huge, colorful deathhawks. Sorry...not sorry.

The advent of Propaganda, with its focus on decadence and fetishism added refinement to what had, before then, been a riotous melting pot of ideas and inspirations, but it also gave people the idea that there was a right way to be gothic, and that people who weren’t pretty enough, pale enough, or slender enough were somehow doing it wrong. Early photos show goths of all shapes and sizes, and I was struck by how much fun they all seemed to be having. Post Propaganda goths weren’t dour and joyless, but they did take themselves more seriously.

It was during the 90’s that I first noticed how strongly goths were embracing the concept of gatekeeping. Suddenly everyone had gotten the idea that people who were less informed about music, fashion, and the Vampire Lestat, were clearly poseurs who were bringing the tone down for all us*

Some of this attitude came directly from people's interpretation of Propaganda, although I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the malign influence of Steve Strange during his tyrannical reign as enfant terrible of London’s new romantics as another factor. It got so ridiculous that here was a point in the 90’s when just stepping into a goth club was like being thrust into an all fake vampire production of Dangerous Liaisons. (I still have my fangs and folding fan).

It has only been in recent years that we've started to step back from the idea, that in order to be properly gothic one has to fit a specific set of physical and philosophical characteristics. Goths can be any age, shape or color, and as much as I love the little collection of nostalgia bombs, I have to acknowledge that sometimes the things that bring us together, are also the things which push us away from each other. Propaganda was vital to the development of our subculture, but it also contributed to the rise of the übergoth

It's time to step away from gatekeeping and exclusion, and embrace people with new ideas and outlooks. If we are to continue to thrive as a subculture we should be welcoming new people into the fold, not complaining because these kids today are calling it “emo” and getting it all wrong.

* Never mind the fact that the “tone” of which we speak consisted of dancing around to songs about beers, queers and steers and having incredibly dramatic meltdowns because we couldn’t face the harsh reality of last call.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Gothic Films 101 free film class!

On the 3rd Thursday of each month, I will be teaching a gothic film class at Scarecrow Video in Seattle.

Before each screening we will talk about the basic elements that define the gothic genre, and afterward there will be a discussion about whether or not the film fits into the genre.

March 16th - Jane Eyre
April 20th - The Haunting
May 25th- Sunset Boulevard
June 15th - I Walked with a Zombie

Scarecrow Video is located at 5030 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, Wa. 98105
Screenings are free to the public and start at 7PM.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Seattle Eldergoth Meetup!

Join us for an eldergoth meet-up in Seattle next week.

Wednesday February 22nd.
Northstar Cafe:
8580 Greenwood Ave N. ( the big, green building that used to be a Chinese restaurant)
Time: 8 P.M.

This is an informal, hang out and get to know each other event - you don't have to dress up unless you want to.

Reply to this post if you plan on joining us so that I can be sure we've got enough seating.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bats Day at the Fun Park

For those of you who aren't into the whole Disney thing, Bats Day is an yearly event in which goths from all over the world swoop into Anaheim and attempt to overrun Disneyland.  I'm told that it is great fun for goths of all ages. The 2017 event will be my first ever Bats Day, and I am already putting together park friendly outfits - even though the event doesn't happen until May.

My past experiences being goth at Disneyland have been, for the most part, extremely positive.
The one less-than-stellar memory I have is of a time when Jillian Venters and I were trailed through the park by a rather zealous church group, who felt it appropriate to pray for our souls, and sing hymms to us until park security politely asked them to leave us alone.  It was here that Jillian truly earned the title of gothic Miss Manners, not by being kind to our dogged Christian pursuers, but by convincing me not to fly into one of my infamous fits of temper and attempt to rend them limb from limb. 

Fortunately for all of us, The Lady of Manners dragged me away from these misguided evangelists and onto the nearest ride. Unfortunately for all, that ride was It's A Small World. By the time the ride was finished, I was either pacified, or beaten into submission by the relentlessly cheerful promise of a world united by friendship. I was mortified and angry at the time, but today it is one of my favorite Disney memories. Time, distance, and a sense of humor are great healers.

I am excited for Bats Day at the park because I've never really been with crowds of goths outside of a club situation. I can't wait  to see what we look like in broad daylight (albeit protected by parasols, sunscreen, and big hats). I really hope to see some of you there.

If you are going, here are a few helpful hints for surviving the California Sun.

1. Sunscreen: Wear it, and don't forget the back of your neck. I always forget the back of my neck.

2. Shoes: Comfort is more important than looks, but if you must wear crocs (I have knee and foot pain and they are often the only things that don't hurt me) try and get the black ones.

3. Parasols: These are lifesavers when you are stuck outside, but can be dangerous in a tightly packed crowd. Try not to put anyone's eye out.

4. Did you know they make black t-shirts that get cooler when you sweat? Search for "cooling tank top" on Amazon, and you'll find lots of other options as well.

5. Why don't they make bras out of that cooling T-shirt fabric? Because they hate our boobs, that's why. Improvise by tucking a damp paper towel or lacy handkerchief into your ensemble. Re-dampen as needed.

6. Dress to survive the heat : PVC looks great at the club, but they it will turn on you like a rabid badger if you wear it in direct sunlight on a hot day.  Yes, I am the sad voice of experience. Cotton and lace are your friends.

7. Stay hydrated:  Bring a water bottle, fill it up at the drinking fountain. You will save a hundred dollars and it will keep you from passing out on the kiddie rides and looking like a fool.

8. Be kind: Remember that there will be thousands of non-goths at the park that day, and many of them may have never encountered us before. If you find yourself being stared at smile and wave, if you are harassed, tell a cast member.  Be especially kind to the cast members, they have seen things...things they cannot unsee.

9: If you are shopping in the dealers room, please try not to block the aisles. It is rude to hog the space in front of a vendor's booth if you have no intention of purchasing anything from them. Step back and let the people who want to spend money get in there.

10 . Don't invite drama: It is going to be difficult. The sun will be beating down on you, the lines will be long, your significant other will probably be making eyes at Maleficent and the Evil Queen, or worse yet, Gaston! This would be an ideal time to storm off into Cinderella's castle for a prolonged weeping and pouting session, wouldn't it? Part of being a somewhat responsible person means doing your best to make sure that the people surrounding you get to enjoy their day. Don't drag them into your drama. Save that for later, at the dance.

Monday, November 21, 2016

I have faith in nights.

I've fallen a little bit behind on my writing, largely due to the fact that I live in a very liberal part of the US, and the Presidential election has created a bit of a panic. 

Regardless of what your personal political opinion may be, you probably know people who are feeling scared and threatened right now. The gothic community has long been a safe space for people of all genders and orientations, admittedly we aren't as racially diverse as we could be - but with each passing year I see more goths of color being welcomed to the scene, and it warms the icy dungeon of my heart. 

The gothic scene has always been a haven for people who don't fit in with mainstream culture. We take pleasure in things that most people might consider morbid or scary. That sets us apart, but it also brings us together.  Despite the arguments, schisms, and "gother than thou" attitudes, we are basically just a crowd of black wearing weirdos who somehow managed to find other black-clad weirdos to dance with.

The next few years may be hard for many of the people we know and love. I'm not much of an activist, but I try to do as much good in the world as I can, and I hope that my fellow goths follow suit. Gothic Charm School has provided a great resource for those in America who can afford to donate to good causes.

For those who aren't ready to take a side, or who have chosen a different path, or are living in another part of the world, I would ask that you do your best to be kind. The well-being of your friends and family are more important than your politics. Your humanity is more important than your opinion. This applies to every one, people you know are suffering right now. People you love are losing sleep and living in fear. 

Maybe you can't change the world, but if you can reach out to someone and make their day a little easier, or their night a bit more restful, this is the time to do it.  This poem by Rilke always inspires me when I'm feeling a little bit lost. 

You Darkness - Rainer Maria Rilke

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! -
powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Convention attendance for the slightly decrepit.

I attended my first science fiction convention in 1982, it was in Tulsa, Oklahoma – and it should come as no surprise that there weren’t many goths in attendance. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the crossover between geek culture and goth culture is huge. Many of us have been attending cons both recreationally and professionally for decades.  I have spent more than my share of time trudging through crowded hallways, waiting in line my three-second celebrity meet and greet, or minding a booth in the dealers’ room. Now that I am not quite as energetic as I used to be I’ve come up with some sure-fire ways to make convention attendance more comfortable and manageable.

Get a room:
Unless the convention is being held within 10 miles of your home rent a hotel room.  Having a room is essential for the more mature convention goer. There will come a time, especially at larger conventions, when you are going to need a place to collect your thoughts – and possibly talk yourself out of murdering that jackass in who is using the Iron Man costume as an excuse to act like a womanizing asshole. Your hotel room isn’t just a place to sleep, it is your personal escape pod. Make plans to leave the convention floor for an hour or so each day – go to your room, and decompress. It makes a world of difference. This is especially helpful if you use a mobility scooter or wheelchair.

Make a plan:
Planning your day at the convention is really important when you get older, and don't have the stamina to stay on your feet for a solid ten to twelve hours. In order to manage my time,  my anxiety, and my fear of missing something cool, I always take the time to read though the convention guidebook before I do anything.   

Many conventions are making their schedules available on-line before the convention starts, take advantage of this. Decide what panels you want to attend and schedule your time accordingly. Be sure to include some downtime in your room, and a lunch break. 

Grabbing a candy bar and eating it on your way to the next panel is not a lunch break, no matter how much you want it to be. A lunch break means sitting down for at least 15 minutes, and consuming some kind of food that is at least marginally healthy.

Wear Comfortable Shoes:
Let the teens and twenty year olds wear the skyscraper heels, those of us who are a little more mature can get away with something more sensible. I’ve recently begun modifying flat shoes by adding painted or sculptural details, so there is no reason that sensible shoes have to be boring.

Essential Supplies for the Convention Floor.
An essential part of convention attendance is having the right supplies when you go onto the convention floor. Whether you are enjoying the con as a pro or an attendee you should always have a bottle of water (refill it throughout the day), any medication you might need, emergency snacks, and whatever personal items you like to carry.  I always do some stretches and take an Aleve before I leave for the convention. 

Advice for merchants and booth monkeys:
When you are working in a booth, prepare a special box in advance. I have a tackle box that contains water, snacks, pens, sharpies, a notebook, a calculator, duct tape, safety pins, aspirin, business cards and a chocolate bar. With this box you can pretty much handle any booth emergency. 

If you are going to be standing behind your table all day, invest in floor padding. You can use a roll up yoga mat, or those EVA foam puzzle pieces. Either way your feet and back will thank you at the end of the week-end

Most importantly, don't forget to have fun. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Welcome to Old Age!

“Welcome to old age!” That’s what the postcard in my mailbox should have said. Instead it said “Congratulations! Here is your new A.A.R.P card”.  It was the morning of my 50’th birthday, I was still in my bathrobe, and suddenly I was officially old.  I wondered if the obligatory mom jeans and pastel cardigan would arrive by mail, or if I was expected to go out and buy them myself.  I resigned myself to the inevitable, and then I did what I have always done when I’m feeling down, I opened my closet and pulled out my favorite dress.

My favorite dress is long and black with fluttery bell sleeves, I like to wear it over a crinoline or two with a waist cincher over it. I’m not sure if women my age are meant to dress like fat Morticia Addams, but once I put the dress on I knew immediately who I am. The gift that the gothic lifestyle has given me is the gift of identity.

 I was always a spooky kid, growing up in the 1970’s I gravitated toward the dark and theatrical. Most of my childhood was spent wearing the clothes that my parents bought me at K-Mart. Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers and a denim jacket were my daily uniform, but Halloween was my salvation. Later, when I was old enough to choose my own clothes, I would save my allowance for months just to spend it all at the day-after Halloween sales stocking up on cheap fishnet stockings and black nail polish.  I would have killed to have been a mall goth, but we didn’t have a mall. We had a K-Mart.

I didn’t even know goth was a thing until the 1990’s.  Until then I was just a weird girl who played too much Dungeons and Dragons and liked to decorate her room with dead things. When I moved to Seattle in the early 90’s my love of roleplaying games and my love of the macabre crashed headlong into White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade. I joined the Camarilla LARP organization as soon as I heard about it. My membership number was 23, and my life has never been the same. I met hundreds of people via the Camarilla, many of whom are still like family to me.  The Cam also introduced me to the gothic subculture, and suddenly I wasn’t the only person in the room who loved skulls, believed in ghosts, and had a closet full of improbable outfits.

Over the years I’ve seen many people leave the scene, some were just kids trying on different identities, some became disillusioned by the constant social one-upsmanship, and some just drifted into other lives. I guess you could say that I left the scene too – I seldom go to clubs any more, but I do still love dressing the part, and I still go to conventions and the occasional concert. I surprise myself daily with the realization that at the age of 51 I still wear tiaras and waist cinchers as daywear.

I always expected that one day I would wake up as a normal fully functional adult. The day my AARP card arrived in the mail was the day that I finally accepted the fact that while I might be functional and adult, I would never be normal – but then again, I never wanted to be.