I keep thinking about Ruth La Ferla’s argument that Goth has returned, an argument based in part on this paragraph:
Consumers too are following fashion and embracing a Gothic style. They are snapping up trinkets that they would once have dismissed as perverse or subversive: silver skull cuff links, chains interlaced with black ribbon in the manner of Victorian mourning jewelry, stuffed peacocks with Swarovski crystal eyes, and, as party favors, tiny rat and chicken skeletons, recent sellouts at Barneys New York. Such fondness for Goth-tinged playthings attests to the mainstreaming of a trend that was once the exclusive domain of societal outcasts and freaks.
And what I keep thinking is what a load of crap this is.
Let’s consider. If the sentence, “Consumers are snapping up tiny rat and chicken skeletons as party favors….” had appeared anywhere but the New York Times, would we not be laughing hysterically upon reading it?
Ms. La Ferla has made the classic New York style-writer mistake of using the term “consumers,” by which most journalists mean “Americans,” to mean “a handful of New Yorkers living in zip code 10021 with way too much money and an overweening desire to spend it on themselves.”
But then, since La Ferla does not produce a single shred of evidence of this factâdoesn’t bother to quote a single “consumer” about his or her love for all things Gothâhow are we really to know?
I think what bothers me most about this piece is, well, two things. First, it shows all the hallmarks of bad “trend” journalismâno solid proof of anything, and a cobbling together of apparently unrelated things (e.g., the publication of Elizabeth Kostova’s vampire novel, “The Historian,” which was ten years in the works) to posit the existence of a mass phenomenon.
But more than that, what bothers me is the idea that something is a trend merely because top-down marketers such as fashion designers and Simon Doohan of Barneys say it is.
Goth is not just about wearing black. It’s a cerebral, anti-materialistic philosophy based largely on alienation from mainstream capitalism and an existential gloom about the future of the individual. So whatever they’re selling at Barneys, by definition, it can’t be Goth.
Oh, and by the wayâhere’s another Tim Burton Goth creation: Winona Ryder’s anti-social misfit from 1988’s Beetlejuice: