Schooling my kindergoth
February 25, 2015 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, my 13 year old daughter announced that she's goth. What that means is she really likes wearing all black.

This isn't a problem for me, since I have a Rubbermaid container of my old club clothes in the basement. I even gave her my pyramid stud belt (she's into pop-punk music). We talked tonight about what it means to be goth or punk, and about how countercultures are about more than the clothes you wear or the music you listen to. I'm looking for resources about countercultures that are age appropriate. As in, I don't want her searching the internet and ending up on SuicideGirls. Do you have recommendations for books and/or websites I can direct her to? Bonus question: Even though it's not about the music, I'd still like to make her a playlist of oldschool goth/punk music to help her understand the history, so thoughts on that would be cool, too.
posted by Ruki to Society & Culture (37 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I apologize in advance that I can't really answer your question having never been involved in the goth scene. But I'm just gonna tell you from personal experience growing up with countercultural parents, it was super annoying to have my parents try to tell me how to be countercultural the "right" way. I kinda think this is something your daughter needs to own for herself. So sure, bond with her over it and guide her Internet use as you normally would, but also be prepared to eventually get a big "whatever, mom."
posted by lunasol at 4:45 PM on February 25, 2015 [56 favorites]

Well, you can check out the South Park episodes with the Goth kids in them. They're hilarious and fun.

The Cure, Depeche Mode and Joy Division are all good places to start musically.

I'm with Lunasol, you can always back off and let her discover things on her own. But perhaps before you do that, head over to Hot Topic for a few fun items.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:47 PM on February 25, 2015

IANYD -- but I'd suspect that some part of being goth as an adolescent means rejecting the established order, which would include parents. If she's looking to you for help in becoming more punk, then by all means have at it and enjoy the bonding. But I'd expect that she'd want to do this independently, especially given that the identity she's taking on is one of non-comformity.
posted by RingerChopChop at 4:51 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ha! My daughter too.

We got her a bass and bass lessons so she can take out her love of music in at least a semi-productive way. And I've finally managed to convince her of the excellence of Joy Division, The Cure, etc. She also likes pop-punk like 21 Guns and Fallout Boy, etc. Maybe spring for a Spotify subscription so she can get as much music as she wants. It may be cheaper in the end. Then she can explore stuff to her heart's content. We have Google Play Music All Access but all these services are pretty similar.

The cool thing about punk is that it has an intellectual edge to it. My daughter likes books that are about consumer culture and deconstructing it. I'll see if I can find the books at home.

There are also oddly a bunch of punk-inspired comic books these days. My daughter liked "Punk Rock Jesus". I read it - I didn't love it, but it was fine, nothing weird about it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:55 PM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, I wasn't clear, she specifically asked for more information. The biggest thing she's ever done to rebel against her parents is hate the Muppets, and I am genuinely thrilled to have her thinking about who she is right now and who she wants to be.
posted by Ruki at 4:58 PM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

Do you have Sirius/XM? First Wave plays a lot of 80s goth hits (and the pop we listened to before we turned goth) and the Dark Wave show on Sunday nights (via Slicing Up Eyeballs, itself a great source of information, and they post all their show notes every week, which you could crib for a playlist of your own) is really great.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:06 PM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Noone can be truly Goth without Bauhaus; specifically Bela Lugosi's Dead.

Also early Sisters of Mercy, up through First and Last And Always, arguably including Floodland.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:10 PM on February 25, 2015 [13 favorites]

The Cure and whatever is great and all, but when she's ready you should slip some Sisters of Mercy under her door. That's some damn Goth music. :) Or at least that's my impression; according to the more serious* goth kids I hung out with when I was growing up, Sisters was "real" goth music. And actually I recently listened to Floodland again and that's quite a decent album.

Oh, and Bauhaus. Not sure about age appropriateness but we were all listening to this stuff at that age and nobody ended up a serial killer.

We were also obsessed with: White Wolf RPGs, the fiction of Poppy Z. Brite, uh... a whole bunch of really bad industrial music?

*I have no idea what that means. We were kids.'

edit: GOD DAMNIT soundguy
posted by selfnoise at 5:11 PM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

I would like to Nth the notion of taking this opportunity to get your child involved in playing music. Get her a bass, get her a cheap synthesizer, whatever. She doesn't have to get a recording contract. But getting together with friends and playing music has all kinds of advantages over merely being a fan and dressing up. It's a confidence booster, and it's a learning experience - perhaps the first one - that she will truly enjoy because of its immediate benefits in the here-and-now. It's something that will stick with her throughout her entire life.
posted by doctor tough love at 5:13 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: One last clarifying bit of info, then I'll step out. She played trumpet in the school band and taught herself how to play the flute. She had a keyboard and there's a guitar in the closet she can play. But although she has the aptitude to make music, she lacks the desire. She is a talented artist, who spent the afternoon making an incredibly detailed portrait of Gerard Way, so comics are a good idea.
posted by Ruki at 5:24 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was a goth teenager too (in my mid twenties now) and IMO a big reason why a lot of kids get into subcultures is to try out a cool new identity. Having your mom hold your hand through it is pretty much the opposite of what you want. As much I cringe over a goth teen being more into pop-punk than Siouxsie, I would never have taken any music recommendations from my mom!

I feel all you really need to be the cool parent here is not to nag her about her fashion or music choices (within reason), let her dye her hair or wear eyeliner if she wants to, etc.

Also, I think most modern 13-year-olds have seen worse than SuicideGirls on the web already.
posted by noxperpetua at 5:53 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was a weird gothy/punky kid and my pops was actually the one that led me down the path early with The Ramones, Nina Hagen, Depeche Mode and gosh, like, a whole lot of weird stuff, so don't discount yourself helping your gothlet along.

SLC Punk was a weird cultural touchstone for me, leading to a mohawk due to Heroin Bob.
Comics-wise Sandman by Neil Gaiman (not to mention most of his books) was amazing at the time.
Might want to check out iZombie too.

That's all I got off the top of my head as It's been about 10 years since I last wore my trenchcoat. :/
posted by ThrowbackDave at 5:59 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Congratulations on your baby bat!

The thing about being goth is that it's a house with many rooms. You get your literary Victorian trad-goths, you get your cybergoths, you get your band T-shirt and black jeans goths for whom it's all about the music, you get your vampire obsessives, you get your grunge goths, biker goths, club goths in their shreds of black stretch jersey, 50s style rockabilly goths... etc etc etc. Other than the occasional bout of gother-than-thou snark, it's a very friendly and welcoming subculture, with a lot of good people around to mentor her. The best way for her to learn to be a goth is just to spend time in the scene, getting to know people in it.

Goth is as the goth defines it. As she grows and matures in the goth scene (assuming she stays with it) her definition will probably change. Gothic Charm School has some useful links, some aimed at younger goths. It's written in a sort of arch, pseudo-Victorian manner, but if you can get past that, the lady gives some decent advice.

Other than that: does your daughter sew? Sewing is a useful goth skill, even at the most basic level of hand-stitching things to other things. Modifying things you got from the thrift shop can be very satisfying, and if she has a longing for elaborate historic-looking outfits, it is both cheaper and more satisfying to make them than buy them. Big floofy skirts are a good starting project, or you can "bustle up" an existing full, long skirt by sewing a lower point to a higher point along each vertical seam. Or she may be more into formidable trousers, but whatever her individual style, learning to sew will facilitate it.

Music: dude, I'm 40, and whatever I suggest is going to be hopelessly uncool in her eyes. That said, in terms of "classic" goth music, most of the suggestions above including Bauhaus, Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, Depeche Mode and Joy Division are right on. The Damned, Adam Ant, Siouxsie and New Model Army still get a lot of play late at night in UK goth clubs. One hit wonders like "Pale Empress" by the Merry Thoughts and "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence crop up occasionally. Oh, and most DJs would be left flailing without Faith And The Muse and Fields Of The Nephilim.

Oh to hell with it-- PLAYLIST TIME

Songs that still get played in UK goth clubs when it's around 2AM and gothstalgia time:
The Damned - Eloïse
Sisters of Mercy - This Corrosion
Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead
Adam Ant - Prince Charming and/or Stand and Deliver
New Model Army - Vagabonds
Ultravox - Vienna
Nick Cave - Red Right Hand
Pet Shop Boys - It's A Sin
Something by the Crüxshadows - my picks would be Sophia for death and glory or Winter Born for just death
Rotersand - Exterminate Annihilate Destroy

At some point I might, for self-indulgence's sake, post some songs I like that are newer and not so trad-goth-- but I feel like this answer is long enough already. The point is, it's great that you've asked this question and that you're prepared to support your young goth as she spreads her dark wings in the night. Skull-ringed high-fives to you and she.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:22 PM on February 25, 2015 [18 favorites]

Siouxsie and the Banshees!
posted by Room 641-A at 6:36 PM on February 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

Crispy Ambulance
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:52 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think if i had a goth son or daughter, i'd try to put together some of the "here's what goth meant when i was your age" stuff and let them explore it as they would explore the history of anything they were interested in. Not to push a "heres what goth is" but more like "heres what it was for me, and probably was for a lot of the bands you're into".

If i were lazy, i'd pick them up a copy of Rhino's goth box..

It sounds like you have an awesome, curious and creative kid. Those are the folks that made my time in the NYC goth scene in the late 90s super special, and the kinds of people that I still talk to from that era.

The "I'm so mopey with my pancake makeup and my dour attitude" folks are all bankers and lawyers now.

Anyway, to answer your actual question, appears to still be out there, as does, home of the alt.gothic FAQ. Yes, i'm old.
posted by softlord at 7:18 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I learned lots about vocabulary, history, mythology, allegory, and politics from Siouxsie and the Banshees first four albums, maybe five.

I have no modern day suggestions.

I don't think any of this music, past or present, can be understood without a primer in David Bowie, so maybe start there?
posted by jbenben at 7:38 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Give her a copy of Francesca Lia Block's Dangerous Angels(the Weetzie Bat books collected into one volume).
posted by brujita at 7:56 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I suspect she would enjoy a compilation of comic book appearances of Neil Gaiman's Death, the considerate, composed, and pleasant young woman in goth clothing who happens to be the avatar of death. It's very tame but emotionally rich stuff, and it's certainly got the right aesthetic.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:57 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm looking for resources about countercultures that are age appropriate.

Hmm. If you don't mind a few fucks, this radio documentary on one of the world's largest (yet largely unknown) punk scenes is a wonderful reminder and exploration of how much counter-culture activities can actually support and benefit the local culture. Listen to it with your daughter, it's really fascinating. Here's the program page for some background and transcript.
posted by Kerasia at 7:58 PM on February 25, 2015

Oh, for the older stuff I wouldn't limit myself to the term "goth" because I don't recall that being a term that was used (or even invented?) at the time. Bands like Bauhaus were part of the "post-punk" genre (Echo and the Bunnymen deserve a mention here) but maybe more specifically "Death rock?" Those terms probably mean different things today but I think it will give her a bigger picture of the evolution of the genre than simply "goth." More old stuff (that you should personally clear) would be 80s LA bands like 45 Grave and especially Christian Death.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:33 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

One option (in addition to the great suggestions above) would be to watch movies together. I'm never sure what is "age appropriate" and what isn't, because I don't have kids and my parents took me to R (and worse) movies from when I was small, but I'm thinking of anything from Sid and Nancy to Edward Scissorhands to Repo Man to The Crow-- adjust the list based on her maturity and her interests, add in things like maybe classic horror or exploitation or whatever, and then have fun watching and discussing together.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:39 PM on February 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Cult album, LOVE.
posted by jbenben at 8:45 PM on February 25, 2015

Seconding (nthing?) Neil Gaiman's Sandman - all available in graphic novel form. Some of the concepts (death, depression, the human condition in general) might be a little advanced, but... I loved that at her age.

As for music, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and the Banshees have been covered, but those are all great old school goth bands and I highly recommend them. Joy Division is also fantastic, and if you want a kind of more modern updated version of Joy Division you can send her towards Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights. And she also might like Zola Jesus, who kind of tries to shun being labeled as a goth but her music is totally goth.

For clothing, Hot Topic is the place to go for tweens who want to wear all black. Oh, how I wish we had such easy access to goth-y clothes when I was a teenage goth.
posted by bedhead at 9:41 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

If she hasn't found it already, I would direct her to Gothic Charm School. It's mainly in advice column form, with occasional columns on vampire novels and musicians and suchlike. There's a lot of advice for teens. Much of that is geared toward dealing with parents who disapprove, which is obviously not the case here, but there's also a lot about peers and dress codes and suchlike. And Jilli is a really lovely person, too. (She's heavily Victorian in style, so no Suicide Girls to be seen.)
posted by Because at 12:09 AM on February 26, 2015

Buy the book Museum of Lost Wonder & just put it on her bookshelf.
posted by ouke at 12:33 AM on February 26, 2015

If she loves Gerard Way and likes art definitely get her his comics! Umbrella Academy and True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. (NB: I haven't read them myself so check for age appropriateness, but I think they should be ok).

And for the love of god keep an eye on her internet access. When I was in this stage myself a decade ago parents were much more clueless and I got up to a lot of stuff online that was pretty bad. And also going by my own experience, you might want to have a frank discussion on emo/goth stuff wrt to mental health and self-harm.
posted by mymbleth at 12:36 AM on February 26, 2015

I was a dark kid and loved Edward Gorey (whom Tim Burton is a poor imitation of), Flannery O'Connor and Frankenstein, and loved bios of Borgias and Bathory. This book might be too old for her, but I loved it at 20.
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 AM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm going to buck this traditional goth trend (though I have been one myself) and suggest some new stuff. I grew up goth and every genre has gotten so fractured and cross-bred that all I can describe my suggestions as are: dark.

Arca. New goth, at times deeply uncomfortable, yet no more so than Bauhaus was to our parents' generation. He just did production for Volnicura.

Salem. Dark, also kind of dated now (came out like 3 years ago) but still SO GOOD. Also very Cocteau Twins.

Banks. She presents a modern, pop-goth aesthetic, and it's fantastic. This video is kind of old - I think almost a year at this point - but it presents a modern, feminist goth. The video is quite sensual, but no more so than Britney Spears or Avril Lavigne of even Blondie was.

Chelsea Wolfe, if Banks is too poppy/sensual for you. She's very, very goth. Also, having started her album, I'm now forced to stay up for another hour to finish it, it's that good.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 2:01 AM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Also, while I'm talking about new bands, I've got to mention my friends Burning Palms. They're desert goths, great people, and FANTASTIC live.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 2:18 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

32 years ago I was a baby bat as well.

Nthing Gothic Charm School - the writer is lovely and very level-headed. Nthing Neil Gaiman. You might also want to introduce her to Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker and Virginia Woolf. A Room of Her Own was critical reading for me.

As far as music goes, Siouxie is without a doubt, a must. Also, Siouxie's side band, the Creatures - Creeper is a total feminist anthem that is sadly underrated.

posted by Sophie1 at 7:56 AM on February 26, 2015

posted by Mr. Yuck at 8:01 AM on February 26, 2015

More music: Former Ghosts (Freddy Ruppert of This Song Is A Mess But So Am I with Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart) and the sad, melodic, and sometimes beat-driven music of Dexter Tortoriello.

Casting a broad net, you can browse by label:
Cleopatra Records has some gems, some dross, and a lot of non-dark stuff;
Metropolis Records is all over the (dark/goth/industrial) board;
Wax Trax! Records is a classic source of new wave, punk rock and industrial music in the US;
4AD is amazing (no mention of Dead Can Dance yet? And you call yourselves goths!), though not always dark;
Projekt Records is more focused on darkwave, ambient and shoegaze.

Monsieur Caution: I suspect she would enjoy a compilation of comic book appearances of Neil Gaiman's Death

I personally have an aversion to compilations, so I would suggest the entire run of The Sandman, because Dream is pretty damn goth himself, and the whole thing is a lot of (dark, spooky) fun. And from random googling about: The Monster Librarian Presents: Horror Related Graphic Novels for Teens.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:42 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love Sandman as much as the next Spooky Person, but I will suggest that you might want to read it first before you give it to your daughter. Everybody remembers Death and Delirium running around being ADORABLE! and QUIRKY!, but I've gotta think that "24 Hours" and "Calliope" are a pretty heavy trip to lay on a 13-year-old. (Then there's "A Game of You," which, apart from some fairly gruesome violence, also has some trans, LGBT, and gender stuff that's...well, it was progressive 25 years ago, let's just say.)

On the other hand, I can't imagine anybody of any age not being utterly charmed by Little Gloomy and Courtney Crumrin.
posted by MrBadExample at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2015

A further music post, in which everything is still really old (sorry),

Dead Can Dance are brilliant, as is the whole ethereal/wafty/primal genre to which they lead (Faun, Omnia, Qvntal, Arcana, Theodor Bastard et alia). I do love that end of the goth spectrum, but I think someone who's into pop-punk might find those bands a bit hippie-ish for their taste. If she's punk at 13, the next step may well be industrial. That's a genre I know less about, except that the best possible introduction to it is Rotersand's Exterminate Annihilate Destroy, because nothing is more fun than putting on your STOMPY BOOTS and boogieing to Dalek voices.

Depending on her tolerance for yelling in German, she might enjoy Rammstein's Du Hast and Feuer Frei; they have the same kind of shouty thrashy vibe a punk/goth might enjoy. The video for Du Hast has some non-explicit implications of sex, violence, injected drug use and suicide; my link is without video. In general, Rammstein carries a strongish Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics warning, but those 2 tracks are fine.

In the meanwhile, for a journey back to goth-punk roots put on Smash It Up by The Damned, or some March Violets, and rock out with your gothlet.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:27 PM on February 26, 2015

Two Bauhaus side projects/spinoffs: Tones on Tail, which begat Love and Rockets.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Kid Ruki made her first journey into Hot Topic today (on an unsupervised mall trip, so I wasn't in the way) and came out with two armfuls of black bracelets. I'll be picking up some comics for her, playing some music in the car without comment, and otherwise staying out of it. Thanks!
posted by Ruki at 3:33 PM on March 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

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