Goths fear new trend of violence

As Luke Mitchell stood in the dock at the High Court in Edinburgh, convicted of the brutal murder of his girlfriend Jodi Jones, it was still business as usual at the goth hang-outs that they once frequented.

On South Bridge, Cockburn Street and Candlemaker Row — nestling between the sandwich bars and souvenir shops — stores catering for the burgeoning youth movement were doing a roaring trade. Dressed in black clothes, their faces pierced and daubed with heavy make-up, the teenage goths looked admiringly at racks of T-shirts and keyrings adorned with slogans such as “Keep music evil” and “F*** parental advisory”.

For some, the goth culture is a way of thumbing their noses at authority. Others are drawn by music that they believe reflects their sense of alienation. The common thread, however, is a morbid fascination with the macabre, from Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece Frankenstein to heavy metal acts such as Marilyn Manson and Slipknot.

The movement, which emerged during the 1980s, was inspired by the doom-laden, introspective music of bands such as the Sisters of Mercy. However, it has seen a resurgence in recent years fuelled by a new generation of bands that revels in Satanism, violence, suicide and self-harm.

The movement is so popular that this April Edinburgh will host the largest gothic music festival, Dark City, billed as “four days of darkness and gothic fun”.

For many the goth culture is simply harmless fun, a symptom of healthy teenage rebellion, similar to the punk and mod movements. However, the murder of Jones has prompted a searching question: is goth culture encouraging some disturbed and vulnerable teenagers to commit acts of violence? Storm, on South Bridge, is just one of the shops in the area that Jones and Mitchell were known to frequent. At the cash desk the shop attendant, a 24-year-old musician, was absent-mindedly doodling the words “Ripper” and “R.I.P.” on a till receipt.

In the corner someone had daubed red paint on the arms of a goth mannequin with leather wrist bands, a nod to the obsession with self-harm that features in many of the songs with which its teenage customers are familiar.

While the shop assistant dismissed as “ludicrous” any fears that Manson’s lyrics might have a negative effect on the average teenager, he conceded: “Maybe there is some sort of synergy between this culture and unhinged youth. I suppose if a person already has a predilection for violent behaviour, they might interpret the goth culture in a violent way.”

Round the corner, in one of Cockburn Street’s many gothic shops, Captain Hellfire, dressed in a foppish pirate costume, says he is shocked by what he believes is the misappropriation of goth culture by today’s bands and their fans.

He sees teenagers coming into the shop with deep scars and bandages on their wrists. The dark imagery of the music is partly to blame, he claims. “It’s the power of subconscious suggestion of video clips and violent lyrics.”

There is no denying the provocative nature of many of the lyrics. One song, by the goth band Black Dahlia Murder, reads: “And in my dreams I cut your mouth from ear to ear/ dissecting your angelic body in the quiet of your room/ How splendidly I carve into your tender heart/ I’m shuddering between the sheets.”

Julia Lile, organiser of Dark City, is also concerned by the obsession with pain and suffering that has crept into the culture. “I’m an older goth,” she emphasised. “I’ve been a goth for a long, long time before this preoccupation with death. I just don’t understand the whole suicidal, killing part to it.”

Seamus Bradd, 18, a goth DJ who plays at weekly club nights in Edinburgh, said: “You will always hear reports of people getting taken to the sick room with their arms gushing with blood.”

A five-minute walk away, outside the High Court, a teenager who had bought into the goth culture to the fullest possible extent was being taken away in a police van to begin a life sentence for a brutal murder.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Sunday Times, UK
Jan. 23, 2005
Melanie Legg

Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday January 23, 2005.
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