Tuesday, November 13, 2007


The influence of the gothic novel on the goth subculture can be seen in numerous examples of the subculture's poetry and music, though this influence sometimes came second hand, through the popular imagery of horror films and television. The Byronic hero, in particular, was a key precursor to the male goth image, while Dracula's iconic portrayal by Bela Lugosi appealed powerfully to early goths. They were attracted by Lugosi's aura of camp menace, elegance and mystique. Some people even credit the band Bauhaus' first single "Bela Lugosi's Dead", released August 1979, with the start of the goth subculture, though many prior art house movements also influenced gothic fashion and style. Notable early examples include Siouxsie Sioux of the musical group Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Dave Vanian of the band The Damned. Some members of Bauhaus were, themselves, fine art students and/or active artists.

Some of the early gothic rock and death rock artists adopted traditional horror movie images, and also drew on horror movie soundtracks for inspiration. Their audiences responded in kind by further adopting appropriate dress and props. Use of standard horror film props like swirling smoke, rubber bats, and cobwebs were used as gothic club décor from the beginning in The Batcave. Such references in their music and image were originally tongue-in-cheek, but as time went on, bands and members of the subculture took the connection more seriously. As a result, morbid, supernatural, and occult themes became a more noticeably serious element in the subculture. The interconnection between horror and goth was highlighted in its early days by The Hunger, a 1983 vampire film, which starred David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon. The movie featured gothic rock group Bauhaus performing "Bela Lugosi's Dead" in a nightclub. In 1993, Whitby became the location for what became the UK's biggest goth festival as a direct result of being featured in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The Revolutionary War-era "American Gothic" story of the Headless Horseman, immortalized in Washington Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (published in book form in 1820 along with Irving's equally fantastic "Rip Van Winkle" marked the arrival in the New World of dark, romantic story-telling. The tale was composed by Irving while he was living in England, and was based (as was its companion piece) on popular tales told by colonial Dutch settlers of New York's Hudson River valley. Although the first film adaptation was made in 1922, with Will Rogers as a silent and monochromatic Ichabod Crane, the tale solidly entered 20th century pop culture when Disney included it in the 1949 animated omnibus movie The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Nine years later it was separated from its Wind in the Willows partner, and as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow became a favorite on Disney's Sunday-night show on NBC, usually as a Halloween-week special.

Although another live-action film was shot in 1980 (starring Jeff Goldblum), the story found its richest treatment yet in Tim Burton's 1999 film Sleepy Hollow. Burton, already famous through his films Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Batman as producing a unique blend of myth, magic and the macabre, brought his full powers to bear on the story, creating a storybook atmosphere that nevertheless was filled with darkness and shadow. Burton's biggest departure from the admittedly dumbed-down Disney version was in giving equal weight to the stories of both Crane and the Horseman. As in Irving's original tale, the headless rider (Christopher Walken) is an undead Hessian mercenary, but Burton uses a whole raft of traditionally gothic, horrific, medieval and Inquisitional imagery in bringing his version alive.

Throughout the evolution of goth subculture, classic romantic, gothic and horror literature has played a significant role. For a certain sort of educated goth Keats, Poe, Baudelaire and other tragic and romantic writers have become as emblematic of the subculture as has using dark eyeliner or dressing in black. Baudelaire, in fact, in his preface to Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil) penned lines that as much as anything can serve as a sort of goth malediction:

C'est l'Ennui! —l'œil chargé d'un pleur involontaire,

Il rêve d'échafauds en fumant son houka.

Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre délicat,

—Hypocrite lecteur,—mon semblable,—mon frère!

It is ennui! — an eye brimming with an involuntary tear,

he dreams of the gallows in the fumes of his water-pipe.

You apprehend, reader, this fragile monster,

—hypocrite reader,—my mirror,—my brother!

A newer literary influence on the gothic scene was Anne Rice's re-imagining of the idea of the vampire. Rice's characters were depicted as struggling with eternity and loneliness, this with their ambivalent or tragic sexuality had deep attractions for many goth readers, making her works very popular in the eighties through the nineties. Movies based on her books have been filmed in recent years — notably Interview with the Vampire, in which goths appear directly and indirectly

As the subculture became well-established, the connection between goth and horror fiction became almost a cliché, with Goths quite likely to appear as characters in horror novels and film. For example, The Crow drew directly on goth music and style. Neil Gaiman's acclaimed graphic novel series The Sandman influenced Goths with characters like the dark, brooding Dream and his sister Death. Anne Rice's book series The Vampire Chronicles and the popular World of Darkness roleplaying games, especially Vampire: The Masquerade, also referred directly to gothic music and culture and encouraged an interest in the scene. Influences from anime, cyberpunk fiction such as The Matrix and Shadowrun have increased interest in the goth scene although unrelated, adding to Cyber subculture, or Industrial/goth fusion; and the popularity of Industrial music.

A regular goth character is portrayed positively on the American television series NCIS. Abby Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette, is uniquely goth, but works firmly on the side of the protagonists as a highly skilled forensic scientist.

The Goth subculture has influenced different artists - not only musicians - but also painters and photographers. In particular their work is based on mystic, morbid and romantic motives. In photography and painting the spectrum varies from erotic artwork to romantic images of vampires or ghosts. To be present is a marked preference for dark colours and sentiments, similar to Gothic fiction, Pre-Raphaelites or Art Nouveau. In the Fine Art field, Anne Sudworth is a well known goth artist with her dark, nocturnal works and strong Gothic imagery.

The subculture was an influence on photographers such as Viona Ielegems from Belgium, Anni Bertram from Germany, Stéphane Lord from Canada and Nadja Lev from the USA. Famous graphic artists close to Goth are Rachael Huntington, Gerald Brom, Nene Thomas, Luis Royo, Dave McKean, Jhonen Vasquez, Alice Egoyan, Myka Jelina as well as the American comic artist James O'Barr. H R Giger of Switzerland is one of the first graphic artists to make serious contributions to the Gothic/Industrial look of much of modern cinema with his work on the film "Alien" by Ridley Scott

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