It can't be emphasized enough, the fact that Hollywood really does not understand the myriad and various subcultures of young people (or these days, aging former young people) and the many subtleties to be found within. Hence, this trope, which refers to stereotyped Goths in popular culture.
There are, generally speaking, three major Goth stereotypes:
Perky Goths: At the exact opposite of the spectrum from the Lone Psycho. They get their own entry.
Gloomy Goth: We see these most often in fiction. They are usually pale skinned with some Vague And Grave Affliction. Sometimes, this character is a Deadpan Snarker and/or the sympathetic version of The Snark Knight. S/he may have trace personality traits of the Wangsty type or the more dedicated Nihilist. More often, s/he's The Eeyore. Almost guaranteed in either case to have some kind of family-related drama, usually used as a "justification" for their personality — you will never see a fictional Goth who just happens to be the way they are without reasons. Unless, of course, it's played for laughs by making him the black sheep in a The Brady Bunch-style family with no real psychological beef. In this case, they're generally "cosmetic" goths who are in it just to rebel against their parents, or as "posers" who only want in on the fashion statement. They usually grow out of their "existential depression" with the flip of a switch, unless their being a goth is the entire premise of the show.
As it happens, real Goths are mostly harmless and tend to have a (frequently dark or self-deprecating) sense of humor and irony (the Deadpan Snarker without the Deadpan part), which their fictional counterparts largely lack.
Most goths in fiction will be presented as Eerie Pale Skinned Brunettes who wear only black, leathergetups and listen to loud depressing music. It's worth noting that goth is neither a skin tone nor a fashion statement, so most media tend to treat goth characters almost as if it were a fashion or fad for a darker Cutie to go after. Of course, thanks to Hot Topic and its ilk, Goth has been hijacked by a large number of people who think it's nothing but a fashion statement, making for a sort of Truth in Television that utterly infuriates (or nihilistically amuses, see above) "true" Goths. There is also a tendency to equate Goths with vampire wannabees and the vampire-obsessed. While, like BDSM, there is some overlap between the two subcultures, and the post-Victorian vampire can be considered a Goth icon, equating the two in the presence of a Goth can be hazardous to your health.
Please note: Goth as a subculture dates to the late 70s. (Teenagers sometimes think they invented it.) And just to keep things clear, Goths are markedly different from emo people. Woe betide the person who gets these cultures confused in real life.
Although there is a sort of Goth template, this template is built upon and changed dramatically to suit the individual's tastes. In order to be considered truly Goth, one must fulfill the majority of the following requirements (in order from least important to most important):
The gothic subculture began with a certain genre of music, which we now recognize as Goth Rock but was originally considered no different than other Post Punk. As such, listening to both Goth Rock and some Post Punk are a basic requirement for participation within the subculture. Examples of Goth Rock bands include Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, and The Cure. Post Punk bands popular with goths include Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees (Siouxsie Sioux being a major fashion inspiration for Gothic women even now) and Killing Joke. Many other genres of music are popular in the goth scene as well, including Darkwave, Deathrock, Ethereal, New Wave, Synthpop, Horror Punk, Gothic Metal, Glam Rock, Dark Cabaret, Industrial (and sometimes Industrial Metal) and Classical music. Examples of bands from these other genres can be found on Last.FM or Google. Certain other groups are sometimes seen as being goth, such as Marilyn Manson or Evanescence, but these bands do not have a clear musical connection to the two essential genres and are therefore not goth.
Goth is not a religious thing, but a secular youth culture based on a shared taste in music, books, and some fashion much like The Mods of the 1960s. However, one of the things that is very goth is open mindedness. Therefor, people such as Neopagans and yes, even Satanists found themselves drawn into the creation of the early scene as they often felt like outsiders in "normal" society, and are still prevalent today. This can lead to nasty stereotyping that all goths are 'devil worshippers'; however this is still a rather large minority of goths. Despite these people being a minority, their presence is one of the things that make the modern scene as distinct and colourful as it is. The 'open minded' part of being goth has also lead to the subculture having a higher than average number of LGBT individuals and BDSM enthusiasts. Being a bigot will not do you far in this scene.
Goths are likely to be artistic; there are many who take an artful pride in their wardrobe, in making music related to their subculture, or any other creative field. Although it is very rare, however, non-artistic goths can still exist. Goths tend to value individuality and thinking differently, and this is where the distinctive wardrobe comes in. Black is the most popular colour of clothing in the scene, but many other colours are used, and back in 1978(the year goth was born) when people complained about the "depressing wardrobe" of Joy Division fans they were complaining about grey, not black. Spooky clothing is popular, as is Avant-Garde fashion, Elegant Gothic Lolita (and related styles) and DIY punk rock clothing and haircuts. That being said, individuality is important, dressing to the nines 24/7 is not.
Since Gothic Rock and Post Punk are both musical genres that often explore pain, death, and suffering, many people with trauma in their lives can feel drawn to the music and the subculture.
Goths have been shown scientifically to have a slightly higher level of mental illness than the general population; however this is still a minority of members of the subculture. No violent crime has ever been connected to the true, non Marilyn Manson goth scene.
Goths may be seen as nerdy. This probably has something to do with liking a few somewhat obscure genres of music to the point of obsessively identifying themselves with those genres. There are likely many more goths in fandoms in relation to the total population than in "mainstream society"; however since goths are not space aliens the fandoms that they do enjoy are not likely to be different from ones popular outside of goth, except for maybe Tim Burton films.
Goths are usually in it for the long haul, that is, they are generally not 'in a phase'. Individuality being valued means that many goths have a strong sense of self. Goths know who they are, what they listen to, what they read, and how they dress, and they aren't likely to change completely; they may simply 'bend the rules' and express themselves as they choose within set guidelines(Example: dressing in black clothing with an Ankh Pendant at work but still not violating the dress code).
Note that a majority of these are required- not all of them. Just because someone doesn't dress Goth doesn't mean they aren't- as long as they fulfill most of the other qualifiers on that list, they are indeed Goth (some people just don't like the style. In fact, Claire's markets to the "preppy Goth" niche, crossing what are usually opposing factions). Also, Goths are going to fluctuate as to what degree they display each trait.
There are a few other things that Goth is NOT:
For the manga of the same name by Otsuichi, see Goth. For the video game, see Gothic. Being a fan of Gothic Literaturenote Its relationship to the modern goth community is starting the tradition of calling dark things gothic. doesn't make one a goth, but there are subcultures within the gothic community who draw inspiration from various Gothic Horror Tropes. For those barbarians infamous for their Rape, Pillage, and Burn ways originating largely from the area we now call Germany...you're out of luck, as the Useful Notes page doesn't quite cover that period of Germanic history.
A handy guide to different (stereo)types of Goths can be found here.
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Anime and Manga
Legato Bluesummers from Trigun could very well be the personification of the The Lone Psycho Goth. Keep in mind, he wears a human skull as an accessory on his shoulder.
Misa Amane of Death Note is a Gothic Lolita, which counts.
Re-l Mayer, the heroine of Ergo Proxy, is something of the Deadpan Snarker gloomy goth, dressing in all black and wearing lots of eye liner.
Mizho from Karakuridouji Ultimo is introduced as one. She dresses like a dead school girl, with bandages wrapped all around her body, along with an eyepatch.
Sawyer the Cleaner of Black Lagoon dresses as a goth when not "on the job". She's basically the Lone Psycho Goth, although she's more lone, due to having her vocal cords cut, and psycho, because everyone in this series is, than because she is a goth.
She does have her Perky Goth moments, but even those are tempered by her usual deadpan expression.
Gaara from Naruto certainly looks the part, and he starts off as a Lone Psycho goth. Later, after his Heel-Face Turn, he's more like a Gloomy goth.
Arguably Dark Chi from Chobits is a goth... she has the Gothic Lolita look, and she is the morbid side of Chi's usually chirpy personality.
D.Gray-Man can be considered a full-on goth shonen series, which is pretty awesome when you think about it.
Pretty much everyone from Gloom Cookie. Gloom Cookie is, or at least started out as, a social Satire of the (mainly San Francisco) goth scene; written by someone who has a more than passing familiarity with it.
In the Final Crisis Sketchbook, a tie-in for the 2008 Crisis Crossover showing some of the artist's concept sketches with notes from the author, Grant Morrison apparently redesigned the Forever People (a subset of the New Gods who were basically space hippies) as cynical goths thinking that that's more common of American youth today. He was arguably missing the point of the Forever People, since in their creator's original mythos they represented youthful idealism, which is still around in spades.
In the end, they didn't appear in the series, although Japanese heroes the Super Young Team are considered their spiritual successors.
The '90s run of Titans where Damage becomes a big fan of a slasher star named... Goth. Yeah, Goth. Oh, and it turns out Goth is actually a demon who uses his fell powers to convince his fans to kill themselves and shoot up schools. Oh, and Goth also fronts as a Marilyn Manson-style singer, so all the late '90s hysteria bases are covered.
Ghost Rider rescues a rather ample girl who is a stereotypical goth. She mostly accurately describes him as a really thin guy with his hair on fire, but since she looks like a loony nobody believes her. Right before the camera pans away from her, she makes a gesture which some have identified as a gesture from a vampire LARP.
Harold from Harold And Maude dresses and acts not unlike a kind of proto-Gloomy Goth, though mostly during the earlier part of the film.
Queen of the Damned pretty much summarizes all the goth types, even the poser ones as the female protagonist dresses up in a rather obviously fake attire to attract the attention of Lestat the vampire.
Son of the Mask: Loki, Norse Night God of Mischief, His gothic attire is mostly black. He also sports a Black Longcoat. His clothing is as black as the clear night sky itself.
In the Discworld novels, while Susan Sto Helit may be sarcastic about "idiots who write poetry in their rooms and dress like vampires and are vegetarians really", she certainly fits elements of the trope herself. The young witches of Diamanda Tockley's coven in Lords and Ladies (referred to as "necro-nerds" in the Companion) might count, although they seem to be more the "fashion statement" type.
And let's not forget the young vampires in Carpe Jugulum, who try to freak out their elders by wearing bright clothes, stay up 'til noon, and call themselves names like "Henry" or "Pam". They even pretend to drink... wine, although only "real weirdos who file their teeth blunt" actually do. They also spend their days dressing up as accountants...
Similar to the above example, the rebellious kids of the vampire dimension in Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series express themselves by wearing bright colors and partying in brightly lit clubs. There's also a market for plastic-human teeth, if you want to scare somebody.
The titular character of Goth Girl Rising, Kyra Sellers, is one, but she doesn't believe in labels and considers calling herself "post-Goth" since Emo has pretty much replaced Goth in the minds of most.
The main character of The Haunting HourMade-for-TV Movie. At one point in the movie, she sat in her room and listen to depressing music all day long. The reason? Well, she dropped food on herself at school. Oh, the inanity!
Later, when she's asked to take her brother trick or treating, she sulks while the soundtrack plays:
Walking down the street alone. Everything I've ever loved is gone gone gone...
Merton J. Dingle from Big Wolf on Campus was a rather pathetic but strangely endearing simulacrum of a goth.
Apparently, nobody told him that you can be a goth and a nerd at the same time.
One episode of This Is Wonderland had Elliot defending a goth man who had gotten into a fight with a car dealer who had made fun of him. The goth character was treated much more sympathetically than it sounds, and the judge eventually agreed that the provocation was sufficient. Along the way, they commented upon the unfair stereotypes associated therewith. Elliot even went goth for a few episodes.
The Blood Ties TV show has Coreen, a fairly well adjusted Goth, as assistant to the main character Vicki. She even has an episode where she gets Vicki to solve murders at her Goth club.
Richmond from The IT Crowd is either a parody of actual goths or (more likely, given his portrayal by pop culture barometer Noel Fielding) a parody of the goth stereotypes listed above.
Parodied on Saturday Night Live's recurring "Goth Talk" sketch, starring Chris Kattan as Azrael Abyss, Prince of Sorrows, and Molly Shannon as Circe Nightshade. The show's sponsor was a store called "The Gloom Room"... "It's an orgy of the macabre... located right next to the Pizza Hut on Hibiscus Road."
Nadine from Girls In Love was normally a gloomy goth, although she would occasionally slip into Perky Goth territory depending on what was happening in her private life.
Willow's Halloween costume from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And then Vampire Willow. And then Dark Willow. Presumably the writers just liked an opportunity for the normally bright Willow to dress in dark.
On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Tommy once dated a gloomy goth named Lorna (played by Linda Cardellini) and read her poetry:
Tommy: "Death signed my yearbook. 'Have a good summer,' he wrote, 'see ya next year.' And then I noticed it wasn't my yearbook he signed, it was my tombstone." Lorna: What d'you think? Tommy:[lying] I like it. I especially like the surprise ending here. Lorna: You're the first one to get the irony.
Mark, the youngest son, adopted a goth look during the seventh season, complete with all black clothes, a spikey haircut and (briefly) wearing black nail polish and lipstick. This was eventually done away with during the eighth and final season, however.
There was an episode where the family's at a poetry reading for Wilson, and a goth girl goes up to read/recite her poetry:
Two main characters, Prentiss and Garcia, are former goths themselves.
There is a season one episode, "The Popular Kids," in which the team suspects for a short time that a local group of goths are responsible for a double murder. They're not.
In the season three premier, "Doubt," a troubled girl who fits many goth stereotypes develops an obsession with a serial killer, and tries to become his next victim. She ends up killing herself, and him.
In the season five episode "The Performer," several goth girls are murdered, and the team believes the killer may be a singer who caters to a largely goth crowd. It's actually his completely non-goth manager, aided by a schizophrenic goth fan.
A suspicious goth was featured in "Risky Business", and he had good reason to be an Emo Teen His chainlink choker was to hide the fact that he was constantly strangled to unconsciousness by his sadistic, Munchhausen-by-proxy/paramedic dad, who also killed his mom.
One of her flashback episodes portrays LOST's Claire as a goth teen.
Ellie Nash (until season 5), Ashley Kerwin (in season 2 only), Jane Vaughn, and Eli Goldsworthy from Degrassi.
An ep of Two of a Kind sees one of the Olsen twins befriending a goth... played by Helga Pataki's voice actress. Replete with dark hair, pale skin, black outfit, nose ring, and love of heavy metal (about a CD by her favorite band "Human Sacrifice": "Don't let the name fool you, they do a good thrash version of You Light Up My Life" [insert Laugh Track here]). And when the other Olsen twin offers to buy her a new backpack (long story), guess what color backpack she offers to buy her?
One of the episodes of the Polish pseudo-docu-soap Tough Matters portrayed a family of Goths as death-obsessed vampire wannabes that dressed in typical gothic fashion only for their amusement.
Many of the vampires in True Blood fit the goth stereotype - not to mention the vampire bar "Fangtasia" is essentially a "goth-bar", with practically every single patron fitting this trope. The setting, theme and even the music playing at the bar further contribute to the gothic stereotyping in the show.
The card game Gother Than Thou includes cards such as "Fun with eyeliner," "That wasted look," and "Crying yourself to sleep on the fresh grave of your lifelong love who died of consumption and being found the next morning unconscious, naked, and nearly frozen to death by the groundskeeper."
The Sluagh from Changeling The Dreaming take pretty much every goth stereotype and roll them into one big slithery, whispering, spider-loving package.
Even stronger than that were the Hollow Ones from Mage: The Ascension. One of the common critiques of the Hollowers was "Goth is not a paradigm." However, the "Tradition" as a whole had derived from urban subcultures since the days of the flappers, dealt heavily in the Goth subculture but was not defined by it in modern days, identified strongly with Romanticism, and had the guiding ethos of, "We don't have a belief system, really, but if others believe in it, that means we can use it."
Warhammer 40,000 has an ork clan (more of a subspecies/ideology than a group) known as the Goffs. They are grim and dour and dislike bright colors. Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka is a member of this clan.
Henry from the Nancy Drew game Legend of the Crystal Skull seems like an attempt at a gloomy-but-harmless Goth character, but comes across as more fashion-Goth/emo than genuine.
The entire faction of the Drowning Doom in Brütal Legend, representing the Goth metal genre. Their basic infantry, the Grave Digger, Looks Like Cesare, and a unit called The Bride looks like the ghost of the woman in the page image.
Violet from the My Sims series is a gloomy, yet well-adjusted goth girl. In contrast to her sister Poppy, who loves cute things and lively flowers, Violet is drawn to spooky things and dead (or dying) flowers.
Mention Violet, but not Goth Boy? For shame.
All of the Spooky Sims as a matter of fact.
Before Violet, there was the famous Goth family of The Sims.
While Asakim from Super Robot Wars Z doesn't quite have the goth personality, he grabs hold of every goth-related trope and takes it Up to Eleven. His "dark angel" themed mecha has attacks ranging from launching crows at the enemy to cutting itself and using the "blood" to create Geometric Magic that summons gothic artwork to Mind Rape the enemy. Not to mention that he's an immortalDeath Seeker who wears what fans refer to as "vampire bondage gear".
Pandora of Guitar Hero is the representation of the Goth Rock genre. She avoids most stereotypes, though one of her bios mentions that, as a child, she was expelled from ballet school and told a ghost story so scary she got kicked out of Girl Scouts.
Subverted by Melanippe from Amazoness!; while she looks like a stereotypical goth, the comic takes place in ancient Greece, and she's really a Goth... as in, the tribe of barbarians who would go on to sack Rome.
Lampshaded in Ozy and Millie: Felicia, a trendy, sheep-like girl, has times when she'll break out the goth makeup in what everyone except the extremely gullible in the strip consider to be a very fake Goth style.
In Acorn Grove, the character Tota the Squirrel briefly becomes a goth, but only because she had identity issues. Later she becomes emo and later a lesbian.
In Questionable Content, Dora and Raven are both former goths from the same coven. Dora's reason for going goth in the first place was something along the lines of 'because people are retarded.' She eventually drifts away from the coven saying that while it was fun, it had started to feel 'shallow and pointless.' Raven is the classic sheep following whatever herd piques her interest (she tries to be emo at one point to attract 'cute emo boys'), though she may be smarter than she appears to be.
Alas is all about Goths, and for once created by one. It alternates between playing with and parodying the stereotypes, and doing the same with the real scene. A good antidote to most of the rather dire media portrayals.
Rhapsodies has Blossom, Francine, Olive, Bian, Stefan and, presumably, Bert.
Bobwhite. Here and the following page, Cleo and Ivy debate what is and isn't "goth". Marlene ends up resolving the debate for them: "It doesn't matter because actual gothic people stopped existing sometime in the early 2000's. Now there's just a lot of unhappy people who enjoy claymation."
Nemi. She's pretty much every non-straight lifestyle rolled up together, and dressed in black, save for a sexual minority (she's very straight in that respect).
Dethany Dendrobia, in On The Fastrack, is almost a textbook Perky Goth. This rather unsettles Ms. Trellis, but her immediate superior, Wendy Welding, is OK with it because Dethany's such a good worker.
There are plenty of Goths at the Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. Some are that way for superpowered Raven-like reasons. Some are just magic wannabes who are trying to steal real magic from some of the wizards on campus. Some, like Bloodworm, are actively using Dark Magic to get boons right up until he suffered a fate way worse than death.
Being about high school students, there have been a fair amount of gothic characters in Survival of the Fittest over the course of four versions. Most of them are of the "gloomy" variety. One of the examples that comes to most handlers' minds is Meredith Hemmings, who has nicknamed herself "Pandora Black" and is definitely a gloomy goth. This is explained as her not actually being a goth, but a poser who is only acting how she thinks goths act like.
Grayvyn on The Nostalgia Chick is a random goth Lindsay pulls off the street because she needs the magical powers all goths have to restrain Dark Nella.
The first Pico flash, Pico's School, a group of goths led by Cassandra grow tired of the conformist school system and start a Columbine-inspired massacre. Pico retaliates with an AK-47 to teach Cassandra and her lackeys what non-conformity truly means only to find out that Cassandra is really a hermaphroditic alien monstrosity with "other plans".
Further worked with the 2008 episode "The Ungroundable", where they railed against ... vampires.
In that same episode they got pissed about being called emos and ended up burning down Hot Topic (complete with a song called "Burning down Hot Topic") to stop the Vampire-obsessed from copying them.
And in the dance-off contest, they took non-conformism to absurd lengths, where three of the goths, trying to out-nonconform, refuse to join Stans' dance troupe, until the fourth out-nonconforms the rest and joins them, leading one of the three to observe that they "just got Goth-served."
It's interesting to note that while most fictional portrayals of goths have them listening to some variety of heavy metal, the music the goth kids listen to is a pretty impressive and accurate parody of actual Goth Rock. They also mention several acts popular amongst Goths, such as Industrial band Skinny Puppy.
It should be noted that Parker and Stone have a significant renown for the quality of their musical (re-)interpretations - which is all the better since if you try to parody somebody you had better do your research...
Parker and Stone spoke through Kyle in the Mecha-Streissand episode: "Disintegration is the best album ever!" Both are huge fans of The Cure, who are held along with Siouxie and the Banshees as the origins of Goth Rock. Even if they jibe at the subculture, they likely are quite familiar with the musical genre on a personal level.
As opposed to her comics persona (a perky Southern belle) Rogue in X-Men: Evolution was given this sort of personality because the creators thought it would fit a girl who was Blessed with Suck.
The same show's take on the Scarlet Witch has a very strong Hot Topic-Goth vibe.
Another animated Gloomy Goth: Creepy Suzie of The Oblongs, who seems to be a merciless parody of the stereotype.
Funny, because that adult cartoon was actually based on gothic art.
Triana Orpheus of The Venture Bros. is a goth, replete with a skull on her T-shirt and heavy eyeliner. Her father is a necromancer (and her mother ran off with a younger one) so apparently it runs in the family.
Oddly enough, she's arguably the most sane, level-headed character on the show.
Hey, she was going for an Adam and the Ants kind of look. And it's not like she can get into her closet...
Andrea from Daria, though she gets about three lines per season on average, is unmistakably Lawndale High's token Goth kid.
Andrea:(Reciting her own poetry) I'm here. But where are you? Sure, I see your body. Anybody home in that rotting bag of flesh?
Gwen from Total Drama Island is a sort of half-hearted portrayal. She was given a Goth character design, but her personality is really pretty average for a (slightly downbeat) teenage girl.
Duncan seems to fit the Lone Psycho Goth more, although he's arguably considered to be a punk rather than a Goth.
Speaking of those two, there are many fans that pair the two. In the first few episodes of Total Drama Action, they start getting along really well because of their similarities. Enough to make Gwen's actual boyfriend Trent jealous and kinda nuts.
An episode of Six Teen had one of the characters dress up as a Goth to try to retain his girlfriend, who was on a Goth kick. In the same episode, the regular cast and a bunch of goths (most of whom were posers) were trapped together in the Mall after a power outage. While it had the typical Goth jokes, the episode had the two groups more or less accepting each other.
Though ironically, the episode does end on an unusual gloomy note after the not-really-goth couple breaks up.
Ingrid from Fillmore!. Although, unlike most examples, her goth-ness isn't some sort of defining characteristic. She just happens to like dressing in black and has black hair.
Not quite a Lone Psycho Goth (she has a boyfriend and a small clique of Goth friends), Chloe Crashman from Carl Squared could be the poster girl for the Angry Goth.
Creepie Creecher, from Growing Up Creepie. She also has a cadre of goth friends/acquaintances. None are really portrayed negatively.
Milhouse: We'll go to the cemetery and summon the dark Lord by kissing and junk.
Lisa: Okay... but first you must apprentice, by kissing the Goddess Ironica. Who lives in this rock.
[Lisa picks up a rock. And hands it to Milhouse. Lisa sneaks away].
Lisa: Do it for an hour, hour and a half.
Milhouse: Yes, my mistress.
Jillian Venters, the Lady of the Manners, has an entire website devoted to clearing up misunderstandings and stereotypes between Goths and non-Goths, and encouraging civil and civilized behavior from both groups. Well-known for years as a prominent member of the Seattle Goth scene.
Pauley Perrette, the actress who plays Abby Sciuto in NCIS, is very much a Perky Goth herself, and much of her on-screen persona is based on her real-life persona.
Goths often face discrimination in real life, based strongly on the negative media and popular stereotypes of Goths. Many have been subjected to verbal and physical attacks, particularly following the Columbine shooting, and some have even been killed because of their image. One of the most notorious cases is the murder of Sophie Lancaster.
Waldorf: Hey Statler, how would you define Goths? Statler: I define them as judgmental, cynical, pessimistic slackers whose sole purpose in life is to hate and put down everything they see. Waldorf: So are you saying that we're Goths? Both: Do-ho-ho-ho-hoh!