My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Useful Posts on Other Blogs!

This was supposed to be Sunday's post, and I did write most of it on Sunday! Sunday is Wash Day. Washing day began at just gone midnight because we use the timer on the washing machine, and washing will continue all day in various forms. There's clothes to be washed, floors to be washed, dishes to be washed... Basically I'm actually being a domesticated Goth. Don't worry, the Other Half does chores too. My Other Half is particularly good at doing chores on account of two things: the first is that he runs the chalets at the local ski & holiday resort and is therefore in charge of a whole lot of house keeping and is rather hands-on and perfectionist about it all and the second is that he used to work in a hospital which gave him a vey good education in cleanliness.

As it is Wash Day my first link is washing-related: ::How To Wash Your Wool Jumpers:: at the lovely Juliet's Lace blog. I only discovered this blog today via ::Sophistique Noir::. Anyway, Amy of  Juliet's Lace explains in nice simple steps how to properly wash a wooly jumper without it shrinking or stretching. I don't own that many wooly jumpers, but I've been guilty of not caring for those that I do.

The next link is a crafty link and back at Sophistique Noir, this time with Victorian Kitty's tutorial on how to make a veil. This is really a simple tutorial! I'm going to have to make one of these when I find some more craft supplies. I can't even find a John Lewis department store here :(  I had just enough tulle for this back in Oxfordshire, but it is sadly one of the things that got left with my Dad when I moved North. ::Link:: When I do get materials, I will be posting my progress through this tutorial. I do come up with my own craft projects, but I like to try other people's projects too. My take on this will probably involve a few ribbons and bows, because I just love ribbon.

I know I haven't really written anything of my own up today, but I'll remedy that. Anyway, all my previous posts have been rather text intensive and I don't want to bombard everyone with massive walls of text all the time so I guess this makes up for that. Also, my next post will have photographs, and while not quite a tutorial, will show some funky make-up based on a video I saw on YouTube. 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sophie Lancaster: Remembering on her Birthday

On August 24th, 2007, Sophie Lancaster was kicked to death for being a goth by a gang of feral youths.  In her name a charity, the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, was set up. Today she would have been 25. Many people have lit a candle in remembrance. I can't as it would set the apartment building fire-alarms off and the landlady doesn't want candles and other flames. I'd light one outside, but this is Scotland in November and it is raining sideways. As I cannot light a candle for her,  I'd like to do something else.

Remember her. Remember the life of a beautiful, creative, wonderful young woman whose life was tragically cut short by people addled by alcohol and without remorse, compassion or any of the other traits of human goodness that Sophie had. Remember all the other people, like Sophie's boyfriend Robert Maltby, and more recently Melody McDermott, who have been beaten to hospitalisation by violent thugs acting on nothing more than than what these people were wearing. Remember everyone else who has been bullied, harassed and intimidated for doing nothing more than expressing themselves creatively. Remember, and do what you can to stop these things happening again. If you can, do something to support those doing good work in Sophie's memory. 

Cliques, Judging and Subcultures

Most goths, at some point, will have been judged for how they look. At the darkest end there are things like when people get beaten up and even killed for how they look, and at the other there's assumptions made such as "goths are rude and pretentious" etc. We don't like being judged for being goths. We shouldn't do it to other groups. Just because someone wears fashionable clothes, that doesn't make them snobby and elitist about those who don't. Just because someone wears over-sized plastic-rim glasses and plimsols does not make them vacant and pretentious. Just because someone is wearing tracksuit bottoms and hooded jumper, that does not make them rude and violent (maybe they're going to the gym!). Just because someone wears skinny jeans and has dyed black hair does not mean they are histrionic attention-seekers. Goths aren't inherently nicer than everyone, that's why I have to make this post. 

Really, there is no reason for me to elaborate this into a vast wall of text. Yes, there are a disproportionate amount of certain types of bad behaviour in certain groups which is why some of these stereotypes exist in the first place, but even if there are more thugs that wear tracksuit bottoms and hooded jumpers than wear designer jeans, that doesn't mean that wearing a tracksuit makes someone a thug. That same logic goes for the other things. I may not LIKE any of those other styles, and think that a lot of them look terribly hideous, but I deal with that by NOT WEARING THEM and wearing things I don't think look hideous. I do not hate other styles, although I do think they are sometimes rather amusing (like when people wear logo or slogan t-shirts and have no idea what they represent, or when they walk around with their trousers halfway down their rears) but I also realise I'm probably amusing trying to run for the bus in platform boots. Other people are entitled to the same freedom of expression as we are. 

For a less text-intensive experience, watch ::this:: video by BatcaveDilemma 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Project: Upcycled Micro-Braid Wig in Black, Silver & Purple

I have rather dull and boring hair. It was a chin-length bob, and has grown out a bit. In my previous job I was assistant manageress of a store in the city centre, and had to look rather "normal" because I'd spend a lot of time on the shop floor. Then I got made redundant when the rent was upped on the building and the branch was closed. Since then, I've been looking for work and need to be able to revert to looking normal-ish for interviews (sometime soon I will post pictures of myself in work clothes to show how I try and strike a balance with not feeling like I'm in a "suit" costume and remaining businesslike) so I have kept my rather boring hair-cut. If I could get away with doing anything to my hair, I'd either have it in micro-braids like my favourite wig, or have the sides short with tribal patterns shaved into them, and the remaining central section in a death-hawk, all black. Sadly, I don't think either style would go down well in a job interview, so a boring bob it is.   My solution to not being able to dye my hair unnatural colours, braid it up, or get it cut into unusual styles is to wear wigs, and most of these wigs are ones I've made myself out of old halloween wigs and kanakalon hair. I can have different hair day of the week, and do so for far less than it would cost to get my hair re-styled each time! 

All my wigs are synthetic hair, and as such they come with their own set of care issues, some of which make me hiss because I know it would be easier to have some hair-styles done to my real hair than try and maintain fancy wigs. For curly hair I buy Cosplay/Lolita wigs, for other styles I make the wigs myself. This post is an explanation of how I made my favourite wig, hopefully detailed enough to follow if you want to replicate this project.

My favourite wig is my black, silver and purple micro-braid wig, and I made it myself. It's partly my favourite because of all the time and effort I put into making it, and that my partner put in helping me with braids! It started off as a black long "witch" Halloween wig, which looked absolutely awful, so working from the bottom upwards I braided every layer of hair into micro-braids. I took another cheap halloween wig and cut that into inch-long strips with hair attached along the seams of hair, braided up each lock and sewed it onto the cap of the first one, and then repeated the process with a black and silver wig, making a few braids that were blended silver and black. To blend, have the three chunks of hair you are using for the braid comprise of differing amounts of silver and black (or whatever other colours you are using). Having decided the wig needed more silver, I bought a silvery "wizard" wig, and cut and braided locks from that, also pairing up locks in black and silver to make more blended braids. The purple is in six braids on one side of my face, and those started off as a pair of clip-in hair streaks, which I braided up and sewed in. I used purple thread to sew on the black hair as it was black hair on black cap and the thread was pretty hard to see otherwise, and as the roots of each braid were hidden by the braids above them, the thread cannot be seen when the wig is worn anyway. 

Each Halloween wig was between £5 and £7 and the clip in strands were £1.50 each. I only used half of the hair on the silver wig, the rest I am saving to use with a second silver wig to make a silver micro-braid wig. This project is excellent for turning cheap, natty-looking Halloween wigs into something much nicer and more lasting instead of throwing them away after the parties are over. 

I made this wig quite a while ago, and as such do not have any in-process photographs as I had no craft blog, so I can't really depict how I made this one visually, only show photographs of the final product. 

Me in my home-made micro-braid wig.
Photo by Chance Photography
As the hair was synthetic, the braids were fixed by twisting the ends tight, and then gently passing them above a candle-flame (being careful not to burn my fingers or set the braids alight) until the plastic melted together. As there is a danger of igniting the hair (I did this to one of the first braids) be very careful not to lower the hair to close to the flame, or use another, less intense, source of heat. It does need to get quite hot though, in order to melt the plastic hair fibres. Really do be careful; I don't want someone to try this and either set their project on fire, burn themselves, or set their room on fire. Also, in case you do set a braid alight, have a bucket of water/sink to drop the braid in and also melt the ends before you sew them on to the whole wig so if there is an accident your whole project isn't ruined. It is possible to do this with hair-straighteners, or with anything else you can get hot and press the twisted ends with, but I don't recommend it because the fibres can melt on and that is a pain to get off again. Now that I have been wearing the wig for a while, some of the ends of the braids have gone a bit frizzy, but they have stayed fairly secure, and it would not be difficult to twist any that got loose once again and re-heat them.  Human hair and some synthetic fibre hair will not seal like this; only hair marked "do not use heat on this wig" will, as that is the synthetic hair that will melt if it hot, which is generally a bad thing, but not when sealing braids!

After the first wig got into a horrible frizzy mess, I learnt rather quickly to cut the wigs up into long strips along the seams of hair and store them in layers separated by paper. Combing through cheap wigs is a pain in the rear and a lot of the hair will pull loose. This hair is not wasted, neither is hair from the central top seam, which is difficult to pry apart. With the hair pulled from the wig in combing, tease it out into strands, and hang them by their centres over a hook until you've got a good thick lock, then twist the two halves together so there's a loop at the top, hook that loop over something that won't get ruined by heat, and then twist beneath the loop tightly and seal with heat. This will make a lock of hair with a loop at the top which can be braided and sealed like all the others and sewn on via the loop at the top. With the top seam, just cut the hair off and, being careful not to disrupt the locks too much, hang them over a hook like the hair from the frizz and twist and seal in the same way. I will have to draw a few diagrams for this process to explain. 

This is a very time-consuming project as each lock has to be cut, braided, sealed and sewn, and can be a bit messy if hair escapes. As the hair is synthetic, don't let your pets eat it or play with it in case they swallow some. My cat is a bit of a pest, so I had to keep him away from this project as I was making it. Braiding the locks is quite therapeutic, and if you don't want to keep a candle burning while you seal them, just clip the ends. If you want, you can thread beads onto the central strand of the three in braiding before you seal up the ends - I am going to do this on my next micro-braid wig (which will be silver) so look out for posts of that in the future. With that wig I will take lots of photographs of the process so you can see exactly how I make it.  The braids look quite good from the back and sides, but where the bottoms of the braids show at the forehead and top of the head, it is obviously a wig and looks a bit naff, so I always wear a bandana in order to hide it. A lot of people remark on my unusual hair, usually in a complimentary way, and most believe until told otherwise that I've had the braids done to my real hair and are quite surprised to hear that it's not real and that I made it myself. 

Whatever style wig you have, it is important to store wigs on a wig stand, and one the right height for the length of hair. Unlike loose hair, a braided wig will not tangle and frizz so much, but the braids still tangle amongst themselves, and the ends get frizzy faster if the wig is not stored properly. Keep an eye on any braids that have got caught and started working loose from the cap, and sew them back on carefully. Wash the finished wig by rinsing it under a warm, but not hot shower, and leaving it to dry by air on a stand. Don't use any shampoo designed for human hair. I haven't used any wig products on it as the style is braided and the products could get trapped in the braids and make the wig look dirty after a while. The main purpose of washing the wig is not to clean the hair, as unless your braids have trailed in something or been worn outdoors a lot they will not get that dirty, but to clean oils and dirt from your real hair and scalp off the cap and underside. 

I think this is my most successful wig project, and as such I will be making another similar one in silver, but with beads. I am currently making a neon green Harajuku inspired wig to wear with my cyber-goth outfits, and as I now have this blog, I'm taking photographs of the process. I also made the necklace in the photograph above, and will explain how I did that, too, and how I modified some welding goggles into cyber ones. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Gyaru: Looking At Other Subcultures And Ideals of Beauty

This blog entry is a response to a recent blog post by the wonderful La Carmina and to some of the comments and responses to that article. This is La Carmina's blog post: ::link:: and it is about a Japanese subculture called Gyaru.

This is the first time I have come across the subculture, and it intrigues me. The girls are genuinely pretty, even if in a way I would not personally like to emulate, and the soft and pale make-up styles give me inspiration for things to try with Dark Romantic outfits in order to have makeup that is still in keeping with the Romantic aesthetic, but does not distract from the outfit in the way heavier Gothic makeup can, but still emphasises the eyes, as I think my eyes (a dark slate-grey) are one of the nicer aspects of my face. The curls are very nice. I have had various hair-styles, and at the moment I have fairly "normal" looking real hair, for work purposes, and so that I can change drastically for my own time, have a series of wigs. The most recent wig was bought for me by my partner, and is a wine-red one with long hair and curls - quite different from my usual black, silver and purple braided hair wig that I wear pretty much everywhere. I'm thinking of applying some of the Gyaru aesthetic to outfits involving the curls, being a lot softer and feminine. I've come to wear a lot of Rivethead/Industrial outfits recently, and while I am far too old and too curvy to look childlike, being soft and feminine looking makes a welcome change.

My initial response was that the Gyaru girls look very pretty, but if the girls depicted in La Carmina's photos of photos are women doing this, the infantilisation is a bit... strange? Some of the girls look like they're about 11 years old due to the flawless skin and huge eyes and girly clothes. Japanese women have naturally a frame that seems more "childish" to westerners, because western women are usually pretty curvy. This straighter frame allows them to pull off a childish aesthetic better than most Western women (hence why there are so many Western Lolitas who simply do not look right because they try to wear outfits designed for a Japanese frame.) It's definitely adorable, and a kind of prettiness that isn't anything akin to the sexed-up kind I see a lot of western teenagers attempting, which I find really kind of worrying (when I see girls who ARE 11 wearing high-heels, mini-skirts and padded bras, I worry,) but did notunderstand (and I genuinely meant that I didn't understand - no criticism was intended) why they want to look like they're children if they're not. I would understand if they were wearing sweet Lolita clothes or similar, where the aim is to emulate a doll-like aesthetic, and it's all very "Alice in Wonderland", a sort of fantasy of a sweet world, but I was a bit confused about this one.

I wanted to know the thinking behind this look. La Carmina sent me the link to the Wiki page on the Gyaru style: ::link:: and I'm still doing further research. I'm finding it hard to find good resources that are not tutorials on how to achieve certain make-up or fashion styles, but actually explain WHY they choose this aesthetic.

In the Wikipedia article on Gyaru there is a photograph of some girls from the subculture being photographed. I think these are typical of the older incarnation of the subculture, which originated in the 1970s and but the term has since gradually drifted to apply to a younger group, who prefer a "childish" image and appears to have merged with the Kogyaru girls, although I hope this is not a mistaken conflation. The style in this photograph appears to be a Japanese emulation of Western young women known colloquially in the UK as Essex Girls (The Wiki article, for those not in the UK who may not know what an Essex Girl is: ::link:: ) especially in terms of bouffant wavy hair-style, very short shorts, and strapped high-heels (thankfully not white). Essex Girls are not exactly someone to emulate, they are seen by many as the lowest form of conforming to mainstream fashion - to do so in a way that tries too hard to be "sexy" and misses the essence of the style they are trying to conform to. 

I also noticed that they look like Western girls, not very Japanese. This has drawn some complaints, especially those saying that Western mainstream fashion offers little worthy of emulation, and that it seems wrong to emulate a different race in order to appear beautiful. It is not for me to go about trying to instil racial pride in people, but it does seem sad to think that anyone should be pressured into believing that looking Asian isn't right and that they must try and Westernise, possibly in the hope than in doing so they will be successful - strange to think so when you compare how Europe and America have such economic crises at the moment, and Asian economies flourish! Several comments on La Carmina's blog indicate that there is pressure from girl's families to westernise, some going as far as having plastic surgery to thin their faces and have their eyes altered! This to me, is not right. It is not "better" to have any one particular set of regional characteristics. The same works in reverse - the Japanese are not inherently better either, nobody is. 

Ladycaos said "I have a really pretty Asian friend. Her skin has this nice complexion and she looks a bit tanned all year around (she's from the Hakka tribe in Taiwan, their skin tends to be darker than many Asians' skin). I'm so envious of her because she looks so healthy, and yet she keeps on saying how much she loves my super white skin (that makes me look like I just came out of the graveyard yesterday)... her family keeps on telling her this too. I guess this is just a general pression [sic] on women from the whole society, which leads them to be something they're not, just to fit into an ideal model (which is usually far from their natural beauty because we tend to want what we can't have). I guess this happens all over the world and it's sad all over the world. Nothing wrong with using make up to look prettier and taking care of yourself, but having to do surgery (or starve yourself) to look "beautiful" in the eyes of the society just makes me sad."
I agree with her that such pressures, although not necessarily with the racial element, exist across the world and that it is sad that women feel pressured to be quite different from themselves and their natural beauty in order to appease an exterior standard, to the lengths of going through surgery or starving themselves.

While their may be pressure towards the Westernisation of appearances, I'm not sure if that is the reason why these girls try and look like Western girls. Maybe it's like the reverse of Japan-obsessed westerners who go around saying "kawaii" too often and are always eating bento food and being dressed lolita - not that any of the above activities are bad - I do them! I wouldn't have been reading La Carmina's blog otherwise. *smoothes her lace and thinks about the Skull Danger bento set she wants* The West has long had a fascination with the Oriental, seeing it as exotic and unusual, mysterious even. Within the Gothic subculture, some welcomed Lolita and Visual Kei influences, when they first started to appear on the scene, as something new and different to use as inspiration at a point where the subculture was possibly getting a bit repetitive. They still provide inspiration, and while some people become rather derivative with their outfits, it still provides a rich source of fashion inspiration, especially when it comes to garments with radically different cuts and types.

One of the complaints made against this style is that it looks inhuman, especially the eyes. I have very little knowledge of this subculture, and therefore do not know if this is intentional - an attempt to be like a manga/anime character, or a doll, for example, as can be seen in some other Japanese subcultures, such as the Lolita subculture; or if it is an unfortunate side-effect of using cosmetic contact lenses to give the appearance of different eye-colour or a larger pupils and iris and those contact lenses just not looking realistic enough to pull this off as an attempt to make the eyes look like they're "really" like that.

In the various sub-types of the Goth subculture, cosmetic contact lenses are rarely intended to look human, some are red or purple trying to look mysterious, demonic or vampiric, others, such as those with biohazard or radiation symbols, circuit designs, etc. being worn by cyber or industrial types usually trying to give the appearance of being inhuman - maybe being some lab project, android, or the result of futuristic augmentation. Both of these are deliberately inhuman, unreal. While, like with expensive fake fangs and tooth veneers, some of these contacts are trying to look convincingly real, most are either quite open about them being strange contacts with no attempt at all to have them look even vaguely convincing, or are actively trying to look like augmentations.

I don't look very human in my cyber gear , where I deliberately try to look like an android/alien/genetically engineered creature! But when I do that it's almost a costume, it's not an attempt to be a "perfect" version of a human or to try and present it as some kind of "innate" beauty - it's a synthetic aesthetic, and I'm well aware of that. I'm all PVC and corseting and plastic for hair and neon make-up and UV reactive glow everything. There's nothing wrong with looking doll-like or inhuman if it's in a deliberately inhuman way, where it's almost a costume. Another example, one I don't participate in, are the sweet Lolitas who really do look like animate porcelain dolls. I think both the people looking inhuman and the people looking at them understand that they aren't presenting an image of ideal human beauty. It's still beautiful in its own way, but it's a different kind of beauty.

That said, the saturation of inhuman beauty presented as ideal beauty in the West, with the photoshopped women with no pores and perfect hair and so thin, or with an augmented bust makes a lot of women, especially young girls feel insecure about their looks, not because they don't realise that these pictures aren't real, but because they feel pressured to live up to an appearance that they KNOW they can't attain, or at least not unless they spend a lot of time and money everyday on personal trainers, personal make-up artists and expensive hair salons, which is unattainable to pretty much anyone who isn't a celebrity, and even celebrities don't look magazine-cover gorgeous everyday (as the paparazzi and scandal pages love to get bitchy over). With the Gyaru look, I don't know what the media saturation and trend pressures are like in Asia, so I can't comment on that, but I do not think it is the mainstream. 

There is apparently a subsection of Gyaru, a subculture called Ganguro, which appears to be the reverse of Goth in its aesthetic, drastically lightening their hair, making their skin dark, wearing very bright colours, and gets the same pop-psychology explanation as Goth, that "Researchers in the field of Japanese studies believe that ganguro is a form of revenge against traditional Japanese society due to resentment of neglect, isolation, and constraint of Japanese Society This is their attempt at individuality, self-expression, and freedom, in open defiance of school standards and regulations." (Quoted in the Wiki article and from ^ Liu, Xuexin (2005). "The hip hop impact on Japanese pop culture". Southeast Review of Asian Studies XXVII. Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (SEC/AAS)) That to me sounds a lot like the reasoning usually applied to why Goths look the way we do - that we're deliberately trying to rebellious, that it's a teenage way of trying to be different, to forge an "own identity" by adopting a subcultural one- nobody seems to have asked the older goths who have long out-grown teenage rebellion and look like this because we think it looks nice! Now, never having talked to any of these girls, I can't say whether the research perspective is right (researchers tend to look from an establishment perspective) or whether it is like the Goth look, something they do because they think it is genuinely attractive or maybe not as "attractive" but as being a walking work of art (like some of the Club Kid outfits). Some of the girls look like a parody of Valley Girls/Essex Girls, so maybe it is a commentary on Western fashion, I haven't found an English-language article explaining the philosophy behind the style. Ganguro has not got anywhere near as much Western popularity as the Lolita look, and even the Gyaru look is starting to get a more significant western following, so I think English-language resources on Ganguro are hard to come by. There is apparently another variant on the Ganguro look with much darker faces, deliberately clashing neon outfits and white eye-makeup that has apparently drawn ire for looking like they're wearing black-face, although they're something to do with emulating a "mountain hag" character from Japanese tradition - really not an area I know anything about; it is something I came across in passing while trying to research the Gyaru girls.

Alyssa D Mallozzi commented on La Carmina's blog and the comment section with this: "I found a lot of the other responses here very interesting and thoughtful. Some very good points are made, especially the idea that women are being made up into almost a doll-like caricature, something to be posessed rather than being seen as a human being. I suppose it's amatter of how much one wants to look into this subject, whether to see it from a fun, girlie kind of trend or as a more serious issue of the de-humanizing of women." She then went on to talk about reconstructive surgery she had, and her opinions on plastic surgery, but I'm not sure if she'd want that to be quoted here as it involves her personal history, and also, I am not sure how much plastic surgery is relevant to the Gyaru look. Her comment on women being presented as "almost a doll-like caricature, something to be possessed rather than a human being" interested me. I am not sure if the childish aesthetic is the result of exterior pressure, or something they deliberately chose, and if so, what the girls who follow this wish to present to the outside world. For it to be a fashion born from a cultural infantilisation of women, it would have to be motivated either by cultural or societal pressure that idealises girlishness rather than adult female attributes, or be done to impress men. I don't think it is the second, but I am not sure about the first - something I would like to know more about before I comment on it.

The trend to portray women as childlike but sexualised is not just limited to the photos of girls in this style done to look topless/like "glamour" poses (I will note that a lot of the girls presented in La Carmina's article are seen in less "sexy" poses, and wearing dresses that don't make them look like they're "flaunting it", but I don't really know more about how this trend is portrayed in a wider context.) but has been slowly increasing in popular depiction of women. Think of that advert that was banned in the UK that had Dakota Fanning dressed to look childlike, sitting with an over-sized bottle of perfume between her legs! That has nothing to do with this subculture or any other, it's about the infantilisation of women and the virgin/whore dichotomy, which is still prevalent in the West. Having never lived in Japan, I don't know much about how that works in that culture, and I don't know enough about traditional Japanese ideals of beauty to say whether the infantilisation has been inspired by Western thinking, or was there before. Young girls being seen as fresh and beautiful in the West is very old, and historically girls used to get married off far too young) and virginity and youth were prized.

At least in some corners of the Gyaru world, there does seem to be some sense of external pressure. In one article I read these quotes:
Gyaru is nothing without this makeup!
I can’t show my boyfriend my face without makeup!
I can’t talk like this without this makeup!
Article: ::link::
Yes, I would say that the makeup is pretty intrinsic to the Gyaru style, and that the same can be said for the place of makeup in the Gothic style, but the other two quotes trouble me. This, to me, does seem like the girls feel protected under their make-up, that it without it they are ashamed of their looks without it, or at least, do not feel like they are themselves without it. I am fond of heavy and dramatic makeup, but I do not feel that I cannot show my partner my face without it on, or feel that without it I am any different. Today the BBC were filming at the nature reserve where I do conservation work, and they were filming us working. I was wearing scruffy, muddy trousers, probably pulling weird faces with exertion as we were doing fairly hard labour, not wearing any make-up, and my braids were in disarray, and I was wearing my least favourite bandana, but I did not hide from the camera or the BBC camerawoman - instead I was proud of my achievements, and the achievements of the group at the nature reserve, told her about what were doing and directed her to talk to the group leaders from BTCV. My makeup is a choice, the only time it feels necessary is when not wearing it would clash with my outfit, and that's more aesthetic necessity than actual necessity.

I do not want to be overly judgemental of any subculture, let alone one I do not fully understand, and while some aspects do seem of slight concern to me such as external pressure to Westernise, anyone feeling that they need to hide their true selves behind any aesthetic, and the infantilisation of women, I have not enough information to form a lasting opinion. The quotes of two girls should not be seen as representative of any subculture - I know all too well what happens when a subculture becomes tarred by the words of members who are not exactly representative of the majority. It is a very interesting subculture I would like to know more about, and if anybody has any good links or resources, I would love to know. The girls who participate in this subculture do look very adorable and pretty in their own way. I do not think it is a subculture I would ever join - it is far more feminine and sweet to match my personality - but I look forwards to learning more about it.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Emotional Art, Glamourised Victimhood and Tragedy

A while back I drew a picture called "Paranoia" intended as a parody of a certain form of genre art that gets on my nerves. I'm slowly becoming aware that this drawing, while something drawn in a moment of silliness, actually works as a drawing, even if the emotion portrayed is melodrama and the intention a self-parody, a satire of all the melodramatic false tragedy in art and poetry produced en masse by teenage members of the darker subcultures who haven't yet learnt that the rest of the world finds deliberate angst annoying rather than edgy. Madness, fear and despair have gone from taboo subjects to subjects which have developed cliche representation. While I appreciate genuine artistic expression of these things, and people who really have gone through traggedy expressing this in art, I get a little exasperated when it turns into repetitive genre art. 

There has been a flurry of drawings and photographs of (usually) young women and teenage girls either screaming, looking dead or staring madly, while pale as sheets and in high contrast, wearing far too much eye-makeup and their lips and noses blending away into insignificance, usual backgrounds including stairwells, baths and bathrooms made to look like they slit their wrists, plain white or some claustrophobic photo-manipulated background. Sometimes they have their mouths taped shut or are drawn with their mouths sewn shut, sometimes they are done to look like they are crying blood. It is not only the undertones of enacting a fantasy victimhood that worries me, but the fact that fresher portrayals of fear, madness, lunacy, depression, suicide and despair have not been imagined, and instead it has become a genre where these things are bordering on being glamourised in false sensationalism rather than actually considered. 

As somebody who has really been the darkness, as someone who knows exactly how dark it is in the place where one really does want to die, it bugs me that people want to turn it into melodrama, sensationalism, a desire to shock, or perhaps live in a fantasy of tragedy. The darkness does deserve examination, exploration and depiction in art, but it deserves honesty and thought and genuine attempts at examination, exploration and understanding, not ciche "more-tortured-than-thou" self portraits and glamourised victimhood.As a member of the Gothic subculture, I often have allegations of falsifying my tragedies for attention levelled at me because people really believe in the stereotype of the gloomy goth that is trying to be all depressed and pained for sympathy and attention and to hold a "darker than thou" attitude, and unfortunately that stereotype is perpetuated by people who live up to that, at one end is those of a histrionic disposition who do self harm for attention or as a sympathy plea (unlike most self-harmers who do it primarily as a way to vent emotion, self-punish or who have become addicted to it and are usually rather secretive about their activities) and at the other those who churn out endless similar dark poems about woe, longing, despair, suicide and self harm, or images as described above, and do so not from the perspective of someone actually going through all that, but as someone trying to be purposefully dark either to garner the sympathy of others or to conform to the standards of like-minded young people who somehow glamourise tragedy.

I am not going to say this is primarily a problem among teenagers of the Goth and Emo subculture, because it is wider than that, but we elders of the dark community who've been at this dark and spooky lark for two-digit years need to show a good example to the younger members of the subculture and point out false tragedy and shallow pretence wherever it appears, otherwise these people are going to think that melodramatic attention pleas work, or are somehow genuinely artistic. It is also time that those who are both artistically and darkly inclined started either producing more original material on there themes rather than repetitive cliches, or, if already being fresh and looking at things from different angles, being a bit more vocal about their work. People need to see that the stereotype is not edgy or gritty, but tired and cliche. When that artistic approach was popular enough for bands like Evanescence to become mainstream popularities, it was clear that the topic was getting worn out and seeing that Evanesence has been around since 1995, it really is time for something different. Tragedy, madness and despair have been themes of artistic and literary endeavour since at least when the Greeks wrote Elektra, Oedipus Rex and Medea and in that time, forms of genre art have appeared where various forms have got stale, and then been changed, and gone in a new form again, there's no reason it cannot happen now, I just wish that the majority of people making this stuff had even heard of Sophocles and Euripedes and Aeschylus or read through Hamlet, Macbeth, or seen a version of Romeo & Juliet on a stage or listened to and understood tragic French Opera... Darkness and despair can be done with great beauty and skill, but only when it is heartfelt, understood and not a third, fourth, hundredth-hand idea. 

Part of the problem is that the internet allows for information bombardment, and it is easier to find something similar to what you've already seen than it is to find something utterly new on account of the nature of the keyword system of internet searching and linkage. It is easy to find lots of the pale-faced, wide-eyed screaming victim-maidens wearing far too much badly applied eye-makeup, it is harder to find different portrayals of despair, pain, fear, etc. and if one does not put in the art history/contemporary art research time, they may be entirely missed, and therefore new ideas of the inspiring kind aren't always spotted and found in order to trigger something new again, and the idea that this genre art is how such themes are to be represented is reinforced. 

I could try and give a 'pop psychology' analysis of these images, but I'm not enough of a psychiatrist to do much good, and it still seems strange to me as to why anyone would want to present themselves as a victim to be pitied and comforted rather than try and seek genuine affection via better means, it is surely more effort to be deliberately gloomy. Doing things for shock value is crass and histrionic. Take the higher ground.