Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
Joy of Essex (408)
Teenagers who adopt the goth style are more susceptible
than others to depression and self-harm, claims a study. This gem
came to me via our national broadcaster's news bulletin this morning.
There are times when I welcome an interruption of music by the news.
Especially when it's read by Moira Stewart who doesn't yet call it
“the Nyeez?” Ms Stewart is the sole remaining grown-up on Mr
Shouty's, breakfast radio show, catering for our nation's nine
million 'kidults'. The UK's popular breakfast show is delivered by a
team of bellowing metropolitans in their 40s, who laugh on cue and
honk horns, whilst pretending that we, their listeners are all
together at some wacky celebrity party. “How crazy is thaaat?”
Well, you don't have to be mad to work here. No, merely
endowed with enough basic sophistry to talk down to millions of your
fellow adults, as if they were not-particularly-bright 12 year-olds.
Good enough? Well, I don't think it is but then I'm only an old East
Anglian swede-cruncher so what would I know?
Wait a minute, though. Read me back that bit about goths
being depressed, again.
Who says so? Researchers at the University of Bristol,
that's who. Golly. They've been quick off the mark. Goths as a
subculture have existed since the early 1980s. They wear black
clothes with Lily Munster make up, they loll wistfully around in old
cemeteries, read graphic novels and listen to doomy music. It's only
taken thirty-odd years for the University of Bristol to deduce that
gothy teenagers may be more prone to depression than other types.
Well done, team! Break out the Havanas. Good job they weren't
assigned to cracking the Enigma Code, isn't it? After 70 years,
they'd probably only just have figured out that the enemy were
I was slightly too old to be a goth, although when I
first saw them, I thought that it was an interesting look, beautiful
even, if carried off well. Just for the record, many teenagers seem
prone to depression. I, for instance, spent much of my sixteenth
year being...'hung up' I believe we called it back then. I sank
further and further, until I was dragged to a doctor and given some
primeval anti-depressants. I was then given an accompanying card
advising me never to eat broad beans, tinned fish, crab, cheese, or
Marmite with this medication. This was because I risked cerebral
haemorrhage if I did so. Smart thing to give a distracted 16 year
old, hey? Within a few short months, I gave up the medication,
stopped seeing doctors and climbed out of the pit by myself. In
retrospect I now consider that I was merely being a typical moody
teenager who liked rock music, had no girlfriend and affected the
dress styles of his pop idols.
It doesn't help your case when you dress differently.
Other teenagers and sometimes older people, will make it their
business to insult you or sometimes, beat you. This, they'll tell
you, is to 'teach you a lesson'. I always remember the phrase
whenever I learn that some goth and his girlfriend have been left
with serious head injuries in a public park. “That's what you get.”
is another particular favourite of mine.
Teenagers who dress differently may do so because
they're idealistic and creative. They may also have a desire to
change the world around them, without yet any clear idea of where to
begin. Many, after surviving the tumult of adolescence, may find
their way to jobs in arts or entertainment, where they'll meet people
similar to themselves. A few will take up teaching, or find jobs
helping others worse off than themselves. A small proportion,
however, having found the path too rocky may slip slowly into mental
illness or worse, simply give up living.
Anyone persisting with a less-conventional approach to
life, chooses a difficult road. Survive that trip long enough,
however, and, round about your middle-age they might stop calling you
mad, dubbing you 'an eccentric' instead. The English are supposed
to be a nation proud of their eccentrics, although I've often had
cause to doubt it.
Were I to wander into a supermarket in a Teddy-boy drape
and colourful shirt for example (it's not been unknown) the looks
I'll receive from men of my own age can be interesting. A few will
glower tetchily, at me, almost as if I'm being a traitor to my sex
by not looking mundane enough.
By comparison, whilst at Folk East, in Suffolk last
week, I noticed a bunch of burly fellows in fearsomely unconventional
garb: blackened faces, top hats with peacock plumes, black breeches,
yellow hose and heavy boots. These were the Witchmen, I learnt:
unreconstructed pagan morris dancers, as different to ordinary morris
men, as Hells Angels to small town bikers. The Witchmen are
middle-aged, I'd guess, and when not dressed as such, probably have
perfectly good weekday jobs. They hang around in a big group too and
importantly, they're in the right place at the right time.
For those pale goths sitting in parks, or outside
Colchester's Firstsite building, it's different. They're only
learners, after all. They won't be as well-armoured as the Witchmen
against the dull brickbats of mainstream culture. So they've found
that goths may become depressed? Really? I reckon I probably would
too. Well, how many goths does it take to change a lighbulb? None.
They'd all rather sit in the dark. That's what you get.