Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
Although goths are most readily identified through a conspicuously dark sense of style and affinity for moody alternative music genres, goths are linked through a unique worldview that seeks to embrace all aspects of life--both the light and, most infamously, the dark. Freedom to expression without judgment is perhaps the most important value within goth culture, which is what makes the prevalence of elitism, gatekeeping, and rejection within the subculture precisely so perplexing. These seemingly conflicting values inform the empirical basis of my study emerges as I seek to evaluate the motivations and functions of gatekeeping with alternative subcultures, using goth as my case study. While neo-Marxist perspectives assert that subcultures “die” from commodification through diffusion and defusion, in the postmodern subcultural landscape, fragmentation and hybridization allow subcultures like goth to constantly evolve despite waves of commercialization by mainstream culture. As a result, the styles of dress and music are continually shifting and measures of subcultural capital are in constant flux. Understanding the term poser as synonymous with in-group rejection and gatekeeping, goths engage in gatekeeping and elitism differently depending on how placemaking shapes a goth’s position in the subculture. In-person gatekeeping and physical boundary formation are typically more symbolic, while digital gatekeeping is more explicit and literal. Goths engage in gatekeeping as a means of preserving the integrity and purity of the subculture as it becomes commodified with Trad Goth emerging as a fragmented subculture dedicated to recreating the values, styles, and norms associated with the original post-punk goth subculturists, who are constructed as the most authentic forms of goth. There are two overarching eras of goth becoming commodified, signaled by the mall goths of the 1990s and the InstaGoths of the late 2010s. While the mall goth consumption style has fallen out of vogue and these posers have been incorporated into broader alternative culture, InstaGoths define the newest era of commodified alternative consumption styles and should be a group for researchers to keep an eye on going forward. For most subculturists, physical expressions of goth subcultural identity are associated with variable risk for personal harm. Goth’s prominent position in mainstream culture during its cycle of commodification results in two forms of danger: moral panic and fetishization. Many young goths, seeking integration into their digital goth community, engage in gatekeeping to affirm their individual identity and secure their position in the community. Ultimately, these overarching trends and motivations reveal that patterns of gatekeeping within the goth subculture are driven by mainstream cultural shifts and subcultural commodification, revealing these processes' complicated effects on the alternative subcultural landscape.
Kennedy, Laila, "From TikTok to Trad Goth: An Exploration of Posers, Subcultural Commodification, and the Function of Gatekeeping in the Goth Subculture" (2023). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1934.
On-Campus Access Only