Why We Love the Gothic
November 2, 2020
What is it about the gothic that makes our hearts go pitter-pat? We’ve both been obsessed with it before we even had a word for it. Sara used to call it “sparkly darkness” before she learned the term, and Brittany thinks that’s so spot on that it’s become a regular phrase for the two of us! (We continue to stand by it today, even if the term didn’t quite make it into our dissertations.)
But what is the gothic, you might ask?
That’s a good question. It’s almost impossible to pin down… and impossible to miss when you see it.
It’s dread glamour and the spectre of the supernatural. It’s the past haunting the present. It’s terror and beauty, mingled together. Deep forests and moonlit nights, claustrophobic tombs and decaying mansions. It’s a collection of stories, a mode, a sensibility, an aesthetic that touches everything from film to music to fashion.
You just feel the gothic in your bones. And if you love it, you love it.
The gothic gets a bad rap a lot of the time (which irritates us to no end.) People say it’s melodramatic (which, sure, it can be, but let’s be real – sometimes, that’s fun) or trashy or untethered from reality. It’s the province of the unsophisticated. It’s not serious, it’s what creators make before they get good enough to do something better. It gets associated with women a lot.
This is all largely a bunch of nonsense of course… but doesn’t it remind you of another kind of tale? A tale we talk about here all the time?
Yep – the above paragraph about how people have complained about the gothic over the years could just as easily be about fairy tales. They’re melodramatic and unrealistic too, after all. They come from the poor “folk,” they’re for silly women and small children. Etc. etc. etc.
But if you know fairy tales, you know that just because something isn’t realistic doesn’t mean it’s not saying something profoundly important about very real things. Like fairy tales, the gothic can be – and has been – used as a powerful commentary on things like gender, race, and humanity’s relationship to the environment. After all, the gothic is a tightrope walk between terror and beauty, anxiety and relief.
And when you combine those two to deliberately create super gothic fairy tales? To say there are fireworks of subversion and power and magic is a bit of an understatement. This is why they’re pretty much our favorite thing, and why our next course (just opened for enrollment!) is called Gothic Fairy Tales.
Apply some of the characteristics of the gothic we mentioned above to your favorite fairy tale and you’ll notice pretty quickly that fairy tales and the gothic have been shyly glancing at each other on the street, secretly meeting in dark, clandestine alleyways, for far longer than most people realize. And, when more modern writers play that connection up? Let’s just say Brittany wrote her whole dissertation about it, and Sara’s dissertation contained not one but TWO chapters about it.
We know what we’re talking about. And it’s glorious.
We’re not going to lie – the gothic does trade in the absurd, in wild exaggeration. But… *looks around at the trash fire that is 2020* how is that any different from reality? We’ve always found the gothic to be strangely cathartic – in some ways, it’s over-the-topness mirrors the everyday, making intangible anxieties and social ills concrete so that we can hear them, see them…and maybe even dispel them.
If you want to know more, you’re definitely going to want to join us for Gothic Fairy Tales.