Wow, Halloween is over and I still don’t have a goth girlfriend? Where can I find me a goth girlfriend? Goals is to be a SoundCloud rapper with a goth girlfriend. A big titty goth girlfriend.
Real people with fingers and internet connections have written these words, and I, your average titty linguistics girlfriend, am going to try to explain why.
Since mid-2017, I have noticed an online trend (primarily on Twitter and Instagram) where people cry about not having a “goth girlfriend.” Based on my searches of the term “goth gf” and “goth girlfriend,” most users of the term are in their late teens or early 20s, typically straight males involved in meme culture. Yes, we call it a culture now. Relax, Judy.
Straight and queer women also use the term, but mainly as a self-identifier, potentially as a subtle, passive flirtation device intended for potential internet suitors.
Very lit. To fully understand this term in either context, let’s first define what “goth” means by looking at its etymology, or word origin. The term “Goth” was originally used to identify members of two divisions of a Germanic people — the Ostrogoths and Visigoths. They invaded Rome, and that’s cool, but that’s not really what people mean when they want a “goth” girlfriend. They’re trying to get invaded in a different way, you know what I’m saying, boys?
A little bit after the Gothic tribes invaded Rome, we entered the Dark Ages and saw a infrastructural shift from traditional Roman architecture to a style that was more ornate, starting with church construction. At this time, artists began appreciating Classical architecture, and so they began calling the new style “Gothic” as a derogatory term. In semantics, this negative definitional shift is called “derogation,” referring to the “degrading” of the term.
Fast forward a couple hundred years, and we see Romantic novelist Horace Walpole basically create the modern “goth” out of his little brain, using the term to describe his book, “The Castle of Otranto.” This usage was what semantics would call “metaphor,” as it called back to the Dark Ages to describe the darkness of the book’s plot.
As you could probably guess, “The Castle” is filled with a whole bunch of spooks and characters with names like Friar Jerome. The spooks soon became signifiers of the gothic genre, which ended up including films like “Dracula” and musical artists like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus. By the time we hit the 1980s, goth as we know it was pretty much established, with music fans often dressing in black and associating themselves with horror and Victorian aesthetics.
But whatever, right? Who cares? Where do the titties come in? I hear you, but the titties in this article will be scarce.
At this point we’ve established the history and language shift of the word “goth,” so we can safely assume that the term “goth girlfriend” as one, compound unit denotes a girlfriend that is dark, mysterious, and listened to “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division at least once.
But what’s the fascination, and why is it coming up now? Where were these boys when I was in middle school and listened to “Love Will Tear Us Apart” not only once, but at least four to five times? When I wore all black and read Edgar Allen Poe in class and was depressed? Joke’s on them because I’m still depressed.
Socially, we’re in a period that is supposedly more feminist than ever before. Women are encouraged to embrace insecurity, to embrace sexuality, to be as loud and weird as possible.
Internet subculture has also welcomed the paranormal, spawning off things like scary copy-and-paste stories, Buzzfeed’s YouTube paranormal investigation series, and think-pieces in The New Yorker about haunted dolls on eBay. The most popular astrology account on Twitter, Astro Poets, currently has over 200,000 followers, and its owners have recently acquired their own column in W Magazine. We have high-profile pop culture icons like Lana Del Rey publicly advocating for the practice of witchcraft. The occult is subversive and liberating, dark and visceral. It’s sexy.
Until it isn’t. Until you take it too far, too enthusiastically, self-assuredly, too much about yourself, and the illusion is shattered. One of my favorite pieces of commentary on the pseudo-liberation of the modern woman comes from the ultimate goth girlfriend, Amy Dunne in Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.”
“Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping [and] loves threesomes and anal sex,” she says in the movie.
Read: Being the Goth Girlfriend means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores Friday the 13th, tarot cards, astrology, and The Cure, and who loves threesomes and anal sex.
“Men actually think this girl exists,” Dunne continues. “Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl.”
I spoke to David Bleich, an English professor here, and asked him to speculate on the term “goth girlfriend.” He likened it to hook-up culture, another “service for men.” He described a “female fascination with horror,” and a male fascination with “mystery” that must dissolve for any real relationship to function.
Once it dissolves, so does the illusion of the goth girlfriend, and from it rises just the girl. Does she still have your validation?
“Goth girlfriend” as a new term encompasses all these things — history, sexuality, feminism, and the future. It gives us insight into the creative aspect of language, the human ability to neatly repackage, sometimes so tidily that words lose their weight. That’s not good or bad, it just is.
But maybe next time, after you upload that SoundCloud rap, you’ll think about it. Also, all titties are good titties.