With Halloween coming up so soon, it seems like a perfect time to discuss Goths. As natural simplifiers, we just love find ways to make life easier on ourselves by categorizing others, so how do we define the Goth category? I would venture to say that for most of us humorous was not a description that came to mind when we defined Goth, but why not? Who says Goths are completely serious all of the time? Don’t let the overabundance of black, heavy make-up and fancy clothing fool you, Goths do have a somewhat disturbing, and twisted sense of humor—black humor. Ironic right? Goths wear black clothing and black make up and even there humor is black, but in all seriousness, black humor is real and it shows up—in music, movies, and social media— in many different way even outside the Goth circle.
Voltaire an extreme example of using black humor in music. You may not know who Voltaire is, I didn’t until I began looking into black humor, but he is a Cuban-American musician who sings folk-like songs that have legitimate messages with a bit of humor thrown in. His music is funny in a dark, silly and disturbing way. For example consider his song Riding a Black Unicorn…. The chorus of this song is an example of black humor, “so tonight, you’re riding a black unicorn down the side of an erupting volcano and you drink, drink, drink from a chalice filled with the laughter of small children,”(Hernandez). The “black” of black humor comes from the hints at suffering and death— dark themes –in this song. If you’re riding down the side of a volcano that has erupted chances are you will die, and if your drinking from a cup with the laughter of children’s voices, the children are likely death or suffering and about to die. While to most of us—I hope—these seem like very sad, disturbing thoughts, the fact that these things will really never happen makes them funny. Balancing the disturbing with the absurd is one example of black humor, but there are many others.
Beetlejuice is an example of black humor in movies. You may not have heard of Voltaire, but I’m willing to bet you’ve seen or at least heard of the movie Beetlejuice. It is about these ghosts that try to exorcize the owners of their house. The “black” part of the black humor again comes from theme of death, but unlike Riding a Black Unicorn…, the humor comes from irony. Usually it is humans that try to exorcize ghosts and demons from their homes and not the ghosts trying to get rid of the humans. The irony of this situation make the dark theme of death and exorcism, which are common themes in horror movies, more light-hearted. Besides being ironic the idea of ghost in general is very unrealistic which makes the movie much more of a light-hearted black comedy than a scary horror movie.
Black humor shows up arguably the most in social media. On social media, black humor is made by mocking. Goths mock themselves and gothic stereotypes. On twitter there is a feed called Goth Girl Problems that uses black humor in these ways. The blog includes posts like “Halloween is my Christmas. Every other holiday can f**k off,” “I hate this nice weather, but I love that I can wear my fishnets,” “My legs are dead today but starting weekly cemetery runs is so worth it #MausoleumMondays #gothgirlproblems,” These posts make fun of the typical gothic stereotypes like hating the light, feeling happiest on Halloween, and hanging out in cemeteries, but they also make fun of us. By pretending to conform to these stereotypes, are mocking us for being so simple-minded as to believe that these things are what make them Goth.
Goths are not all darkness and gloom, and their black humor exists everywhere and in many forms. The stereotypes you thought of at the beginning of this post are proof that even you contribute to Goth’s black humor.
Hernandez, Aurelio Voltaire. “Riding a Black Unicorn…” Riding a Black Unicorn Down the Side of an Erupting Volcano While Drinking from a Chalice Filled with the Laughter of Small Children. By Aurelio Voltaire Hernandez. 2011. mp3.