26 August 2011

Online Manifestations: Is It Gothic? Thursday, 04 August 2011

Posted by on November 01, 2007 

Matt Foley investigates Gothic YouTube

In the last two and a half years the YouTube website has become a phenomenon. From its humble beginnings as the pipe dream of three Paypal employees it went on to be sold last year to Google for $1.6 billion, The website provides a new visual medium for representations of the Gothic and allows artists to create their own takes on the Gothic from the comfort of their own bedroom,
A popular form of art on YouTube is to produce slideshows of striking images that unfold to handpicked soundtracks. These productions allow us to consider what the youtube users are defining as Gothic and what motifs recur throughout the slideshows. Below are two striking examples. Note that both of these slideshows have been entitled “Gothic”.

In this example we can see a mix between images showing popular culture notions of Gothic subculture and more canonised motifs such as the bloody cross (1.26) and the graveyard (7.27). There are also two shifts in the tempo of the music (1.42 and 7.51). The first shift is from orchestration to a heavier tempo and the second shift returns to the orchestration. It may be interesting to consider how this dramatic mood shift effects how we view the images. The other notable aspect of this “Gothic” slideshow is its focus upon self-harm (for example see 2.59). On the message board below the video on the YouTube site some users have taken offence at this being termed Gothic. However, could these images be seen as aesthetically beautiful on any level and would a fictional manifestation of the same image be Gothic?

For those concerned that the first video focused too much on the sexualised female Gothic form from the perspective of the male gaze, the above video takes it a step further. Is this obscene or beautiful? For a further investigation of how the idealised (or perverted?) Gothic female form is constructed, the video below is a fascinating insight into how a sketch artist composes a “Gothic babe” female. It could be seen as a metaphor for how the male gaze would like to shape the Gothic female (see the plunging neck line at 1.09).

We can now move from the Gothic babe to the Gothic Lolita. These two German teenagers have styled themselves in Gothic Lolita fashion.  The under-whelmed response (1.19) they receive from wearers of ‘normal’ fashion in Dortmund is interesting.

Finally, YouTube has been noted for creating its own Internet celebrities. The most subscribed channel on the site is the comic collective Smosh. They have attempted putting their own twist on the explained supernatural in their video “The Haunting”. Make up your own mind…

From the above it might be interesting to consider whether the inclusion of the Gothic motifs (particularly in the first two compilations and Smosh’s haunting ghost) really qualify these videos as Gothic art? If this is not the case then what do these videos lack, regardless of the small budget?
Author Bio: My name is Matt Foley and I am on the Mlitt course for the Gothic Imagination at Stirling University. My research interests are in the medium of the Gothic novel and psychoanalysis.
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