Let’s have a chat about flawless makeup. Our young batlings are flocking to Instagram and eating up every piece of dark material they see. To contrast and compare (just a bit), it used to be that goth makeup was off-putting. The purpose was indeed to scare or provoke some type of reaction. We are now flooded with online celebrities who have perfected their aesthetic game. Right down from seamless symmetry to deliberate asymmetry, they have made it so that “goth looks good”. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, alongside makeup often comes palette promotion, expensive brand clothing and the usual outward projection of a perfect spooky lifestyle.
Many young goths feel the need to attain a level of perfection that exists merely in photos and captions. They forget that behind the screen are human beings just as prone to mistakes, crooked eyeliner and accidental eyebrow over-bush as they are. We will be looking at how social media affects younger goths and those new to the scene (using the term Baby Bats), taking into account its negative and positive impacts.
Let’s first use Adora BatBrat as an example. With 137 k followers on Instagram, she is often looked up to as the epitome of beauty. Adora is known for her slender body type and youthful appearance. Her makeup gives her a fuller face and accentuates her otherworldly appearance. She is the bitter-sweet princess that lurks in the darkest corners of the night. She adorns fangs, contrasts her dark look with tiaras and shows off her long legs with mini-skirts or short dresses for a desirable vampiric aesthetic.
Some of the comments on her posts are:
- “So jealous!”
- “You’re my ideal beauty Adora! The most gorgeous woman I have ever seen!”
- “I love your style. You are my idol.”
- “Perfection as always.”
She tags – links to – some of her accessories or clothing brands on Instagram. Adora’s influence allows users to flock to those brands – as mentioned in Part 1: Hauls and Materialism, we do not know whether or not she is paid to do so. What interests us here is how much users care about what she is wearing, how she got her body type and if they can replicate her makeup.
Razor Candi, a known model within the deathrock scene sports 53,7 k followers. Her slim body bordering on the skeletal is the source of her appeal. Seemingly undead, she proudly shows off her body in nearly every photo. Commenters appear to be avid – and often long-time – fans. Her stomach, flat in photos, is tattooed with small bats. Her upper torso, neck, arms and legs are inked as well. Like Adora BatBrat, Razor Candi is skinny and deathly pale in her pictures. Though Razor Candi posts more sexual content, Baby Bats often flock to their accounts marveling at their physique.
This comparison is not the fault of the models, but the way social media is used. Instagram, an image based platform, is populated primarily by 18 to 24 year olds (14.8% for women and 16% for men) . Young adults on this network tend to either market their product (artists, models, fitness gurus or various business owners) amongst large amounts of data from other users. Comparison is nearly inevitable. Baby Bats, be they teenagers or young adults, (the youngest demographic from 13 to 17, only 3.8% for girls and 3.3% for boys) are the easiest targets for envy. They see users such as Adora BatBrat and Razor Candi for who they are on screen, often dismissing their personal struggles behind the scenes.
The cause for anxiety among Baby Bats due to the inability to exactly replicate elaborate looks brings goth away from its grotesque punk roots. This is not to say that “perfection” as a goal is negative. Rather, goths should not feel pressured to obtain it. Instagrammers such as Joana Shino and Victoria Lovelace use their makeup to create genuine ethereal designs. They even engage in facepaint, taking their otherworldly experience further. But, a purposeful lack of “care” is much rarer among big name Instagrammers.
We must remember that at its core the goth scene took on the same punk attitude of critiquing the system. Goth has gained a new appeal through appearance, which, according to older goths like youtubers Amy Nekrotique, Angela Benedict and Skull Girdle – participants in the subculture in the 90s and 80s – waters down its substance. Yes, commercialism plays a huge role in this devaluation, but unrealistic representations of the self on social media appear to be what mainly affects Baby Bats. Goth gives off inclusivity on the surface all the while promoting exclusivity for those who don’t fit the aesthetic mold.
On the other hand, social media has made a positive impact on representation in the goth scene. Though it is easy to enter the realm of superficiality, the simple presence of a goth of color or a goth with disability on social platforms gives mainstream users a chance to recognize the large range of people in alternative subculture. Additionally, it reminds members of the subculture that the traditional image of the pale, deathly slim creature of the night is not all encompassing.
While representation is a positive factor among standardized goth expectations, comparison between oneself and other users is inevitable. As to whether or not this actually affects the scene, the answer is mildly. Goth was cultivated under community. Current society is based off of individualism, our lives carefully curated online, only a façade of our real life. But, isn’t goth a performance? Followers crave eye candy and a show. Self-consciousness stems from numbers: X has precisely more fans than X, ignoring the fact that imagery is merely an accessory to the scene. Music and community are what form goth, performance basing itself off of those two. But, despite Baby Bats being oversaturated with media and subject to constant comparison, “competition” exists within the subculture whether it’s on Instagram or not.