This past Monday was World Goth Day, an opportunity for goths of all creeds and subcultures to come together and celebrate the goth community as a whole. That idea took many of us down a trip to memory lane: specifically, to the early 2000s, when we were in high school and expressing ourselves with goth music and fashion meant we were cutting edge. As we tossed around recollections of saving up for a lace-trimmed skirt at Hot Topic or an album by The Cure, we wondered: what if some of our favorite authors were in high school at the same time? How would they act? How would they look?
The following, friends, are our best guesses at how six beloved authors would make out as teenaged goths.
Em 2000 would be the quiet kind of goth who sat at the back in every classroom so that, instead of solving trig problems, she could scribble down poetry fragments (on the backs of her hands, of course – writing on plain notebook paper was so passé). The English teacher would hand out Xeroxed copies of her poems and essays with the name crossed out so that he could show everyone some “exemplary student work.” Everyone would know who wrote the stuff, though, even if Emily never said a word.
Remember those white, lacy, Victorian-style dresses we pined over? Historical Emily was known as the Lady in White, so Em 2000 would slay in a high-necked, mutton-sleeved number she found at the local Salvation Army – complete with stockings and platform Doc Martens, of course.
- Music of Choice: Ethereal tunes with female vocalists, like Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos, and The Changelings.
Think of Jane Austen as the meta-goth. Her writing is famous for its biting wit and keen social observations, and one of her books (Northanger Abbey) is a straight-up parody of the gothic novel. But Jane’s heroines always deal with deep-seated emotional struggles which they feel they can’t properly express, and what’s more goth than that? Jane would spit out wisecracks at both the goths and the preps like a literary Janis Ian. She’d write down all her cutting observations of the high school social scene in a notebook she’d always carry with her, and she’d probably become Diablo Cody before Diablo Cody could.
As for her style, think bubblegum goth: an ironic t-shirt from Delia’s, a tutu skirt, a floral headpiece, and pink Keds.
- Music of Choice: Mellow, pop- and rock-infused tracks that tell gripping stories, such as those by Death Cab for Cutie and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Edgar Allan Poe
The granddaddy of the modern goth aesthetic, this hollow-cheeked, dark-haired writer was a genre trailblazer who helped make mysteries and tragic poetry cool. That’s why we think Edgar 2000 would get into goth music and fashion years before any of his high school classmates. The real Poe was famous for his bizarre and tragic love life, so we imagine Poe cutting class to go mope in the parking lot about the demise of his latest relationship (Lenore stood him up at homecoming, Berenice wouldn’t text him back, Madeline was always too busy hanging out with her brother…). He’d grow out his hair and cultivate one of those scraggly little mustaches that impress high-schoolers but gross out adults. During the evenings, he’d workshop poems over AIM with Em, and his ‘Away’ messages would be straight out of the @YourAwayMessage Twitter.
When it comes to Edgar 2000’s style, think Edward Scissorhands-era Tim Burton: lots of black, lots of metal accessories, perhaps a touch of black lipstick and eyeliner.
- Music of Choice: Historical Edgar wrote that “the death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world.” That’s why Edgar 2000 would enjoy the death-dwelling music of Evanescence, Nightwish, and Misfits.
Not all goths are quiet and reserved, and since historical Oscar was the foppiest fop of them all, Oscar 2000 would follow in his witty, well-dressed forebear’s footsteps. Oscar Wilde routinely landed himself in the Irish gossip columns because of his hard-partying, spendthrift ways, but his protective layer of glittering wit shielded deep doubts as to whether people could ever be truly good. (Read The Picture of Dorian Gray and you’ll see what we mean.) That’s why Oscar 2000 would be class clown, get himself invited to every party, and star in the school play – despite his avant-garde, steampunk fashion sense. On weekend afternoons, he’d lounge around the hippest coffee shops and meditate on his well-concealed existential doubts about the point of life.
A typical outfit for Oscar 2000: a bowler hat, pinstriped suit jacket, the skinniest of skinny jeans, and one fly bow tie.
- Music of Choice: British or British-infused punk-rock that features Oscar’s same dry humor, like The Clash and The Wallflowers. And, let’s be honest, he’d probably listen to Madonna in secret.
Dante was famous for two things: writing the bonkers but fascinating The Divine Comedy in 1320 and having the literary hots for Beatrice, a married woman he met exactly twice. He was also a politician and soldier who fought with both pen and sword for what he believed. This makes Dante 2000 the ideal goth: a dreamy visionary, yes, but one preoccupied with death, sin, punishment, and the hard realities of life on the mortal plane. Dante 2000 would be the epitome of a metalhead, hitting up metal shows and starting his own band. (The lyrics would be killer, but we have no record of the historical Dante’s prowess as a musician, so who knows whether he could shred.) Dante 2000 would probably own a collection of knives and swords, captain the fencing team, and LARP on the weekends. Oh, and he’d fall hopelessly, deeply in love with some poor girl he only saw in chemistry class but never spoke to. He’d send her candygrams every Valentine’s day but would always sign them “from your anonymous admirer.”
You’d find Dante 2000 sporting a band tee with a hardware belt (probably from Hot Topic) and a distressed denim jacket.
- Music of Choice: Classic 90s heavy metal and grunge groups, such as Metallica, Alice in Chains, and Judas Priest (the more religious the theme, the more Dante 2000 would be into it).
As one of the writers who practically invented modernism around the turn of the twentieth century, Virginia Woolf marched to the beat of her own drum. Her famous essay “A Room of One’s Own” argued that women writers have to have their own space, both physical and mental, in order to produce great work – in other words, the same privileges male writers were given. Woolf also figures prominently in goth culture because of her depiction of mental illness in books like Mrs. Dalloway and her own suicide by drowning. That’s why Virginia 2000 would espouse the witchy gothiness popular in the late 90s and early aughts as third-wave feminism cemented itself in American culture. Virginia 2000 would probably identify as pagan, upset teachers with her brilliant but provocative writing, and touch off a firestorm when she asked Em 2000 to prom and then tried to wear a suit, breaking the dress code. (Then she’d steal the prom queen crown and break it, because down with the patriarchy.)
When it comes to her fashion sense, Virginia 2000 would wear a blend of Ren Faire staples like black velvet boho skirts and handkerchief-hem blouses with a mussed, dyed haircut taken straight from Gerard Way.
- Music of Choice: Female singer-songwriters with a darker edge, like Sinéad O’Connor, Fiona Apple, and The Dresden Dolls.
Who else should get the goth treatment? Should there be a sitcom with the 2000 versions of all these authors? Let us know in the comments!