Sheffield preview

Leading up to Sheffield Doc/Fest, realscreen takes an advance look at some of the docs in their program.
October 30, 2008

‘Goths have kids and Goths have minivans and Goths have mortgage payments and all the other things that we typically think of as an adult,’ says one subject of the UK film Goth Cruise. Filmmaker Jeanie Finlay shows the human side of the mysterious subculture using, as the title suggests, an actual cruise attended by 150 Goths as the setting.

In his 2002 Spin magazine article about Bats Day, a yearly Goth expedition to Disneyland, pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman wonders ‘How did America become terrified of these people?’ and this film attempts to show why it shouldn’t be. The Goths who set sail on this voyage along with 2,350 non-goths, are regular people who live in suburbia who have to take off their nailpolish to go to work.

But underneath its black cloaked exterior, Goth Cruise is a critique of the United States. Many subjects of the film, both American and British, accuse America of being less accepting of Goth culture than Britain. Britton Ian says Americans often ask him what he could possibly do for a living with a tattoo on his head, his wife Bridie feels there’s more at stake being a goth in the US than in the UK, and an American subject says the US forces people to be ‘happy being happy,’ and Goths want a full range of emotions. ‘You can’t have the light without the dark,’ he says.

The film criticizes the US, not only for its conservative culture that makes Goths uncomfortable, but also through the voice of Sean, the Goth dad from Portland, Oregon who is a veteran of a war that he does not agree with. He criticizes the States for invading people who are poor and downtrodden, comparing it to a bunch of frat boys rolling a bum for his money. Meanwhile, in Whitby, England, Goths roam freely and most welcome during the Whitby Goth Weekend, Britain’s Goth festival.

But clearly not all of America is trying to keep the Goths down, since the majority of the Goths in this film are American, and while a few of the non-Goth folks on the cruise misjudge the children of the night as Satan worshipers, a couple of older ladies say they found all the Goths to be very nice and respectful.

The film is mostly a fun look at the lives of people who are often misunderstood, but have embraced the world’s negative view of them. Not surprisingly these people are just people who like industrial music, who live normal lives and are, in some cases, somewhat socially awkward. Just like any other group of people you might want to profile, though perhaps with an exceptionally larger collection of capes. Packing for a Goth cruise might be a chore, but it sure looks like a lot of fun.

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