Friends Don’t Let Friends Dress Like The Crow

Greetings, Faithful Readers, and welcome to the November edition of Gothic Charm School. Hopefully all of you had an absolutely wonderful Halloween, and were spiritually fortified by it enough to face the onslaught of Christmas carols and decorations that went up in the stores simultaneously as the leftover Halloween candy was being marked 50% off.

This month, the Lady of the Manners is answering an interesting letter she got just a few days after last month’s column went up. One of the Faithful Readers had a question sparked by the Halloween Dos and Don’ts:

I am curious to know why it is wrong to dress like “The Crow?” Some people may be avid fans of this movie only by Brandon Lee, but I am a fan of all of his movies as well as his fathers. That is why a few years ago I decided to dress in that look. Not only that, but most goths resemble the crow, so I find it amusing that you would shun that. I am not trying to be a bitch. I just don’t understand why this is considered “a faux paux.” I know you are right, because I recall getting some snooty looks, but I could give a flying fuck. I look at Goth as art in a sense, and on Halloween I chose to express myself as one of my favorite people. I think perhaps where you may be coming from is it grew to be overkill, or not oringinal enough. I think very highly of your column, and that is why I felt compelled to reply. I adore Halloween, and it too is my favorite season outside of Pagan holidays. Have a delightful day.
Jade

Goodness, what a heartfelt question. Well, first of all, dearie, if you really and truly want to dress like The Crow, then do so, by all means. The Lady of the Manners is all for self-expression, and wouldn’t want to be accused of squashing anyone’s plans for dressing up.

But why do some (well, most) goths consider dressing a la The Crow to be wrong or silly? Your comment on “overkill” hits close to the mark, but it’s a little more convoluted than that.

Long ago, a new comic book appeared. Done in black & white, it was violent, an anguished story of lost love, and seemed different from other things out there. Word of mouth caused interest to grow, but it still seemed like an “insider” sort of thing. If you saw someone reading an issue, you could (kind of) safely assume that the reader shared at least some of the same interests as you. This sort of thinking carried over when you saw someone in Crow makeup at a club or at a convention.

As time went by, the comic gained a higher profile in pop-culture, and then, lo and behold, the movie was made. And as adaptations go, the movie was pretty good. Brandon Lee did a stunning job, and his death was a tragic loss. But the movie brought the story of The Crow into even higher visibility; it wasn’t a cult-following thing anymore — just about everyone knew about it. Which meant that people who weren’t hard-core fans were co-opting the look. Fine, great, fashion is always about stealing an idea you like and making it your own. But people weren’t doing that; they were just slapping on some whiteface, black lipstick, and drawing black triangles around their eyes. Things got to the point where you couldn’t go to a goth club without seeing a flock of Crow-wannabees, most of which seemed to have applied their makeup in a somewhat ham-fisted manner. So yes, “overkill” is part of the reason for many goths’ disdain of people dressed like The Crow. But there is another part to it…

It’s easy to dress up like The Crow. Almost everyone recognizes it (and those who don’t probably assume the costumed person is impersonating someone from pro-wrestling), and it’s a quick way of making oneself look different and. . . dare I say it? . . . spooooookkkkyyyy. The Crow is one of those classic “insta-goth” icons, but has an easier look to copy than Dracula. People who want to play tourist and visit one of “those weird clubs with all the freaky people in black” pull on some black jeans, a black t-shirt, and a trenchcoat, slap on some black and white makeup, and head out, feeling confident that they’ll “blend in”. They don’t.

Dressing like The Crow is also one of the great starter-goth traditions; it’s pretty much the male equivalent of dressing like Death from the Sandman comics, which is what almost every girl who is a fledgling goth does at least once. Again, it’s that shortcut to spoooookiness that is the attraction. Which means the idea is also being appropriated by people who aren’t quite goth, but SpOoKy. If you ever go to a Marilyn Manson concert (which the Lady of the Manners has done for the spectacle and the amusement value), you can have a lot of fun by playing “Spot the Crow”. The last time the Lady of the Manners played this game, she counted 16 Crows in one stadium.

However, none of this means that you shouldn’t dress like The Crow if you want to. There is nothing wrong with dressing like one of your idols. (The Lady of the Manners dresses like Mary Poppins’ evil twin, which garners her some confused looks, so you can imagine her reluctance to tell someone they can’t dress like a fictional character if they really want to.) So sure, go paint your face and put on your trenchcoat. Put electrical tape up your arms, even. Just be prepared for some snide looks from people, and have your arsenal of comebacks and condescending smiles ready.

That, the Lady of the Manners thinks, wraps up that issue. Be sure to pop around next month, when you will be treated to advice about holiday gift-giving, family traditions, and the trials and tribulations of explaining to family members why your Christmas tree has bats on it. As always, send your pleas and questions to headmistress@gothic-charm-school.com.

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