Ethel Cain: Southern Gothic

Hayden Anhedönia is a singer-songwriter from Georgia who has been associated largely with her exploration of the Southern Gothic aesthetic, most prominently in her 2022 album, Preacher’s Daughter, released under the stage name Ethel Cain. The narrative of the album centers around a young runaway who finds herself in the hands of a cannibalistic psychopath but also explores the euphoria surrounding her newfound unabridged freedom in the foreground of the rural south. The sound of the album oscillates between melancholy and eerie as she sets the scene of the album in Shady Grove, Alabama. The album evokes the atmosphere of a decaying South, plagued with dark secrets and haunted by the ghosts of the past.

One of the defining features of the southern gothic genre is its focus on the macabre and grotesque. Preacher’s Daughter permeates themes of death, betrayal, and madness through dark, low vocals that echo and lyrics that portray murder and its sinister invocations. The opening track, “Family Tree(Intro)” features Ethel’s voice echoing through the dark halls of a church. She sings, “Swinging by my neck from the family tree, he’ll laugh and say, ‘You know I raised you better than this’, then leave me hanging so they all can laugh at me”. The lyrics suggest a character haunted by past misdeeds and abuse, finding herself unable to escape the cycle of guilt and shame and used as an emblem of this abuse.

In addition to Preacher’s Daughter’s portrayal of the Southern gothic through deeply religious themes and a continuous narrative, other singles and unreleased songs of Cain’s continue to develop this aesthetic. Embodied by the recurring image of ghosts and otherworldly apparitions, in “Crush,” Cain sings, “There’s a shadow in the doorway, and I can’t tell if it’s you or a ghost.” The ambiguity of this line is typical of the genre, where the between reality and imagination is blurred into fantasy. In “Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe, this space between illusion and reality – or rather, the fine line between madness and sanity – is expressed through the cheerless, melancholic appearance of the House of Usher. Both “Fall of the House of Usher” and “Crush” seem to suggest that the gothic nature of haunted houses is deeply rooted in the psychology of the narrator. The use of supernatural elements serves to heighten the sense of unease and dread that permeates the album.






The Southern Gothic aesthetic is also characterized by its emphasis on decaying environments. Cain’s lyrics describe crumbling buildings, rusted fences, and overgrown gardens in “Michelle Pfeiffer” where Cain sings, “The garden’s overgrown and the fence is rusted through, there’s a hole in the roof and the windows are all blue.” This imagery evokes the decay and decline of the South, as well as the sense of isolation and abandonment that is often associated with the genre through its descriptions of dead or barren land. Similarly in the second to last track of Preacher’s Daughter, Cain opens the song by describing a common sight in the southern U.S., where the sun can bleach dead insects stuck to windshields or windows, creating a macabre and unsettling image of death. Cain sings, “Sun bleached flies sitting in the windowsill, waiting for the day they escape”, before reaching the line “God loves you, but not enough to save you”. This line suggests the inner religious turmoil of the speaker and examines the contradictory relationship God seems to have with his worshippers. Cain is positing that God doesn’t provide sanctity for her, but only doubt. She reaches the conclusion that “I always knew that in the end no one was coming to save me,” and retires her faith.

In addition to its focus on decay and the supernatural, the Southern gothic genre often explores issues of race and class. Cain’s lyrics often examine the experience of growing up in a deeply religious and conservative environment. In “Take You With Me,” Cain sings, “In the church we raised our hands, but the preacher didn’t understand that we were lost and looking for love.” The tension between the strict morality of the church and the complexity of human desire is a theme that is explored throughout the album. It also evokes a sense of abandonment and isolation, as Cain finds herself in an emotional deficit and looks to God as a form of sanctity.

Ethel Cain’s debut album, Preacher’s Daughter, is a stunning example of the southern gothic aesthetic. With its focus on the macabre, supernatural, and decayed environments, as well as its examination of issues of race, class, and gender, the album aligns with the key themes of the genre. Cain’s haunting lyrics and eerie soundscapes evoke the atmosphere of a South haunted by its past, and the album stands as a testament to the power and enduring appeal of southern gothic.

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Alexander McQueen: Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims

by Hailey Anderson

Alexander McQueen was one of the most influential and controversial designers in the industry. He loved expressing ideas of sexuality, religion, race, and class through the art of fashion. Known for his infamous clothing lines and groundbreaking fashion shows, he enjoyed using his platform to create collections representing social issues throughout his career. In 1992, he graduated from Central St. Martin’s and created a runway collection known as “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims.” His collection was inspired by the unidentified serial killer in the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 1880’s.

Jack the Ripper was known for targeting and killing female sex workers for numerous years without getting caught. Alexander’s relatives actually owned a hotel that one of the victims of the serial killer was murdered at. One London England’s most unsolved mysteries with over dozens of victims between 1880 to 1995, but only 5 victims proven to be linked to the serial killer. The five victims confirmed murdered by Jack the Ripper include;

Mary Ann Nichols (August 31st, 1888)

Annie Chapman (September 8th, 1888)

Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes (September 30th, 1888)

Mary Jane Kelly (November 9th, 1888)

Each piece of clothing even had locks of his hair woven into the material representing a piece of himself within it.

One of his most famous quotes when asked about his collections was, “I find beauty in the grotesque.” His love for victorian culture and gothic design helped create this historical collection known to be one of his first masterpieces.

One of the most iconic pieces within the Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims collection was the Pink Silk Satin Coat with thorn patterned lines and encapsulated human hair. His idea of lining a majority of his collection with human hair was due to the Victorian Era when sex workers would sell their locks of hair to be given to peoples lovers. McQueen using his own locks of hair to finish the collection. His collection fits a gothic theme due to his inspiration being Victorian Gothic mixed with horror and romance. A majority of his collections had life and death styles with a sinister aspect creating a strong gothic theme. Every fashion show representing a new collection of his is told with a story.

The 1968 film we analyzed this semester that I believe depends a lot on the style of the characters is Rosemary’s Baby by Roman Polanski. Just as Alexander McQueen uses everyday life experiences to inspire his clothing lines, every piece of fabric and design used alters the clothing completely. The models also play a very important factor in how the audience portrays the clothing which McQueen is very careful in choosing. Rosemary within the film is depicted as this sweet and innocent woman being completely taken advantage of by those closest to her.

The way the audience depicts her character has a lot to do with clothing choices and costumes playing an important role. Throughout the film, Rosemary wears colorful baby-doll style dresses, knit sweaters, and 1960’s nightgowns. Adding color to her wardrobe made a significant difference in the amount of positively and youthfulness the audience saw Rosemary as. This is important within the film because it puts the audiences’ minds at ease until they’re completely caught off guard.

Another similarity is seen within the 1960’s psychological thriller Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock. McQueen uses soundtracks from the film during his runway show, Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims to enhance the experience. The soundtrack is used within the film during important moments of tension to amplify the scene, keeping the audience engaged and nervous. Since McQueen’s runway show was about one of London’s most mysterious serial killers, he believed this soundtrack would be the perfect match to his collection.

Although collections such as this one are under vast controversy, this is what made McQueen so unique and he wanted the victims to be highlighted and remembered while making women feared and not to be messed with. The main song McQueen picked from the film was The Murder by Bernard Herrman from the shower scene in Psycho. The collection was filled with different articles of clothing all with various patterns representing blood spatter. Models were also carrying weapons within the show and not breaking character. He chose specific people to wear iconic clothing such as the Silk Satin Coat who also wore a barbed-wire head piece to match. McQueen was a huge influence in gothic fashion that opened so many possibilities for other designers within the industry that were too originally too afraid to be that “outside the box.” His legacy in the fashion world still lives on.     



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Longing and the Gothic within The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mayonnaise”

by Kate Oliver

The band The Smashing Pumpkins has many songs that can be considered in the genre of “Gothic” with their sad lyrics, long, heartfelt guitar riffs, and Billy Corgan‘s voice in general, but my personal favorite is “Mayonnaise.” Even the title itself is an almost Gothic choice, ironic as you are thinking of sandwich condiments, then the song rips into your very brain and forces you to consider your life in ways you may never have before. 

The album cover even evokes the Gothic. Siamese Dream depicts two girls dressed in costume, as typical of children’s play:

The picture itself seems to be a longing for the past, for the simplicity childhood brings. They are smiling, laughing—they are happy. This is something that the entirety of the album seems to draw on, loss, however “Mayonnaise” really exposes this perpetual nostalgia often found in adulthood. 

The song opens softly at first, then, as typical of 1990’s grunge, goes into a harder guitar solo that you feel in your soul. Corgan’s voice is indescribable—I honestly feel as if it would be almost unpleasant to hear if not paired with the music, due to just how piercing and raw it can be. It suits him so well, and you can feel the emotion in it. The band as a whole is very talented; they how to create a song that is like nothing you have ever heard before. Pictured circa 1993:  

Corgan begins: 

Fool enough to almost be it

Cool enough to not quite see it


Pick your pockets full of sorrow

And run away with me tomorrow


Like, what does that mean? It goes along perfectly with the Gothic—for me, the song seems to be about growing old, nostalgia, observing yourself in the then vs. the now. Although childhood has long passed and one may be unsure of where life is going, the future is bright—June. You are doomed if you do not seize upon this knowledge. 

It continues, guitar riff bumping:

I send a heart to all my dearies

When your life is so, so dreary


I’m rumored to the straight and narrow

While the harlots of my perils


Mother weep the years I’m missing

All our time can’t be given


Shut my mouth and strike the demons

That cursed you and your reasons

Out of hand and out of season

Out of love and out of feeling

So bad

It almost feels like a Poe novel, the darkness of the lyrics having to be deciphered and revealing the narrator’s deepest insecurities regarding not only himself but whoever he is talking to. Perhaps he is even just talking to himself. “When your life is so, so dreary / Dream,” similar to the narrators in “Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Raven,” “Ligeia,” the narrator is compelled by possible dreams of a different life. But unlike most of these characters, he is attempting to move into something greater, not linger with his demons. He is tortured by his past self, trying to understand how to move forward, “all our time can’t be given / Back.” He understands that he can no longer live this way, trying to reclaim nostalgia and an out-of-reach way of being.

The lyrics from the beginning verse are then repeated, coming to a more worthy conclusion:

Fool enough to almost be it

And cool enough to not quite see it

And old enough to always feel this

Always old, I’ll always feel this

He realizes he was almost overcome by these feelings of longing, and he will always sometimes feel this way. It is a part of growing old, and growing old you always are. 

The song concludes with a declaration of acceptance of the self:

No more promise no more sorrow

No longer will I follow

Can anybody hear me

I just want to be me

When I can, I will

Try to understand

That when I can, I will

He will no longer follow this pining perspective—”no more sorrow.” He is yelling out into a void (and trust me, Billy Corgan is yelling) that he just wants to be himself. His understanding of this self will only progress, and he will take it as he can. For now he is content with at least the knowledge that this is possible. 

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Gothic Elements of ‘Paint It, Black’ in Tim Burton’s Netflix Original Series ‘Wednesday,’ Episode 1

by Julie Gomez

“Wednesday.” Tvinsider, 23 Nov. 2022, Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

In just the first episode, titled ‘Wednesday’s Child Is Full of Woe,’ of this playfully macabre series adaptation of characters created by Charles Addams, a plethora of gothic mise-en-scène elements is present. These range from clothing, lighting, actors, sets, and make-up. While I could dedicate a substantial amount of text delving into how these mise-en-scène elements are gothic, there is another formal element I would like to focus on for this blog post: the presence of sound. Not just any sound, but rather the careful choice in having Wednesday play The Rolling Stones song ‘Paint It, Black,’ released in 1966, on a violoncello around forty minutes into the episode. While the lyrics of this song are not present, they are very much still important in understanding why Wednesday chooses to play this tune. Additionally, the tempo and dynamics Wednesday adds in her rendition of this song are highly heightened, giving the tune a much more suspenseful, dark, and exaggerated feel overall.

The beginning of this first episode consists of Wednesday’s parents, Gomez and Morticia, bringing Wednesday to Nevermore Academy, a school comprised of children with supernatural abilities. This is due to Wednesday putting piranhas in her public school’s pool to hurt a group of boys that tied up and locked her younger brother, Pugsley, in his own locker. She was subsequently expelled and required by court order to attend therapy sessions. Her act of defiance towards those boys is mirrored well in a few middle verses of ‘Paint It, Black.’

I’ve seen people turn their heads
And quickly look away
Like a newborn baby
It just happens everyday

I look inside myself
And see my heart is black
I see my red door
I must have it painted black

Maybe then, I’ll fade awayAnd not have to face the factsIt’s not easy facing upWhen your whole world is black

As Wednesday pulls Pugsley from his locker, she says “I want names…Pugsley, emotion equals weakness. Pull yourself together. Now!” Wednesday’s supernatural ability to have visions, which is certainly gothic as it’s other-worldly and fantastical, enables her to see who hurt Pugsley. Fed up with the way children look at and treat her and her brother, she resorts to violence. Wednesday exhibits repressed emotions as she’s unable to cope with her anger in a healthier way. This is especially reflected in the ‘Paint It, Black’ lyrics “…No colors anymore I want them to turn black…” Another gothic layer gets added from the song because most members of her family are seen as outcasts. She says with a cool tone before dropping the piranhas into the pool, “The only person who gets to torture my brother is me.”

Once at Nevermore Academy, she’s surrounded by children much like her, and she sees the academy’s private therapist. Incredibly disapproving of her predicament, Wednesday is in no mood to interact with anyone. Her dorm mate, Enid, is her complete opposite and worst nightmare as she completely adores color, embellishing herself and the dorm room in every color of the rainbow. This leads me to the first few verses of ‘Paint It, Black.’

I see a red door
And I want it painted black
No colors anymore
I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by
Dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head
Until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars
And they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love
Both never to come back

Highfill, Samantha . “Wednesday Creators Take Us inside Nevermore Academy.” Entertainment Weekly, 12 Sept. 2022, Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

Upon first meeting Wednesday, Enid asks her why she’s so pale, to which Morticia responds, “She’s allergic to color.” This is reflected in the song well as the lyrics read “I see a red door and I want it painted black.” As Wednesday settles in the first few days at the academy, she strips all the color from her side of the dorm room window and establishes with her roommate that she doesn’t wish to be friendly towards her, let alone be her friend. What she wants most is complete silence so she can write.

If Wednesday had any hope to somewhat relate to the children at Nevermore Academy, this is dampened by the presence of Enid, and then demolished when she becomes a quick target. The “self-appointed Queen Bee,” as Wednesday affectionately labels her, Bianca snidely says “Oh, you must be the psychopath they let in.” Wednesday, not willing to back down, challenges her to a fencing match. She’s been an outcast before, but she’s determined to not be treated poorly, certainly not being called a psychopath. When Bianca cuts her forehead, Wednesday becomes even more closed off from everyone. Though there are some that Wednesday shows an inkling of liking towards, such as Xavier and Tyler, Wednesday is determined to find a way out of Nevermore Academy. Her first therapy session with the academy’s private therapist goes so terribly that it only furthers this desire. Wednesday finds out that the therapist gained access to her manuscripts as part of a psych evaluation, and she feels completely violated. She states to Thing, a legendary member of the Addams Family, “Our first order of business is to escape this teenage purgatory.”

All these events bring the audience to the scene of Wednesday playing ‘Paint It, Black’ on her dorm room balcony at nighttime. This tune slightly helps soothe Wednesday, and the audience sees that it soothes many others that night at Nevermore Academy including the principal, a teacher, and Tyler. This then leads me to discuss some of the later verses in this song.

“Wednesday Addams Paint It Black Plays Cello.” YouTube, uploaded by Xjohnny88k, 23 Nov. 2022,

“Wednesday Addams Paint It Black Plays Cello.” YouTube, uploaded by Xjohnny88k, 23 Nov. 2022,

No more will my green sea
Go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing
Happening to you

If I look hard enough
Into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me
Before the morning comes

I see a red door
And I want it painted black
No colors anymore
I want them to turn black

Once she finishes playing the tune, Thing gestures toward Wednesday from the music stand, to which she replies, “No, I don’t really feel better. There’s just something wrong about this place.” Wednesday does not make this statement because she’s still an outcast even in the company of those most like her, but rather because her supernatural ability allows her to sense a deeper, darker secret at Nevermore Academy. And why might she gain a little comfort from playing such a dark tune? It’s familiar, it represents what she’s going through, and that offers solace. Why play this tune on a violoncello instead of having the original song play through a radio for example? This musical instrument is an outlet of expression for Wednesday, just like writing is, and it’s an incredibly personal activity as well. Moreover, expression through use of a classical instrument adds to the gothic appeal.

Worthy of mention, is that this song ‘Paint It, Black’ resembles a traditional gothic poem written by Edgar Allan Poe, titled ‘Spirits of the Dead.’ This poem offers gothic imagery that highlight themes of darkness while simultaneously emphasizing beauty, which emulates Wednesday as a character almost perfectly. The imagery that the ‘Paint It, Black’ tune Wednesday plays mirrors the emotions she feels not only at Nevermore Academy, but with her life overall. She’s been an outcast her entire life and she’s most comfortable in the darkness. This poem also criticizes the mortal hope of life after death “As a burning and a fever” in the third stanza. This strongly reflects the verse of ‘Paint It, Black’ that includes “…If I look hard enough into the setting sun my love will laugh with me…” As Wednesday plays the tune, it’s nighttime and this most closely correlates with how Wednesday views her goals. She takes her writing and music very seriously because she will not settle for mediocrity. She won’t live on after death, such a belief is foolish to her, but rather she will live in the present through her creative work, her only light. Her beliefs go against tradition, making them gothic. This connects to when the poem expresses the connection between divinity and nature when it describes the mist in stanza five as “…shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken…”. While Wednesday does not believe in life after death, she certainly believes in her own divinity, her own capability. Every part of her is dark, her emotions, her style, her attitude, yet she is not broken, or even a psychopath like Bianca called her. She’s entirely unique and that makes her godly.

Starkey, Adam. “Here’s Every Song on the ‘Wednesday’ Soundtrack.” NME, 19 Dec. 2022, Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

Starkey, Adam. “Here’s Every Song on the ‘Wednesday’ Soundtrack.” NME, 19 Dec. 2022, Accessed 25 Apr. 2023.

The last verse of ‘Paint It, Black’ perfectly represents Wednesday’s life, especially in this first episode of the original Netflix series.

I wanna see it painted
Painted black
Black as night
Black as coal
I wanna see the sun
Blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted
Painted black, yeah

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Gothic Tropes in Hozier’s “It Will Come Back”

by Margaret Bruce

Hozier, an Irish singer-songwriter, first shot to fame in 2013 with his debut single “Take Me to Church.” Over the years, Hozier’s music has been hailed as a mixture of religious themes and folklore, often highlighting aspects of Gothic love. Although Irish, Hozier oftenTake Me to Church - EP by Hozier on Apple Music accredits his inspiration to American blues and jazz singers like Nina Simone and John Lee Hooker. For this reason, Hozier is often associated with the Southern Gothic. Many of his songs explore the supernatural and the horrific, and many emphasize a particularly sinister side of religion. This is best exemplified through Hozier’s 2014 debut self-titled album. I loved this album when it first came out, and I was really excited to revisit it with a well-informed Gothic lens.

“It Will Come Back” was one of my favorite songs in high school. My sister and I were big Hozier fans, and I was always drawn to this song because of its haunting tone and a general sense of foreboding. The song begins with low, bluesy instrumentals that Hozier often emphasizes in live versions. The riff which opens the song is repeated throughout, constantly calling back to its darker tone. The lyrics themselves take the form of a man warning his lover first about an unidentified creature, then about himself. The song plays with the Gothic setting of a house, which offers protection from the dangerous and malicious creatures that lurk outside.

The first half of the song features the speaker cautioning against his lover treating a creature with kindness. It’s never explicitly said what the thing is, adding to the mystery and folklore typically seen in the Gothic, but it can be assumed that this is some sort of feral animal. At one point, the speaker implies that the creature does not have a soul, alluding to the religious distinction between humans with souls and creatures without:

Don’t give it a hand, offer it a soul

Honey, make this easy

Leave it to the land, this is what it knows

Honey, that’s how it sleeps

The speaker grows increasingly frustrated with his lover’s concern and kindness. She’s painted as a classic Gothic female lover, caring to the point of naivety. The speaker offers a chilling warning if the lover decides to care for the creature: it will come back.

The second verse puts the speaker in the position of the creature. He discloses his own feral instincts, blurring the line between himself and the animal. He warns the lover against showing him any sign of kindness because he won’t be able to tear himself away from her:

I know who I am when I’m alone

I’m something else when I see you

You don’t understand, you should never know

How easy you are to need

Ultimately, the speaker warns that, should the lover allow him in her life, he will continue to come back—further blurring the distinction between himself and the creature mentioned in the first verse. This confusion is cemented in the bridge of the song, where the speaker issues a final warning to his lover:

I warn you, baby, each night, as sure as you’re born

You’ll hear me howling outside your door

The outro of the song is fraught with creepy instrumentals over loud, beating percussion as the speaker asks over and over “Don’t you hear me howling, babe?” The ending implies that the lover will forever be haunted by the speaker, harkening once again to Gothic tropes. The last line of the bridge, however, puts the speaker outside of the house and therefore beyond the realm of protection, where he has been perverted into a feral creature and cursed to howl at his lover until she decides to care for him again.

Hozier (musician) - Wikipedia This song reminded me a lot of “Circumstance.” In that story, a woman is attacked by a creature. At times, it seems that the animal is attempting to rape the woman, conflating the feral instincts of animals with the darker and animalistic instincts of man. Hozier draws upon the same idea in his song: it is ultimately impossible to tell if the speaker is animal or human, only that it is intensely drawn to the woman. In both texts, home represents protection and safety. In “Circumstance,” the woman is attacked while venturing outside of her home and is eventually saved by representations of her home life—her husband and child. In “It Will Come Back,” the creature only ever exists outside of the home. Crossing that boundary and allowing it inside will harm the woman by making it impossible to get rid of.

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‘True Detective’ Season 1 and the Modern Gothicism

by Brandon Eichelberg

Since its release in 2014, critics and fans alike have hailed season one of HBO’s True Detective as some of the best television ever made. Following two major figures, Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson), the season displays disgusting, riveting, and confusing twists with each episode (there are only 8!). Taking place over a seventeen-year period (from 1995 to 2012), detectives Cohle and Hart attempt to solve a string of serial murders which only grows more grotesque and horrifying as the show progresses.

With this piece, I have aimed to not reveal any spoilers, though, of course, they will inevitably sneak through. So, with that being said, be forewarned.

Each time I (re)watch the first season (there are two other seasons, though, for the purpose of brevity and quality, I refrain from mentioning those two mediocre pieces of television any further), I am always amazed by the Gothicism throughout it. The show lies on the cusp of horror, though, in my opinion, I would not go as far as to call it horror. Because of this fault in the liminality of the genre, I’ll refer to this show as Gothic, specifically Southern Gothic.

Taking place in the deep south of Louisiana, the cinematography perfectly captures this Southern Gothicism. With its live oaks and murky marshes and abandoned churches, the mini-series highlights the formal setting of a Southern Gothic piece. The one Gothic element that the show does not include throughout, however, is a central decrepit house or manor. There is no central house throughout the whole season. Though, some episodes do focus on a central building, such as in the fifth and eighth episodes, “The Secret Fate of All Life” and “Form and Void.”

Besides the setting, the mini-series displays Gothic elements through its psychological uncertainty. We are first introduced to Cohle under mysterious pretenses. He’s an outsider to the rest of the homicide detectives at the Louisiana State Police Department. He takes notes on a large “taxman” pad, keeps to himself, and says strange esoteric things. One of the strangest is, “In eternity, where there is no time, nothing can grow. Nothing can become. Nothing changes. So death created time to grow the things that it would kill, and you are reborn but into the same life that you’ve always been born into” (“The Secret Fate of All Life”).

Like, what the hell man – just solve the case. Right? Wrong!

This eerie, even horrifying, image – belief? curse? purgatory? – reflects both Epicurean metaphysics and nihilism, two interestingly paired philosophical schools of thought – perhaps pulling from Nietzsche. Cohle’s ambiguity coupled with his intelligence leads the audience to question his motivation. This ambiguous drive that inhabits Cohle reminds me of the ambiguity found within William Faulkner’s Sanctuary. Within this novel, motivations are not necessarily made clear unless one truly unravels them – and even then, they still may be blurred.

We see a very similar ambiguity in the character of Rust Cohle. Why is he chasing this serial killer? Why does he care so much? Well, yes, it is his job – but it’s more than just a job for him. It’s a duty. But why?

We soon find out that Cohle has a dead daughter – and the serial murders all include young women and children. Furthermore, he struggles with alcoholism. As the jumping of time between the three eras distorts the storyline, we see Cohle as he sinks deeper into alcoholism, further associating the audience with his disturbed mental state. We are confused and that’s the point. The more we find out about Cohle, the more we found out that there is more to find out.

While the story revolves around a 17+ year chase for a serial killer, it is really about the relationship between the two main characters. Cohle and Hart simultaneously chase the evil causing the murders while confronting the evil within themselves. They confuse themselves and threaten the case. They confuse the external with the internal, the internal with the external.

Much like Cohle, Hart has his own closet of hidden skeletons. He fights to keep the case just as strongly as Cohle does. Though, much like Cohle, his motives are questionable. We quickly find out that Hart cheats on his wife with a young woman. This eventually turns into multiple young women as the show progress. Hart also has two young daughters. The show intermingles these two aspects of Hart and suggests a weird pseudo-incestuous motive that drives him to find the serial killer(s). This, too, reminds me of Sanctuary and Benbow’s strange relationship with his stepdaughter and Temple’s horrifying situation with her father and brothers.

The show, in my opinion, is a masterpiece of modern television. It’s too long to be a film, it’s too short to be a whole series, and the creators knew that from the beginning. I’ve watched the mini-series about four – maybe five – times since its release, usually while sharing it with a friend or family member. It’s amazing. I highly recommend it, though, it is an intense show, so, as before, be forewarned.

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Dante: Florentine philosopher or one of the best fashion shows of all time?

by Ashley Cox

Lee Alexander McQueen was a British fashion designer known for his irreverence, bad temper, and even worse mouth. Famous for his extremity, which included sewing real human hair into his runway collections, the British fashion designer often drew on dark themes and his own internal struggles with mental health for his designs. The collection that launched him into fashion stardom, The Highland Rape, was a textile expression of anticolonialism and a commentary on the harsh British rule over their regional siblings, Ireland and Scotland. The Highland Rape was McQueen’s autumn/winter 1994 collection and just two years later in the fall of 1994, his collection Dante would cement his membership to the ever-exclusive club of fashion royalty. 


Dante, a collection named for the 14th-century Florentine philosopher Dante Alighieri, plays with themes of religion, war, and the toxicity of institutional power. The show took place in Christ Church in Spitalfields in London. Not only does Spitalfields hold significance, as it is part of the White Chapel district once haunted by Jack the Ripper, but it is also in the East End, where McQueen grew up. Christ Church itself dates back to the late 1700s and was believed to have been built by a secret Satanist. McQueen chose to show this collection in a church because in his words, “religion has caused every war in the world”. The chapel was regaled with images from the Vietnam and Somalian wars taken by war photographer Don McCullin, and as the models began their trek down the runway audio from The Rolling Stones, Apocalypse Now, LL Cool J, and a collection of gunfire mixed with Gregorian chanting filled the air. 


In this look, McQueen uses traditional Victorian clothes for inspiration for the corset. Each stage of mourning in Victorian society had a different dress code, half-mourning was lilac. This lilac corset with black jet beading, also consistent with mourning, was paired with a patchwork denim maxi skirt in all of its 90’s glamor. While a collar that is reminiscent of gothic spires encloses the model in a corseted prison on top, the bottom half of the look seems as though it could have pulled right off of the most current 90s it-girl. 


Using black lace purchased from notoriously cheap street markets, perhaps a way for McQueen to comment on the excess of consumption in fashion, he constructs a shroud/veil garment held up by an antler headdress. This blurring of garment type, shroud or veil, encapsulates McQueen’s creative prerogative and reflects the tension of this particular show. Life versus death, beauty in death, and eternal life are what he is grappling with in this collection. The idea that the dead are never really gone, a particularly gothic idea, is consistently reflected not only in McQueen’s designs but in everything that accompanies them from the settings of his shows to how they sound and more.


McQueen borrowed from photographer Joel Witkins for this crucifixion mask first seen in Witkins self-portrait taken in 1984. The mask accompanies many different looks and has been read in a variety of different ways. Resurrection, ego, and the ‘mask’ of religion are a few ways this can be interpreted and there is probably truth in all of them. After all, McQueen loved collapsing two contradictory ideas, lifestyles, opinions, etc., into a single garment. 


The blending of modernity and traditionalism in this collection speaks to the heart of what McQueen was trying to convey. In the same way that Jordan Peele places human history full of pain, suffering, and struggle into a modern American context in his film Get Out to remind the audience that human pain does not go away, it only transforms, so too McQueen reminds his audience that the dark parts of history we would all like to confine to the past are all too present if only taking on different shapes and sounds. People of color may not be so afraid of the hull of a slave ship but they are of a police car. Gregorian chanting may not strike the same chord of adrenaline as it once did but images of war-torn Vietnam and sounds of machine gun fire may. 


Gothic ideas of confinement, the blur between life and death, and the return of what was once thought gone forever are all present in Alexander McQueen’s 1996 Fall/Winter runway collection. A gothic figure himself, McQueen struggled his entire life with severe mental health issues. His genius and breadth and depth of influence make him one of the most compelling creatives of modern times. This collection may have catapulted him to the status of fashion god, but he continued to put out a rich body of work, not only in his designs, but in their presentations as well, that has yet to be rivaled. 


The Era-Defining Alexander McQueen Show That Took Fashion to Church (AnOther Magazine)

Gods and Kings (Dana Thomas)

Alexander McQueen Fall 1996 Ready-to-Wear Collection (Vogue, Condé Nast) 

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The Beautifully Disturbed: “Hannibal”

  By Allison Morris

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is without a doubt one of cinema’s most chilling villains, and Anthony Hopkins’ performance in the 1991 classic The Silence of the Lambs and its sequels has a large influence on that title. There have been others to portray Lecter over the years, but the most recent and perhaps most highly regarded has been Mads Mikkelsen’s performance in the NBC television series Hannibal, which ran for three seasons and has become a cult classic since its cancellation in 2015.

Most people are at the very least aware of the films featuring Lecter, but less so of Thomas Harris’ novels, where the inspiration for Hannibal got its start, according to developer and executive producer Bryan Fuller. However, the elements and characters of Harris’ novels are where most similarities end between the adaptations. Hannibal is largely concerned with being a pseudo-prequel to Silence of the Lambs by telling the origin of Lecter– how and why he became the intimidating cinematic villain everybody knows today. This narrative is intertwined with the story of FBI profiler Will Graham, who possesses the uncanny ability to empathize with the criminally disturbed, setting him on a collision course with Lecter, who is still a practicing psychiatrist at the start of the show. Over three seasons, Lecter and Graham build a fascinating yet toxic bond that Lecter uses to his advantage, pushing Graham to the breaking point time and time again through manipulation and seduction. Nothing is held back in the series, forming a psychological horror-thriller that many have called one of the darkest and most disturbing shows aired on network television.

I first watched Hannibal a few years ago with my mother, ironically enough just before the initial quarantine, so it was a great time to binge-watch shows. My mother loved Silence of the Lambs and I had heard great things about Hannibal, especially as a source of queer representation and as a psychological piece. It was short enough that we watched it over about two weeks, and were simultaneously disgusted and fascinated by the series. It was certainly like no other media I had seen before, nor have I seen one that can top it since. It’s not a series for everyone, much like other serial killer media– but there’s something innately real and haunting about Hannibal that I couldn’t help but get sucked in by everything about it even while being beyond disturbed.

The presence of the Gothic is felt in nearly every frame of Hannibal– the score, directing, screenwriting, and set design all lend themselves to the overall oppressive feeling throughout the entire series. As a psychological piece, there’s no surprise that the ambiguity and darkness of humanity takes center stage with the known disturbed mental state of Hannibal settling like a fog every time he’s on-screen. His obsession with Will Graham is both cloaked in mystery but also suspense, up to the point where the characters in the show discover Hannibal’s true nature, finally in on the joke with the audience. And yet Hannibal continues to encourage Will off that edge of sanity even after physically and mentally brutalizing him in the finale of season two: “You can make it all go away. Put your head back. Close your eyes. Wade into the quiet of the stream.” This persists even into the final season, after the two have been separated for months, when Hannibal’s obsession with Will almost turns into grief– in a way not too dissimilar, in my opinion, from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Widely different relationships in their stability, yet the narrator’s descent into madness caused by his grief, only exacerbated by the titular raven, is thematically reminiscent of Hannibal being without Will and letting himself fall back into a violence that lacks any sense of the reason or care that it had before Will.

While perhaps not in the most traditional sense, there are also supernaturally Gothic elements interlaced throughout the series. Will Graham’s ability to get inside a killer’s head is more often than not illustrated to the audience by placing him in the physical role of the killer– effectively stepping back into time and physically retracing their actions in scenes that are telegraphed as immeasurably harmful to his mental health. The crime scenes in the series’ more procedural episodes are anything but typical, as well– more often than not they are grotesque yet in an artfully beautiful way– and portray a supernatural gravity from the killers that does all the work necessary to understand them as something beyond human, more monster than person. This is displayed most often throughout in one of Will’s recurring ‘hallucinations,’ where a stag or stag-man appears to him, dark as night and coined by those working on the show as either the “raven-stag” or “wendigo,” depending on its form in the scene. The dark figure resembles Hannibal the closer Will gets to the truth of who he is– he being Hannibal, but also himself. No one sees the figure but Will, and its appearance in some of the most important and climatic scenes of the series only reinforce the fact that it represents Hannibal and his growing influence on Will– something Will’s subconscious seems aware of but hasn’t quite clicked yet with his conscious mind. That is, until his bloody baptism in the series finale, when he finally wades into the stream Hannibal has been goading him towards their entire relationship.

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The New Southern Gothic: Gothic Tropes in Resident Evil 7

By Taylor Ward

The Resident Evil franchise has gained lots of notoriety in the past two decades, as a horror game franchise (and films, tv shows, novels, and comics) that deals with mutation and human testing experiments gone wrong, resulting in zombie and monster-like enemies to face. While the storylines of the games are hard to explain or understand to those with no prior knowledge of them, having played many of the games or watched other people’s playthroughs of them, the games seem to draw you in more and more as you play them. The last two in particular have always reminded me of Gothic aesthetics and tropes, with the seventh game submersing me in the swampy gothic horrors of the south and the eighth game absolutely immersive me in the European gothic tropes of werewolves, castles, and vampires. They were especially immersive as the player sees everything through Ethan’s eyes, in the last two games, making it feel as if it is actually you being forced to face everything alone.

Though the first 6 games have a relatively similar and connected storyline, Resident Evil 7 introduces new protagonists and characters in a very different space. Most of the other games, not counting RE 7 and Resident Evil 8 Village, have taken place in bigger cities and in laboratories/Umbrella Corporation bases. However, in Resident Evil 7 the player is instead thrown into a horrific maze of a house in the swamps of Louisiana.

From the start of the game, it can be fairly easy to tell that they are really playing up the aesthetics and tropes of the southern gothic. From an isolated house framed by the eerie Spanish moss-covered swamp that surrounds it to the uncivilized (cannibalistic) “hicks” that they use as enemies against a “city boy,” it is easy to see the ways that they played up gothic and horror tropes of southern-based media. The real gothic framing comes out once the main character Ethan finds himself trapped in a run-down swamp shack, as he seeks out his missing wife, and must fight to find a way out against the pursuit of the crazy, mold-infected Baker family.

Similar to Shirley Jackson’s, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the house in Resident Evil 7 becomes a sort of personified character itself. Just like in Jackson’s novel, the house becomes a sort of prison for Ethan, even though it also occasionally helps to protect him from the family’s attacks, just as the house did for Merricat and her sister. Parallel to this, is the fact that the Baker Family views the house as a protective barrier from the outside world and the corrupt people that live there, considering they ironically believe that they are pure and “perfected” unlike the people outside of their household and family. This ends up playing on the tropes of “us versus them”, just like the mob’s mentality in the novel, which is the main conflict within the video game.

The Baker family uses the setting of the house to their advantage, considering it is their own house, as they chase Ethan throughout his chances to escape his “simple” prison, toying with him in the process. They push him through the areas they wish, even allowing him to “kill” them (they cannot die and essentially regrow), all to add in their sadistic toying with him. However, the house also seems to be one of the main reasons that Ethan is able to survive and get away from the family’s attacks on him. The house offers him ample places to hide away from the family’s advances, as well as supplies him with all of the tools and weapons he needs to fight against the family and escape the nightmare he has unfortunately found himself within.

There is even a specific line in the game at one point where Ethan, after finishing a “puzzle” and opening a secret door that revealed a hidden hall for his escape, quite literally says “Who builds this shit?” This is most likely what the player is thinking as this maze of a house was shown in the beginning to be a simple swamp shack. Not only do the actual lives, or deaths, of the Baker family make the player think, but also the fact that the house comes across as a mystical sort of unexplainable entity in itself.

The fact that it is not only the horrors of the mold-infected, crazy cannibals of people in the house that both the player/Ethan are faced with, but also the psychological gothic horrors of the house playing tricks on you and giving you puzzles to complete, makes this game in particular especially gothic in my eyes. The tropes of Southern Gothic aesthetics and ideas have and continue to show unsettling settings and messages in all forms of media, literature or not.

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Diane Cluck’s “The River”

“The River” by Diane Cluck (feat. Jeffrey Lewis) unites folk and the gothic under the story of a wayward daughter in a religious society riddled with corruption. Unlike many other songs in both the gothic and folk genres, “The River” does not appear to follow a linear story; rather, it repeatedly examines a brief moment in time through a first-person point of view. The song describes a woman being dragged to the waterline by a “Baptist guy” and submerged underwater repeatedly, and it appears to be about religious punishment and the ramifications of a joint church and state, as  she is dragged to the river in a ritual that resembles a Christian baptism.

“Baptist guy keeps getting closer / tries to pull me down to the river / have I been such a wayward daughter? / hold my head under the water.”

Perhaps the most gothic convention in “The River” is that of the wayward daughter. The speaker is repeatedly referred to as a “wayward daughter” by the Baptist man who plunges her head under the water. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a wayward child is one who is documented as “habitually associating with vicious or immoral persons, or growing up in circumstances likely to lead to criminal activity or willful disobedience of parental or other lawful authority and therefore subject to custodial care and protection for his or her own welfare.” The concept of a “wayward daughter” in gothic literature is quite common and seen, for example, in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, many of Emily Dickinson’s poems, and Hulga in Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People.” In the gothic, a wayward daughter is often feared and despised by the rest of the community, either forced to assimilate or completely rejected from society. In “The River,” the wayward daughter has—intentionally or not—subverted society’s standards, resulting in her forced reformation by a Baptist priest (presumably, as she refers to him as “Father”). The woman in “The River” suffers a dispossession of thought, being converted by the Baptist priest: “left my mind on the riverbank / left behind in the mud, it sank.” Lack of agency is a theme throughout the whole of the song that is exhibited especially through the loss of one’s personal thoughts and the mind.

The speaker in “The River” seems much like the character Hulga in O’Connor’s “Good Country People,” as they are both wayward daughters who are coaxed into reformation by religious “authorities.” Much like how Hulga, an atheist, is seduced by the young Bible salesman, the wayward daughter in “The River” comes to accept and perhaps even embrace her looming religious fate as she appears to experience something like Stockholm Syndrome with her captor, the priest: “Baptist guy, I gotta thank you / for the bath, though I didn’t want to.” This lack of resolution is also reflective of the gothic genre; it is common in gothic literature for the reader to feel unsatisfied after finishing the story, the ending having been unsettling or unresolved. This unsettling feeling of a lack of resolution is also experienced at the end of “Good Country People,” when the Bible salesman steals Hulga’s wooden leg and leaves her in the barn loft, stranded. Hulga loses, at this time, her bodily autonomy, as she is now unable to leave the loft. Similarly, the speaker in “The River” loses her bodily autonomy both physically and metaphorically, as she is forced under the water by the Baptist priest, although in her case it is unclear whether she possessed that bodily autonomy to begin with. In a metaphorical sense, the speaker has also lost her mind, as she had to leave it before she entered the water.

Aside from the trope of the wayward daughter, “The River” also exhibits common gothic imagery, usually violent or gruesome depictions of a scene. The song opens by describing, in the voice of Jeffrey Lewis, a dream in which he saw “a mountain in the sky above the flood” and a forest, a city, and a river made of blood. This violent imagery conjures thoughts of a post-apocalyptic world. Later in the song, the listener is confronted with the violent imagery of the female speaker being slapped across the chest and submerged underwater. The following lines also demonstrate a lack of agency that conveys the speaker’s suffering to the listener: “Baptist, he keeps on plunging / my hands, they keep on grabbing / his hair, a tangled nest / he smacks me across the chest.” Although this is a physical depiction of violence, it also shows the Baptist Church’s grasp over the speaker and her beliefs.

“The River” is a physical manifestation of the fear that extends from a world imbued with misogyny and intertwined with religious authority. Its disjointed chords strike the reader and add to the unsettling nature of the song. The wayward daughter is one who has been persecuted through the ages, taken advantage of by religious authority and a patriarchal society. Above all, it ends in defeat; the woman in the song gives in to the pressure exerted by the pastor and society, and the reader is left ruminating on the inescapable nature of the patriarchy.

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