Sunday 25 January 2009

Goth Cruise (2008)

Director: Jeanie Finlay

Most people spend their life trying to be just like everyone else, but I love those people who choose to be themselves, to find their true being or to just invent one. I've found that often the strangest people are the most tolerant and I simply adore the concept of addressing convention by simply being who you are where other people are. This film follows the fifth annual goth cruise, where 150 goths do precisely that by doing something ostensibly un-goth like going on a five day Caribbean cruise from New Jersey to Bermuda and back. Priceless.

Best of all, this is the 4th annual Goth Cruise. It isn't new, it's established and it obviously worked so well that it's continuing onward and upward. Beyond the 150 goths, there are 2,500 other folks, ostensibly normal people, who provide some great reactions to this bunch of freaks in their midst. There are preconceived notions, of course, but it's the double glances that really made me laugh, those and the odd comments and phrases here and there. 'Comfort the disturbed. Disturb the comfortable.' 'Rocky Horror is a gateway drug to having a social life.' 'We only wear black until they invent a darker colour.' All very cool, even if I've heard some of them before.

The worst part of the film is that there isn't more of this sort of thing. When it's there it's fascinating, when it isn't there it's notable by its absence. Luckily it returns big time towards the end of the film for a sort of costume party, though there's not enough time spent watching the reactions to Lobster dressed up as Satan, painted all red and wearing many horns; or especially to Storm, the six and half foot tall black crossdresser whose mother is a pentecostal pastor. The other approach that should have been more focused on is the fact that everyone here seems to have spent their time wanting to be away from where they were but somehow always end up back there.

The other downside here is that most of these 'goths' aren't goths, though that is acknowledged and there is an attempt to address just why it's the case. They're certainly other than the norm in some way, even though they're often the most stable and professional members of society and the film focuses on a variety of them. However none of them would seem to be true goths, most of which tend to keep tantalisingly wandering past in the background. The film focuses on a variety of them: a couple with a young son from Wrexham, a honeymooning couple from New Jersey, a single father from Oregon, a musician and writer called Voltaire.

What they are is a good question: there are fetishists, punks, crossdressers; most are extroverts, at least the ones we focus on, but then that has to come with the territory. There's no real attempt beyond a couple of lines spoken by some of these characters to address how these different subcultures can all coexist happily together in a confined space for a five day cruise. The points at which subcultures cross is fascinating territory but you'll have write your own commentary on that for this film.

This is a worthy documentary and I enjoyed the film, as did my wife and stepson, but it's very much a missed opportunity, perhaps a glimpse into something but not much more than a glimpse. I spent a lot of time wondering what the earlier goth cruises were like: were they full of real goths? I guess we'll never know.

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