The great Oscar Wilde once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” True, the statement is almost unimpeachable. Almost because when people imitate something with blatant disregard for its tenets and history, it becomes a source of annoyance or a subject of incessant ridicule.
Case in point: ‘The proliferation of the ‘mall goth’ movement among teens from the late 90’s to mid-2000’s or to put simply, angsty kids wearing black Slipknot or Marilyn Manson shirts who hangout in malls especially in ‘Hot Topic’ where they get most of their merch. Their taste in music is not really the cause for ridicule but the mere fact that they are quite clueless and unaware of the history of the ‘Goth’ subculture and the groups that laid the foundation of the genre such as Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie, the Banshees etc. was the main cause of animosity between ‘mall goths’ and seasoned goths.
For this very reason, these kids were called ‘babybats’; fledgling goths who have just been introduced to the movement yet thinking that they are the epitome of anti-establishment rebellion and unfiltered self-expression. They are frowned upon by the goth community because quite frankly, for most of them, it was simply just a phase. They were only in it to conform or hangout with their peers—which is the opposite of what the gothic movement is all about. Plus the fact that they’re everywhere during their ‘heyday’ so they got on people’s nerves and became easy targets for ridicule; like a ‘low-hanging bat’ (pun intended).
It’s hard to imagine now that this was a thing 10 years ago and that people outside of the movement cared enough to make fun of these kids known as ‘mall goths’. Looking back, it was a harmless trend among teens and dare I say was so much better than what we have today because for better or for worse, ‘babybats’ had a sense of community. Nowadays, people are glued to social media and only care about the number of likes they can rack up in their posts instead of having real interaction from like-minded people.
Though the ‘mall goth’ movement was just a transitory thing and probably become extinct in the mid 2000’s, it was fun while it lasted whether you’re in or outside of the scene. When I think about it now, the repulsion or disgust that I almost instantaneously feel everytime I laid eyes or hear about a ‘babybat’ sighting is replaced with a sense of nostalgia. It was a time for self-discovery and experimentation that was anchored on camaraderie. Whether we like it or not, it was a snapshot of a generation, a moment in time before social media took over the world and turned people into self-absorbed zombies.