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Southern Gothic is a literary genre encompassing fashion inspired by the culture of the American South. It originated in works by 19th-20th century Southern authors criticizing their society's racism, sexism, classism, fixation on the past, and decaying economy.

Later the aesthetic deviated from literature with the "regional gothic" trend on tumblr in the mid-2010s, which places greater emphasis on Liminal Space, modern American iconography, evangelicalism, and controversially, hillbilly horror. Because of this, this entry is divided into two sections, with one based on the literary movement and the other on the tumblr revival.

A few movies in the 2000s have gone against the harmful tropes revolving around “evil hillbillies and evangelicals in the South”, such as 2010’s Dale and Tucker Vs Evil. This is still a rarity, though, and is definitely a sociological issue that needs to be better addressed.

History[]

This section is under construction

The aesthetic begins in literature which depicts and criticizes the American South. Hence, the general culture of the American South is necessary background. Note that this is not at an academic level and only provides context for the aesthetic.

This culture was a slave-society, where the culture is defined by the practice of slavery, with all its aspects being embedded in politics, economics, popular culture, etc[1]. Therefore, there was often a general exposure to cruel punishments used on slaves, anxieties over slave revolts, and the use of grotesque imagery to dehumanize black people.

Southern societies also emphasized gentility in families, with wealthy families acting somewhat like European nobility, wherein marriages and blood relations were highly important in capital such as owning slaves and a grand estate[2]. Of course, this lends well to the use of incest, decadence, and domestic violence.

Many scholars point to Henry Clay Lewis and Mark Twain as the first to include Gothic tropes in their depiction of the American South.

The Tumblr aesthetic began when Tumblr user user clive-gershwin-palmer in January 2015, created a post that is now deleted.[3] Presumably, it follows the same format as other "Regional Gothic" posts, where they write about their regional culture in bullet-pointed prose mimicking Welcome to Nightvale, a podcast wherein a fictional radio host nonchalantly describes cults, Eldritch abominations, and cosmic mysteries in their small town in New Mexico. The trend then picked up in March 2015, with user korvidian created a post entitled "south-east queensland gothic"[4].

With the popularity of the Regional Gothic trend, people from the American South drew upon bedtime stories, urban legends, and Southern culture in their text posts. The Regional Gothic later developed a visual component, as people uploaded photos of Christian billboards, abandoned churches, and other things in the visuals section. With Southern Gothic in particular, there were many playlists created on the then-popular site 8tracks.com; many creators shared their playlists on tumblr and gained virality.

This interpretation of the aesthetic slowly fizzled out, like many other social media aesthetics do.

However, the aesthetic has a 2020s revival due to the popularity of Ethel Cain, a cult indie musician from Northern Florida who writes music with Southern Gothic motifs[5]. Her blog strongly resembles older Southern gothic blogs from the mid-2010s, and she also produced new content such as photos from road trips, selfies in her house, and music videos for her songs. This had led to newer users discovering the aesthetic, sometimes erroneously labeled as "Ethel Caincore."

Visuals[]

Literary[]

The visuals of the literary movement connect with the gothic imagery of decay as a metaphor for the fall of society due to lack of progress. Imagery tended to emphasize the political themes of the work and highlight the differences between the plantation class, poor white people, and black people.

  • American Civil War imagery
  • Daguerreotypes
  • Ghosts and other supernatural beings
  • Plantation houses in states of decay
  • Southern Belle-style dresses

Regional Gothic[]

  • Abandoned gas stations
  • Animals with cultish undertones, such as deer and rams
  • Bayous and swamps
  • Billboards with evangelical messages meant to inspire fear in the reader
  • Grotesque looking people. This is extremely controversial due to the classism and fatphobia inherent in deeming Southerners "ugly and creepy"
  • Women in white dresses (not necessarily 19th century) resembling ghosts
  • Supernatural and ritualistic objects such as Ouija boards and candles
  • Voodoo

Media (Literary)[]

Please note, a TVTropes page exists for the aesthetic, as well as it being a genre that is much observed and compiled.

Books, Anthologies, and Short Stories[]

  • "Absalom, Absalom!" by William Faulkner
  • "A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories" by Flannery O'Connor
  • "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner
  • "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor
  • "Light in August" by William Faulkner
  • "The Gold-Bug" by Edgar Allan Poe
  • "The Sound and the Fury" by William Faulkner
  • "The Violent Bear it Away" by Flannery O'Connor
  • "Wise Blood" by Flannery O'Connor
  • "And the Ass Saw the Angel" by Nick Cave
  • "The Raven Boys" series by Maggie Stiefvater
  • "Tennyson" by Lesley M.M. Blume
  • "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner
  • "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn

Movies[]

  • Haunted Spooks (1920)
  • Gone with the Wind (1939)
  • Swamp Water (1941)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  • The Night of the Hunter (1955)
  • The Young One (1960)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  • Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
  • In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  • The Beguiled (1971)
  • Deliverance (1972)
  • Sounder (1972)
  • The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)
  • Macon County Line (1974)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • Eaten Alive (1976)
  • Ode to Billy Joe (1976)
  • The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
  • The Evictors (1979)
  • Wise Blood (1979)
  • A Day of Judgment (1981)
  • The Beyond (1981)
  • Southern Comfort (1981)
  • The Color Purple (1985)
  • Crimes of the Heart (1986)
  • Angel Heart (1987)
  • From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)
  • Near Dark (1987)
  • Mississippi Burning (1988)
  • Pumpkinhead (1988)
  • Cape Fear (1991)
  • Daughters of the Dust (1991)
  • Flesh and Bone (1993)
  • Interview With The Vampire (1994)
  • Sling Blade (1996)
  • Eve's Bayou (1997)
  • Gummo (1997)
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
  • The Green Mile (1999)
  • George Washington (2000)
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
  • Frailty (2001)
  • Big Fish (2003)
  • The Haunted Mansion (2003)
  • Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus (2003)
  • The Skeleton Key (2005)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005)
  • Black Snake Moan (2007)
  • In the Electric Mist (2009)
  • The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  • Winter's Bone (2010)
  • Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2010)
  • Killer Joe (2011/2012)
  • Mud (2012)
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
  • Jug Face (2013)
  • Beautiful Creatures (2013)
  • Joe (2013)
  • Stoker (2013)
  • The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)
  • Jessabelle (2014)
  • Cold in July (2014)
  • Nocturnal Animals (2016)
  • Lemonade (2016)
  • The Beguiled (2017)
  • Mudbound (2017)
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
  • The Devil All the Time (2020)
  • A House on the Bayou (2021)
  • Haunted Mansion (2023)

TV Shows[]

  • American Gothic (1995–1996)
  • American Horror Story: Coven (2013)
  • American Horror Story: Freak Show (2014)
  • American Horror Story: Roanoke (2016)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017-2019)
  • Bloodline, seasons 1 (2015) and 2 (2016)
  • Cloak and Dagger (2018–19)
  • Hap and Leonard (2016–2018)
  • Interview With The Vampire, season 1 (2022-present)
  • In the Heat of the Night (1988–1995)
  • Justified (2010–2015)
  • Lovecraft Country (2020)
  • Mayfair Witches (2023-present)
  • Midnight, Texas (2017-2018)
  • Outcast (2016–2018)
  • Outer Banks (2020-present)
  • Outsiders (2016–2017)
  • Ozark (2017–2022)
  • Preacher (2016–2019
  • P-Valley (2020-present)
  • Rectify (2013–2016)
  • Sharp Objects (2018)
  • Tell Me Your Secrets (2021)
  • The Act (TV series) (2019)
  • The Heart, She Holler (2011)
  • The Originals (2013–2018)
  • The Walking Dead (2010-2022)
  • True Blood (2008–2014)
  • True Detective, seasons 1 (2014), and 3 (2019)

Theatre[]

  • Hadestown
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • The Jacksonian
  • Bottle Fly
  • The Color Purple
  • Porgy and Bess

Video Games[]

  • Nancy Drew: Ghost of Thornton Hall (2013)
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017)
  • Hunt: Showdown (2018)
  • Norco (2022)

Music[]

Southern Gothic music, also known as Dark Country, describes the umbrella of different genres typically associated with the American South, such as Country, Negro Spirituals, Bluegrass, Gospel, Rock, and Folk. Instrumentation tends to be acoustic, except electric guitar, and either in a slower tempo due to the singers' lower pitch and mournful theme, or in a rapid, scat-like approach to singing that is typically in more rock-like and rebellious songs.

The lyrics address the common motifs of Southern Gothic: poverty, religion, drug addiction, the supernatural, and death. They often utilize tropes within novels and folktales, such as making deals with the Devil at the crossroads, witch trials, mothers mourning the death of their children, and becoming a killer.

In playlists, there are exceptions, and multiple songs that carry across either an abandoned or a sublime, witch-like sound that do not suggest the American South are also popular.

Several Goth bands (ironically mostly in Britain’s Positive-Punk and Australia’s Swampie scenes) employed imagery and musical styles influenced by the dark side of country and rockabilly.

One of the clearest musical parallels to Southern Gothic is the Gothic Country subgenre, which was centered in Denver, Colorado and was pioneered by David Eugene Edwards' bands, Sixteen Horsepower and Wovenhand, as well as artists like Slim Cessna and Jay Munly.

Artists[]

  • Leadbelly
  • Blind Willie Johnson
  • Geeshie Wiley
  • Ethel Cain
  • Sisters of Mercy
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • The Mission
  • The Gun Club
  • The Birthday Party
  • The Cramps
  • Danielle Dax
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  • Blues Sacareno
  • The Brothers Bright
  • The Dead Weather
  • Fire on Fire
  • Tom Waits
  • Johnny Cash
  • Rising Appalachia
  • Robert Johnson
  • American Murder Song
  • Rayland Baxter
  • Delta Rae
  • The Dead South
  • The Builders and the Butchers
  • Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
  • Gillian Welch
  • The Civil Wars
  • Neko Case
  • Poor Man's Poison
  • London After Midnight
  • Sixteen Horsepower
  • Wovenhand
  • Slim Cessna's Auto Club
  • Jay Munly
  • Port Sulphur Band

Playlists[]

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLPtD2znexvd2eabCPTSCpo-A2r8fvxk5f

Gallery[]

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