The evolution of the high school movie goth girl

Just as Hollywood will always be obsessed with the eternal war between vampires and werewolves, there will also be the eternal conflict between goths and cheerleaders.

Me? I’ve always been very fond of those gothy misunderstood characters in movies. Just as putting glasses and a ponytail on a hot girl instantly makes her an “unattractive nerd” (a la Rachael Leigh Cook in She’s All That), it seems that dark eyeliner and black clothing can instantly turn an otherwise hot girl into a weird and unattractive outcast… Which is utter crap, but that’s movie logic, huh?

Anyway, here’s the progression of high school movie goth girls from the 80s through to the 2000s, what constitutes such a character in movies of that age, and how they fared against their blonde arch-rivals.

80’s – Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club

So hot, you can easily ignore the dandruff

The definitive teen movie of the 80s had two female characters in it, representing the attractive but prissy cheerleader archetype and the gothy outsider archetype.

Quite frankly, it was kinda weird that Ally Sheedy was considered the unattractive weird girl in this movie, because while Molly Ringwald is the undisputed teen princess of the 80s, Ally Sheedy was so cute in this movie! How could she possibly be considered the unattractive one?

Anyway, how did they set Sheedy up to be the outsider? Her eye-liner was not excessive, her outfit was relatively normal, and she didn’t have any props to sell her weirdness.

What she had though, was extremely quirky habits. She was quiet, withdrawn, and only makes weird noises every now and then. She was also shown to be quite artistic, with a cool bit where she drew a really nice winter landscape then used her dandruff as snow-flakes in her drawing. And of course, there was the lunch scene:

Even worse is how towards the last part of the movie, she gets given a princess makeover and is suddenly considered prettier… when really, she’s nowhere near as hot in her new look.

Ah well… Hollywood logic…


Early 90s – Fairuza Balk in The Craft

Don’t mess with this witch

Goth girls got a bit more extreme in the 90s, as you can see with Fairuza Balk’s heavy make-up, piercings and that all-black and spiky outfit.

But while Ally Sheedy’s character was harmlessly weird, Balk was a raging storm of psychotic behavior. This breed of goth girls are vengeful and powerful, and will use magical powers to burn those cheerleaders down. There will be no peaceful co-existence between goths and cheerleaders!

The cheerleaders in this movie were headed by Christine Taylor (aka Mrs Ben Stiller), and were portrayed to be extremely bitchy blondes to justify the supernatural retaliation.

The ridiculous powers that Balk’s character possessed probably got a whole bunch of people scared of Wiccan culture, while simultaneously introducing it to a whole bunch of unhappy and misunderstood girls. That, and it eventually rebooted Shannon Doherty’s career in the Charmed series.


Late 90’s – Clea Duvall in The Faculty

She’ll probably stab you if you look at her wrong

By the late 90s, the movie-going public had gotten wary of scary psycho witches, so Clea Duvall’s character kept the same look, but minus all the Wiccan chanting and cat-collecting.

The Faculty actually had another outsider girl character, but she was more of the naive country-girl in a cynical city archetype, so she doesn’t really count.

On top of the outfit and makeup, Duvall’s character also kept the bad attitude and sneering, so that’s pretty hot if you like feisty girls.

The Faculty had Duvall’s goth chick pitted against Jordana Brewster as the popular girl (can’t remember if she was a cheerleader or not), which is a tough fight because Jordana Brewster is amazingly hot. Since they had to work together to defeat the alien invaders, neither popular girl nor goth was portrayed to be smarter or better than the other, though Duvall was a much nicer person and well-read too.


2000’s – Lizzy Caplan in Mean Girls

Like a prettier Kelly Osbourne

After the brief truce in The Faculty, Mean Girls reignited the war between cheerleaders and goths, with a very hostile goth/artsy girl in the form of Lizzy Caplan’s Janis Ian, and bitchy popular girls as the eponymous Mean Girls.

Lizzy Caplan is not a traditional Hollywood hottie in the vein of the other actresses in this movie like Rachel McAdams, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried and Lacey Chabert, but she’s definitely pretty in her own way – I mean, didn’t you see her in True Blood? Hawt!

The thing I find most interesting is that Caplan’s character feels like a full-circle for movie outsider/goths, as she’s lost the excessive make-up and spiky jewelry and actually looks more like what Ally Sheedy had going back in Breakfast Club.

She’s a little weird, and more artsy than hardcore goth. Funny, vibrant personality when she lets you into her circle… it’s not surprising that a lot of people cite her as their favorite character in the movie.

So… which one’s your favorite high school movie goth girl?

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About Drew

I love videogames, movies, my wife and my dog (in no particular order). View all posts by Drew

4 responses to “The evolution of the high school movie goth girl

  • amandalovesmovies

    I think Alison is the outcast because she wants to be. She doesn’t seem trust popular people. I also get the impression she comes from a poorer family and in the 80s being poor = unpopular. I wonder what she did on Monday morning. Did she continue the make-over look or go back to her old ways and curse out Andy in the hallways for saying hi? So many questions Check out my review http://amandalovesmovies.com/2012/03/20/the-breakfast-club

    • drewpan

      I really hope she didn’t continue with the makeover look. It just totally wasn’t her, and for Andy to notice her only after the makeover is about as romantic as Kirsten Dunst only falling in love with Tobey Maguire after she realizes that he’s Spider-Man.

      Way to jump on the bandwagon!

  • Manny Wordsmith

    I forgot Lizzy Caplan was in Mean Girls! She definitely wins it for me. It seems like her, and Ally’s style of “Goth” was just weird personalities and baggy clothes. More “outsider” than anything. No makeovers needed!

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