I wrote about Goth Girl Heroines for the Telegraph to tie in with the UK release of Byzantium,  also mentioning some other recent films with Goth Girl Heroines – StokerBeautiful Creatures and The Moth Diaries. Here’s the beginning of that piece…

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Saoirse Ronan in Byzantium.

It’s not so long ago that fantasy films were nothing but Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and Aragorn and Eragon and Dave, all of them Chosen Ones, questing in the footsteps of Luke Skywalker, while girls were relegated to helpmates, trophies and also-rans.

Then along came Twilight, and everything changed. Girls were suddenly bankable, sort of. They’re still a minority, but compared to the barren noughties, there is now almost a profusion of young female protagonists in live-action fairytales or adaptations of Young Adult bestsellers such as The Hunger Games. And the heroine du jour, whose journeys are often darker and more Jungishly suggestive than those of her young male counterparts, is the Girl Goth.

To read more, please click on the picture of Saoirse Ronan in Byzantium, which will take you to the full article on the Telegraph website.


Mia Wasikowska and shoes in Stoker. Please note I got this wrong in the piece – I said they were plimsolls, though in fact – as Fiona Watson has pointed out to me – they’re brogues.

And here are some of my notes and links for the piece…

“As she journeys into the forest, the heroine undergoes an often supernatural transformation into a beast or beast-like creature such as a werewolf or vampire. During this metamorphosis, the heroine develops physical strength and prowess, bravery and fearlessness. The journey into the forest is the catalyst for the heroine’s beastly transformation, and her evolution into an empowered position in the world. In these teen screen texts, the enchanted forest space has become an imaginative horizon on which to explore and celebrate female mobility, agency and even aggression.”

(from Red Riding Hood (2011): The Heroine’s Journey into the Forest by Athena Bellas)

“In Bram Stoker’s Dracula some critics see an anxiety about female power, female sexuality, the fear that the pure Victorian maiden be transformed into a ravenous beast.” ( the teacher played by Scott Speedman in The Moth Diaries)

Lydia Deetz in Beetle Juice

Adam: You can see us without the sheets?

Adam: Well, how is it you see us and nobody else can?

Lydia: Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual.’I, myself, am strange and unusual.

Barbara: You look like a regular girl to me.

Lydia: I’m not scared of sheets. Are you gross under there? Are you Night of the Living Dead under there? Like all bloody veins and pus?

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Saoirse Ronan with blood on her hands in Byzantium.

Goth-girl heroines

Byzantium – handwriting memoirs, storytelling

Stoker – jolie-laide, piano, shoes, objects have strange significance, fetish objects, spinners/collectors/dancers

she’s remaking her world

Snow White and the Huntsman

Red Riding Hood

Black Swan

Beautiful Creatures – coming of age (wish there had been more school) Bukowski/Vonnegut/Burroughs. To Kill a Mockingbird, deep-fried southern accents, “First heartbreak – it’s enough to turn any girl dark” “You’ve got to get away from me – I’m scared I’m gonna hurt you” count-down tattoo on her hand nearing her 16th birthday, Ravenwood Manor,

(True Blood)

Hunger Games

The Moth Diaries – Becca

The Woods – pyromaniac (like Buffy)

Carrie + Suspiria


Emily the Strange

Ginger Snaps

The Addams Family – Wednesday “I’m not perky” “We don’t hug”


(The Breakfast Club)

The Faculty – Clea DuVall (Stokely “Stokes” Mitchell)

Beetle Juice – Lydia/Winona Ryder

Ghost World

Twilight – Bella

Juno – she likes Argento

Mean Girls

The Vampire Diaries – Elena Gilbert (death of parents)


“The costumes and ornaments are a glamorous cover for the genre’s somber themes. In the world of Goth, nature itself lurks as a malign protagonist, causing flesh to rot, rivers to flood, monuments to crumble and women to turn into slatterns, their hair streaming and lipstick askew” [from Embrace the Darkness by Ruth La Ferla, New York Times]


6 thoughts on “GOTH GIRL HEROINES

  1. Just love ’em – comfy, versatile, a bit different and perfect with a retro look, from Rockabilly to Gatsby. It’s not quite a Stoker level fetish, but I do have 5 pairs in various colour combos.
    They also feature in Moonrise Kingdom.
    Will add Stoker to the ‘must see’ list.


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