She doesn’t look Jewish

When it comes to Judaism or probably any other religion and ethnicity there’s a tendency towards preconceptions that can make it harder to be this open. It’s like assuming all Jewish to be bankers and lawyers when it doesn’t leave room for what’s also possible: gangsters, rockers (especially somebody like David Lee Roth and Joey Ramone), artists and models (most notably Bar Rafaeli and Gal Gadot).

Or even athletes (though I could say similar things about Asian men right down to me talking about Balinese gigolos and Chinese men siring kids in Uganda). That still involves both a wider range of references and experiences and more openness to what they can be. It’s like if DC’s Stephanie Brown and her mum are Jewish, if it sounds odd for Jews to be blond they’re not alone.

I won’t be surprised if somebody else knew this. There’s a study stating that at least some Jews have blond hair (or something, whether if it include dark blond/light brown hair at that). I could go on saying that Scarlett Johansson’s a good example of this. It wouldn’t matter if she seems Scandinavian but if Jewishness’s passed down matrilineally if her mother’s Jewish then she’s Jewish too.

Though I could say similar things about Lisa Boney in this regard. Also if Stephanie’s a Jewish goth punk, she’s also in good company. The musician Perry Farrell’s Jewish and was in a Goth band before. Tara Strong’s all three things in a way as she’s a blonde Jew playing Goth characters. I could also say it’s actually not strange for Goths to be blonde either.

Whether dyed or not, it’s still possible. There are Goths who dye their hair platinum blond and some are naturally blond themselves (again if it includes light brown hair at all). The late Cinamon Hadley (who inspired Sandman’s Death) was stated to have blonde hair herself. But that still involves a wider range of references, interests and experience as well as openness.

Especially to what such people could be that it’s not a stretch to imagine that Stephanie Brown could be those things (but it could lead to fleshing her out more).

The precursors

As I said before there are bands considered punk, precursors to punk and/or readily accepted by punk fans. Be it David Bowie, New York Dolls, Velvet Underground, Blondie, The Ramones, Death or The Stooges. But the problem may be that they look so different from the expected punk stereotype that it can be easy to ignore them.

(Let’s not forget the black presence in punk rock, be it Jean Beauvoir working for/with the Ramones at some point, Death being an all black punk band or X-Ray Spex being fronted by a black woman.)

But since these bands were there since punk’s early days and perhaps earlier still if you count glam rock, underground rock, surf rock and the like that it seems punk rock wasn’t that codified yet so you have a variety of looks and characters back then.

Are they even punk?

That’s not to say the likes of Blondie, X-Ray Spex, The Adverts, New York Dolls, The Ramones, The Stooges and Death are any less punk but that they seem far-removed from the expected punk stereotypes. (To be fair, those bands were part of the first wave of punk so in a sense punk has yet to be codified.) Most of them are pretty normal looking by punk standards with New York Dolls being a glam rock band like David Bowie.

Odder still’s that The Clash’s Mick Jones and The Ramones’s Joey both admit to being influenced by him and Sid Vicious was even seen with Bowie’s mullet at some point. (Joey was even part of a glam band before.) They do have the sound and sensibility but since these were all punk bands before punk got even codified and calcified so the true punk sensibility hadn’t matured yet.

But to the point of being somewhat overlooked (Death wasn’t a commercial success and neither were the Ramones in the US until recently). Even David Bowie does seem to be overlooked, even though he arguably brought spiky hair to the fore which became a staple of punk. It also helps that Malcolm McLaren managed the New York Dolls before the Sex Pistols.

And Paul Simonon himself doubled for Bowie that glam rock should deserve to be recognised as a kind of ur-punk (attitude and fashion wise).

Idea of a Goth

I still highly suspect that the likes of Cassie Hack and even Ghostbusters’ Kylie are practically somebody’s idea of a Goth girl, that’s if they either have little to no experience with Goths or likely didn’t have much of a Goth period either though that’s not always the case. Tellingly, the creators did have a Goth period. (That’s if the characters listened to parodies of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus that makes me think they were into those at some point.)

Logically Nemi’s creator also did have a Goth period or at least was that familiar with some of those bands had she worked on rock albums before. (She did make a joke about the Romans being invaded by subculture Goths.) This would be like the difference between having punk characters in X-Men and Love and Rockets, which the latter’s knee deep in the punk scene. (That’s if the latter’s authors also listened to punk at some point.)

I guess this is me having listened to some Goth-punk and old school punk bands that I can tell that some of those authors were into those and some who aren’t. It’s possible to listen to the Ramones and Cure without being knee deep into those subcultures. But I suspect a certain subculture’s sensibilities will always be lost on outsiders.

Blitzkrieg Bopping with Style

I think when it comes to the history of punk fashion, given at its earliest stages (if you believe some sources) there was variation in outfits. You have the stereotypically punk looking characters of Sex Pistols and The Clash to some extent but also recognisably normal looking people with X-Ray Spex and The Adverts and glam ones like New York Dolls.

Oddly enough Joey Ramone started out in a glam band and admitted to being a fan of David Bowie (well so did Mick Jones and Sid Vicious). It can be argued that the Ramones have a distinctive uniform of sorts: long hair, sneakers, jeans and black leather jackets. They’re fairly recognisable by the way.

Though you could argue that they’re practically a dark-haired version of the Hullabaloos. Well it’s a distinctive enough look that worked fairly well for them really.

Like the real thing

I suspect when it comes to the existence of black punk bands like Death and black rock bands and musicians in general, they often feel like the real thing. There are black people, even some Africans who like listening to rock music and there’s a Goth scene in Kenya and a metal scene in Botswana. So rock music does exist in Africa.

Actually if you want a stretch, black guitarists (irrespective of genre) do exist. You’ve got Cameroon’s Kareyce Fotso who did a number of delightful songs. Then there’s Tinariwen, an all-Tuareg band. Those are some that I could name but they do deserve a mention. It seems parsimonious to say that they often get ignored in favour of their white counterparts.

It’s not that Clash necessarily did cultural appropriation but that those bands are not being given enough credit. Let alone any focus outside of their relation to white musicians that they’re worth listening to and given a damn about.

Is it cultural appropriation?

It’s debatable whether if The Clash participated in cultural appropriation or not but you could say similar things about Blondie and David Bowie to varying degrees with regards to ‘black’ music. They were certainly influenced by soul and the like but I sometimes think black rock musicians and black guitarists are oftentimes overlooked. Maybe not entirely overlooked.

But it seems the only well-known black rockers are Slash from Guns and Roses, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Skunk Anansie and well that’s pretty much what I could name. Death might be one of the earlier all-black punk bands but they’re not that well-known. It’s not that The Clash necessarily did cultural appropriation but with Death being an all black punk band, the latter feels like the real thing.

Maybe cultural appropriation’s not the best word to describe this but rather racism in the form of ignoring those bands until recently and even they still seem like a footnote even when they shouldn’t be.