LitCrit: Suburban Gothic

Keeping with last weeks theme of niche tumblr tropes and genres I want to discuss the subgenre that is suburban gothic. Though this genre shares its name with the 2014 movie starring Matthew Gray Gubler, that is not what we will be discussing. Instead we’ll talk about the genre that sprang into popularity around the same time the there’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls trope did. In many ways the two share many traits, which is another reason i wanted to do them back to back.

Now the genre itself dates back to the 50’s and 60’s, when it was mainly found in television and films. The genre explored the anxieties associated with the start of suburban communities mainly in the United States, it often relied on the supernatural elements or elements from science fiction, that’s seen in the wider gothic genre, but set against the environment of a suburban area.

Some films and television series that fall under this genre are:

  • Twin Peaks Dir. David Lynch

Ask me why I’m whittling.

I give up. Why are you whittling?

Because that’s what you do in a town where a yellow light still means slow down, not go faster.

  • Poltergeist Dir. Tobe Hooper

It’s like another side of nature, a side you and I are not qualified to understand. When you overreact like this, it makes what happened much too important.

Now these works belong to a type of suburban gothic, that was in many ways disregarded when the genre became popular on tumblr. The works mentioned on tumblr about this, often center around the lives of teenagers. This is why i mentioned there’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls earlier, the two had a lot of overlaps in their primes on tumblr.

The version of the genre suburban gothic that existed on tumblr, often included the following elements:

  • Tight-knit girl groups, who never leave each other’s side.
  • Absent parents.
  • Dark town secrets.
  • Nihilist teenagers.
  • Cheerleading squads.
  • A place outside the suburban area, that carries a lot of meaning throughout the novel.

Suburban gothic centres around an internal conflict in a family, or a suburban community, and not on an external threat. The genre is not meant to be fast paced and action packed, instead it’s meant to show the intricate relationships, that form in suburban communities


Books that are in this sub-genre, I will not be including books that appeared in last weeks LitCrit as the majority of them are suburban gothic:

Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

Ruby’s stories didn’t have morals. They meant one thing in the light and one thing in the dark and another thing entirely when she was wearing sunglasses.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged.

When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.

That’s what life is, pretty much: full of holes and tangles and ways to get stuck. Uncomfortable and itchy. A present you never asked for, never wanted, never chose. A present you’re supposed to be excited to wear, day after day, even when you’d rather stay in bed and do nothing.

On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

Home is where the heart is, and where the hell is, and where the hate is, and where the hopelessness is. Which made Aurora Hills pretty much like home.

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes—and three girls secretly plotting revenge.

Kat is sick and tired of being bullied by her former best friend.

Lilleia has always looked out for her little sister, so when she discovers that one of her guy friends has been secretly hooking up with her, she’s going to put a stop to it.

Mary is perpetually haunted by a traumatic event from years past, and the boy who’s responsible has yet to get what’s coming to him.

None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together…anything is possible.

Although I’m tired, and it feels like years since I had a good night’s rest, I can’t bring myself to fall asleep. It’s like I’ve forgotten how.

So the genre has a lot of overlap with the there’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls tropebut the suburban gothic genre tends to be more general in terms of the suburban community. Where the trope focusses heavily on the actions of teenage girls, the genre sees the bigger picture and includes the entire community

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