New Moon
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Notes on GOBLIN MODE: The Essence of 2022


15 DECEMBER 2022

Forgive us for stating the very obvious, but the year is winding down. Spotify Wrapped has dropped, Pantone released its 2023 Colour of the Year (Viva Magenta!), and most importantly for this piece, Oxford University Press has anointed goblin mode as the Word of the Year for 2022.


Now forever enshrined in the OED, goblin mode is a behaviour described as,


unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” 

So, in the spirit of goblin mode, this week we present a lazy listicle, a very 2022 how-to and history lesson on the phenomenon of being the worst version of yourself.


At its essence, goblin mode is the post-TikTok equivalent of being feral—that is, it’s a return to the base, animal functions of humanity. Adrienne Matei of The Atlantic expresses this more eloquently when she writesgoblin mode is “the temporary, shameless indulgence of one’s id, potentially as a coping mechanism amid chaos.” 


(In case you needed a reminder about the meaning of id like I very much did: id comes
from good ol’ Freud’s theory of the psyche. Essentially, our id is the deepest part of our subconscious minds, relating to our basic human needs and emotions like hunger, anger, and the desire for pleasure. Goblin mode speaks to our id; maybe it even is our id.)





Existing in goblin mode gives us permission to exist outside of the pressures of constant self-care. It’s anti self-care, an affirmation that you shouldn’t always be your best.

There’s no shame in being your worst self, the self that binges several seasons of America’s Next Top Model while laying on your sofa in a 3-day old outfit, eating leftover Thai takeout and letting too many cans of Liquid Death pile-up next to you. (Little goblins love to hoard, look it up.)



Humans are inherently social creatures but that doesn’t make us social media creatures. Goblin mode is messy. It’s the black swan to the visual performance that comes with social media. A counterculture to curated optimisation that abounds across social platforms. It’s a state that gives permission to be our uninhibited self, a rejection of the refrain that ‘everything is back to normal’—when it so clearly is not.



Artist and writer Leo Herrera presented an alternative way to view the messiness of goblin mode: not as shameless indulgence but as a symptom of this era. In his IG stories, he wrote that to him, “goblin mode was always a cutesy term for lowkey depression…[stemming from] the social atrophy [of] the last two years.” As a state of being that is simultaneously about liberation and something to surrender to, Herrera suggests that goblin mode is a mere fragment of the vocabulary we need to fully describe what’s happened to us throughout the pandemic.



I don’t disagree with Herrera—the OED definition of goblin mode reads like a WebMD page for clinical depression. But I think goblin mode goes beyond being slovenly and lazy, mostly because goblins, as mythological creatures, are not usually lazy. They’re grimy because they crawl around little caves, they drag themselves through dirt and collect rocks, they play pranks and eschew social niceties, they reject mainstream conventions. They can be cruel or they can just be cringe. Really, they’re just bemused little nihilists, living by their own rules because they’re tired of everyone else’s.


I firmly believe that goblin mode for the girls, gworls, gurls. It’s for those trapped beneath the expectation of feminine palatability, the manicured vice of That Girl trends, and the relentless panopticon of the male gaze. It’s a rejection of the beauty myth and an act of succumbing to a distinctly non-consumable facet of femininity. I’m talking about the gory and the grotesque, the secret single behaviours the girlies engage in. Like forcing an earring post through a closed piercing, or not washing your make-up brushes, or plucking the rogue hairs on your chin (which is so satisfying). These aren’t exclusively feminine things, but they are overtly gendered.



Speaking of the ladies and our rejection of palatability: goblin mode is also making its way into therapeutic behaviours (and vice versa). Par example: the Primal Scream. Also known as ritualised rage, Dazed Beauty describes the practise as a mode of therapeutic screaming that’s part pop psychology, part hedonistic abandon. Literally, it’s just screaming, but it perfectly encapsulates the desire to forgo socially-accepted emotional expressions and instead opt for unsettling behaviours. Make people uncomfortable! Give them a little show!


Aptly, Dazed chose a still from Midsommar to illustrate the phenomenon of ritual raging. In it, Florence Pugh’s character, Dani, is on the ground, heaving and screaming, surrounded by women who are matching her energy, crawling on all fours and giving in to animalistic urges. It brings to mind Meryl Streep’s character in Big Little Lies, letting out an agonised, feral wail at the dinner table. We can even include Mia Goth’s character in Pearl screaming I’m a star! and Sydney Sweeney’s Cassie in Euphoria saying she’s never, EVER been happier to the list. Goblin mode exemplified.




Regardless of the varying definitions, I’m reminded of the preface of Anne Carson’s translation of Bakkhai, a Dionysian play of hedonism and reckless ecstasy spurred by the deity of wine. In the preface, she writes, Dionysos helps us tap into something base, “something quite previous, the desire before the desire, the lick of beginning to know you don’t know.” Goblin mode functions similarly—it existed within you, as part of you, before you even recognised it.



Maybe you don’t have an inner goblin. Maybe your rejection of social standards looks different. Maybe you go ogre mode. Bridge troll mode. Maybe you identify with imps. Personally, my inner goblin looks more like a lil chupacabra. Regardless, it all represents a return to an inner feral self—a self that recognises that beyond having a place to rest, to recharge, to energise, we should also have a space for hedonism, for mess, for catharsis in whatever form speaks to our base desires.


We hope you find your inner goblin this season. Be slovenly. Be selfish. Be your absolute worst self. 🤍


With love & squalor,

Brenda at New Moon