What is Floridian Gothic? If it exists, how does it differ from Southern Gothic? I suspect that a Floridian Gothic subgenre would take those core themes of racism, poverty, decay, grotesquerie, and alienation and focus them more narrowly as stemming from immigration issues, a specific climate, the veneers of Disney World and other tourist operations, and attempted whitewashing of state history (for a variety of reasons). The values of Florida are wildly variable; sympathies, pastimes, and idiosyncrasies are striated according to region. Surfers and white supremacists exist in the same state, sometimes even in the same person, and the experience of a Cuban-American whose family helped shape Tampa's history differs greatly from that of a first-generation Cuban immigrant in Miami. Plenty of Floridians will tell you that “we’re not part of the South,” and plenty more will proudly wear head-to-toe Stars and Bars. Florida cannot be painted with the broad brush of "the South," and for a state with an image to maintain, it’s always been a chimera.
(abandoned Splendid China, Orlando)
Florida is a liminal space. As a state with an immigrant and emigrant-heavy population, its continuing history is one of fusing beliefs, values, religions, cultures, and ethnicities. As a place unimaginable to inhabit without modern convenience yet vastly suitable for vacationing, its environment and physicality--the things we capitalize on--are a doomed honeymoon. As a mixed bag of northerners, southerners, and foreigners, environmentalists, real estate agents, and corporate bigwigs, its politics are a jungle. Ancestral magic lies cheek-by-jowl with Disney’s charms and goes out for shots with imported Afro-Caribbean beliefs. The hard history of Florida race relations and its ongoing racism are whitewashed for the benefit of tourists and boosters, yet memorialized in courthouse names; orange groves stationed on burial grounds are overtaken by McMansions whose inhabitants don’t stop to wonder what they’ll do when the citrus is gone and are baffled when bones show up in their backyard.
(strip mall botanica, Tampa)
Floridian gothic is “Everything That Rises Must Converge” on a Magic Kingdom tour bus, or Suddenly, Last Summer with a cast of holy rollers. The natural magic and destiny-making of Janie Crawford's journey is Floridian gothic. The mysteries of the Coral Castle; the gated community of Candor under mind control and its real-life analogue, endlessly creepy Celebration; the reclamation of the Bigtrees' gator park by the swamps: that's Floridian gothic.