Friday, January 9, 2015


Read this article first. I'll be talking about it at great lengths, so if you don't read it, none of this will make sense.

Done? Good. This article has been making the rounds with my friends, and they're pretty indignant about it. Rightfully so, especially since many of them are writers who have worked in the horror genre. I, also, greatly disagree with the person who wrote this piece. It is essentially a smear campaign against people who enjoy horror movies by someone who thinks she is taking the moral high ground.

But I don't take it too seriously, even though it was meant as an insult. First of all, check out the title. "What It Says About You If You Enjoy Horror Movies." That's the problem right there. It is such a gross generalization that I simply can't take it seriously. It's kind of like saying, "All black people do such and such." Or "all gay people act like this or that." Or "all red-haired people enjoy so and so." Is it true for some people? Sure, but it's impossible to say it's true for everyone in that category. Right off the bat, before I've read a single word of the actual article, I know this person is wrong.

I read it anyway out of curiosity, and sure enough, it was horseshit. A lot of people make fun of the writer because she uses THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and AVATAR as examples of horror. I haven't seen AVATAR, so I can't comment on that, but I *have* seen THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, and I'll say that's a horror movie. Satan himself puts in a personal appearance, not to mention the demon children. There's a great deal of supernatural dealings in this movie, to say nothing of the gory nature of Jesus' punishment. If the Drudgeon hadn't beaten me to it, I would have reviewed the movie for Forced Viewing. (Although to be fair, I reviewed Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN as a horror movie for them, so my opinion might be askewed.)

To be a good sport, I decided to see how well I could score on this list of things I supposedly am because I enjoy horror movies.

1. Do I lack empathy? I'd say I have a healthy dose of empathy in me. Being a writer means fantasizing about being other people in order to write as honestly as possible about them from their perspective. In order to do that, I have to have an understanding of humanity, and I can't have that without empathy. Although to be fair, every single human being who has ever lived started out their lives without an ounce of empathy. When you're a baby all the way through, I'd say, age 10, empathy doesn't even pop up on the radar. Children are all consumed with the idea of me-me-me. I don't think people understand that others have feelings until they have enough experience in the world. So gauging empathy might not be the best route to take on this one.

Not that it matters. Her argument doesn't even make sense here. All she says is that people in this study who rate high on empathy charts experience negative moments after watching a horror movie. So what she's really saying is that horror movies cause people with empathy (ie. almost everyone on the planet) to have negative feelings. That's part of horror's charm. You can't walk away from exploring the darker side of humanity with a grin on your face. Ultimately, though, this says nothing about people who enjoy horror movies. And anyway, it seems like she's talking about one of the other points she's going to try to make later when she talks about horror movie dates.

2. Am I aggressive and thrill-seeking? No on both counts. I don't think anyone who knows me can classify me in either category. For all my rage, I'm a pussycat in person. I've had people tell me that for all of my crazy talk, they feel 100% safe in my presence. I don't get into fights. I've only ever struck one person in anger in my entire life, and that was for very good reason (since he'd just punched a girl in front of me). (Actually, I punched a second person, but I was really drunk at the time. I don't remember doing it. He had to tell me about it later, and in retrospect, he thought it was kind of funny.) But that's twice in thirty-six years. Not bad for someone who was a victim of child abuse, one of the leading causes of aggression in life. I have no desire to seek thrills. I don't go on roller coasters. I don't sky dive. I don't bungee jump. I *do* go out of my way for fucked up experiences, but not out of any desire for an adrenaline rush; I do it so I can tell fucked up stories later.

But she uses a couple of studies to try to prove her point. One of them asked a bunch of kids if a cartoon was funny, thrilling or violent. This is a completely useless exercise. Kids, who have zero aptitude for empathy to start with, would identify such cartoons as all three, mostly because that's the way they were intended. It's a meaningless test. She also confuses thrill-seeking with acting on impulse. Those are two different things. Plus, not all kids are horror movie fans. So bringing this study up is irrelevant.

The other study mentions that horror movie aficionados are more likely to enjoy three things: watching autopsies, watching gladiator fights (if given a time machine) and watching the results of car accidents. First of all, these three things have nothing to do with aggressive behavior or thrill-seeking. However, who isn't curious about autopsies? We all end up on a cold metal table in the end. Wouldn't you want to know what they do to your body before your final wishes are fulfilled? (I actually have watched autopsies, and they're no big deal. It's not a hobby of mine, now that my curiosity has been satisfied.) Would I watch gladiator fights in ancient Rome if I had a time machine and could go back to that period? No. I don't even watch boxing matches. Zero interest. This is the closest one that comes to an aggressive act, but if it really was aggressive, these people would not be talking about watching the fights--they would actually be fighting in them. And no, I have zero interest in slowing down for car accidents. Life is too short, and I'm always in a hurry. I get pissed off when I have to deal with gaper delays.

3. Am I a man? Well . . . I have the equipment. But I'm not one of those macho assholes who always tell their friends to "man up" whenever they're reluctant to do something masculine. Sure, I like Westerns, but would I actually want to live in one? Nope. I like air conditioning. I dislike hard physical labor. I'd rather not walk around with a gun on my hip, and I certainly don't want to get shot. I am about as far from the manly stereotype as you can get, and I'm OK with that. That said, I never sleep with the lights on. I never look away from a horror movie. While I often feel unsettled by a horror movie (which, by the way, is a good sign that I'm feeling empathy), I don't feel fear or anxiety after the movie is over. So I guess I live up to the statistics. However, does this make me a manly man? No. Maybe I need to start fist-pumping to prove my manhood. Is that still a thing?

4. Am I a man accompanied by a frightened woman? Holy Christ, I hope not. This is the most insulting of them all, because it implies that I would expose a woman to a horror movie so I can scare her enough that she'd want to be comforted by me, which would, by implication, lead to me having sex with her. This is an accusation of rapey proportions.

I have never brought a woman out on a date to see a horror movie, which is kind of odd, considering how it is my favorite genre. I had to cast my mind back pretty far, just to make sure, but to the best of my recollection, I've never done this. They've usually been SF movies or superhero movies. There were a few comedies. If I ever reach the point where I bring a woman to a horror movie out of hopes of scaring her into my arms and possibly into my bed? That's the day I buy a van with FREE CANDY written on the side and start to carry ether and a rag with me everywhere I go.

But really? This last part? It's not about enjoying a movie. It's about enjoying the prospect of having sex with the woman in question. This draws no conclusions about horror fans. However, I would like to hear the opinion of women who were objectified in this particular portion.

So yeah. If this was a test, I'd fail it, and I highly suspect a lot of my friends would fail it, too. Most annoyingly, though, the article abruptly ends without pulling everything together. There is no conclusion. If I were a teacher grading this paper, I'd give it a D. Apparently, no one taught her structure.

Your thoughts? Please post them in the comments below.

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