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Horror Reveals Male Insecurities? Some Guy’s Fantasy? I Disagree.

Posted on November 6, 2011 by Monica Valentinelli

A letter came across my feeds today written to film critic extraordinaire, Roger Ebert. In this letter to the editor, the writer states that:

Ever ask yourself what gave birth to the horror genre in the first place?

A: You’re a horny teenage boy and girls terrify you — which you find exciting: the combination of fear and the erotic. Almost every horror film taps into it and that’s why it’s a genre watched mostly by males.– A Reader’s Letter to Roger Ebert

Okay, the “birth of horror” comment really got under my skin. Horror has always been around. Read up on the origin of fairytales or dive into mythology and religion. Vampires, for example, are one of the oldest myths and they are part of almost every culture. Stories that induced fear was often used to help keep societies in line as they continued to grow. The origin of the changeling myth is a good example of that.

Now, outside of supernatural creatures (because I’m assuming that’s what the writer meant) modern horror didn’t just evolve in the 70s. Lovecraft is considered the father of modern horror, but other authors also influenced film, television, literature, etc. I’m not going to regale with “what I know” about Lovecraft, because that honor would be left to Kenneth Hite. One of the themes, however, that we are destined to fail does resonate with some of these splatterpunk movies. It’s not just about who’s physically stronger or weaker. It’s about who will, at the end of the horror, survive.

Anyway, the writer’s belief that horror is a metaphor for sex just keeps going on and on and on in this letter. I’m sure, if you’ve read any of my work or know me as a person, you understand how much I strongly disagree with this tack on “the birth of horror” and that it’s all about sex and violence toward women. Earlier this week, I wrote a few ramblings about personal bias online.

This, quite frankly, is a prime example of that. The writer later states that she doesn’t like ninety percent of horror movies. I’m guessing that she hasn’t seen ninety percent of all horror movies or believes that you can be a feminist and write/enjoy/watch horror. Like any other genre? Horror has sub-genres. There are so many flavors of horror, to lump it all into this bucket is short-sighted and ridiculous. I don’t like or read sappy romance books or movies. Does that mean I treat everything in romance to be the same? Hardly. I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. I can talk about trends and I can tell you about themes I prefer, but I am not qualified to explain everything there is to know about romance because my tastes run more Buffy/Angel than Gone With the Wind.

The other reason why I wanted to point this letter out, is because I have encountered a stigma when I mention I lurk in the dark or write more horror-related tales. I don’t like to write gore for the sake of writing gore. Splatterpunk is a sub-genre, but it’s not my cup of tea. However, I’m female. And if there’s one thing that the writer here says is somewhat true, is that there is a popular belief horror is more for a male, rather than female, audience. Traditionally, within a certain framework of movies, I suppose that’s the case because it’s taboo for women and violence to be associated. There are remnants all over the place; women who are aggressive are bitches. See: the 80s.

This, however, has changed over the years with the mainstream accessibility of horror and the crossover with other genres. Urban fantasy. Romance. Science Fiction. Hell, I saw costumes of little girls dressed up as zombies when I was out at Halloween.

I know that as the popularity of TV shows like The Walking Dead and True Blood continue to spread, ideas of what true horror is will evolve. It can’t happen soon enough for me.

Monica Valentinelli

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    4 Responses to “Horror Reveals Male Insecurities? Some Guy’s Fantasy? I Disagree.”

    1. Anna says:

      I am confused, as I thought horror flicks were mostly watched by teen girls. I’m sure I’ve seen that stat bandied about, although I admit that I haven’t looked much into it myself.

    2. Here’s a link to an article that talks about that.

    3. Trapdaar says:

      This silly generalisation (horror is derived from sex impulses etc) owes its birth to Freud, the old pyschologist. Practically all of his theories have been discredited, but a lot of people are still living in the dark ages, I guess.

      Also, vampire is a fairly recent invention, invented by Bram Stoker in his book, Dracula.

    4. Sorry, but the vampire was not invented by Stoker. Dracula, while popular even to this day, wasn’t even the first recorded piece of Western literature. They are a part of ancient folklore worldwide and didn’t begin to enter the public consciousness through popular storytelling until 1819 through the publication of The Vampyre by Polidori. Earlier than that, Ossenfelder’s The Vampire was published in 1748, but it took a while for that particular strain of vampire to catch on. That doesn’t address any of the other vampire myths originating from non-Western European countries.

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