Top 10 Ways to Piss Off a Horror Fan

Stereotypes, inflexible opinions, and dismissive attitudes are a few.

Michael N. Nagler is Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley where he founded the Peace and Conflict Studies Program; he’s also the current President of The Meta Center for Nonviolence Education, an organization that raises public awareness of nonviolence while keeping activists informed. I attended a lecture he gave for the he gave for the launch of his most recent book, The Nonviolence Handbook, during which he stated that, first and foremost, an individual dedicated to peace should avoid any and all violent imagery.

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As a person who is both dedicated to peace and an aficionado of horror movies, this was a sticking point for me, so during the Q&A that followed, I challenged him on this requirement. I posited that simply viewing violent imagery shouldn’t be a conditional hindrance towards making a commitment to peace, and that nonviolence, as a concept, shouldn’t exclude proponents for an artistic appreciation; he countered: “It leads to desensitization. Scientists have confirmed that the human brain can’t differentiate between real violence and fictional portrayals.”

In other words: A scientist in some lab hooked some subjects up to some electrodes, showed them a bunch of violent imagery, and then made wild blanket conclusions that fly in the face of rational reasoning. The idea that I can’t differentiate between real violence and artistic representations of it is ludicrous!

I wasn’t there to debate an author I respected, so I thanked him and went back to my seat—but the interaction stayed with me. I’ve since found myself even more convinced of my own opinions and convictions, believing that no scientific or medical study can tell me what my gut and common sense assures me is ridiculous: Enjoyment of violent entertainment, be it horror movies or video games or gangsta rap, in no way impedes a person’s inclination towards peace and nonviolence.

Horror, more than any other form of media (besides porn) has always been considered a fringe, lower art form and coinsurers have made easy targets for those who consider themselves superior, somehow more educated or enlightened.

Despite outwards appearances, horror fans are some of the most honest, friendly, and down to earth folks you’re likely to meet. But even the most patient of us gets sick of constantly defending our genre. We’ve all got our pet peeves when it comes to the stereotypes that accompany horror fandom and appreciation of the darker aesthetics of film, art, and literature, but if you really want to tick me off (or better yet, avoid doing so), by all means, study this list. Enjoy!

**None of the quotes below are from The Nonviolence Handbook, which is an important read, or Michael Nagler, who’s contributions to the promotion of peace cannot be understated.  The above introduction is merely a jump-off point to a larger discussion.**

 

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Condemn the Entire Genre: “Horror movies are absolute garbage. The entire genre is a blight on society and has no artistic merit whatsoever.”

Oh yeah, we horror fans just adore this kind of abject closed-mindedness.   It’s so unjustifiably dismissive that, most of the time, it’s not even worth responding to someone with this attitude. If I’m generous, I might explain that, in my opinion: Horror isn’t just a genre, rather it’s a powerful sensation you get in the core of your being; it’s like facing one’s own mortality, staring fearlessly into the Abyss.

 

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Claim Horror Movies Are Sick: “They’re just disgusting! It’s nothing but pointless blood and gore and each film is only trying to outdo the film that came before it.”

While it’s true that blood and gore are integral aspects of several subgenres (like slashers and body horror), and there are films that celebrate these facets, boiling down the essence of horror to physical carnage is absurd.  It disrespects a core tenet of our genre, one that has long advised that a film need not be bloody to be scary. Besides that, complete condemnation of gore discounts the complex subtexts it often introduces, either as a mirror of society or a condemnation of the violence it portrays.

 

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Claim Horror Movies Are Sexist Towards Women: “They exploit women with demeaning roles that portray them as sex objects and victims. People who make and enjoy these films must hate women!”

You can recommend a person with this kind of attitude pick up a copy of Men, Women, and Chainsaws, by Carol J. Clover, or briefly attempt to introduce concepts like “Final Girl” and “Scream Queen” (both of which are actually complementary of women). Horror fans and filmmakers are men and women, all of whom have mothers, sister, aunts and daughters. Many women find horror movies absolutely empowering. In a community of diverse individuals founded on cooperation and collaboration, there’s really no place in horror for actual misogynists (and that goes for you too Lars Von Trier!).

 

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Claim Horror Movie Fans Are Sadists: “Those freaks get off on seeing people getting mutilated. They’re probably violent and deviant.”

While there’s no doubt that some (very few) horror fans qualify as deviant sadists, the generalization is completely offensive. Because it’s also true that horror fans are some of the most friendly, caring people on the planet. Most of the time, a horror viewer sympathizes and associates with those on the pointy-end of the butcher knife, rather than the antagonist.

 

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Claim Horror Movie Directors Are Perverts: “Those guys are film-school rejects who love creating these sick representations of the crazy shit in their heads. They’re talentless!”

Just reply: “Really? That’s what you think about Alfred Hitchcock, Stanly Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski, Sam Raimi, Neil Marshall, Clive Barker, John Landis, Guillermo de Toro, Peter Jackson, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Danny Boyle, and Brian De Palma? I think horror fans, as well as fans of most genres, might disagree with you on this one.”

 

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Claim Horror is Immature: “Those films pander to socially awkward teenagers! There’s nothing deep about them!”

There are indeed a certain type of extremely escapist horror movies that are admittedly shallow (I call this type of film: “Bubblegum Horror”) but that’s true of any genre. Sometimes, you just want to put on something mindless and turn off the stresses of the outside world. But the fact is, most horror movies are only deceptively simple; even a slasher film that centers on horny 20-somethings can be incredibly nuanced, challenging societal perceptions on a multitude of issues (like female sexuality and gender roles).

 

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Blame Horror Movies for Real Life Violence: “People watch horror and it encourages them to rape and kill people. They become completely desensitized.”

The idea that horror movies can take an otherwise sane individual and turn him or her into a violent, blood-thirsty automaton is preposterous—and I don’t care what university-funded scientific study you throw at me. Truth is, horror movies have always been an easy scapegoat for society’s deeper ills: Rather than accept the fact that violence is bred into our culture through many sources, let’s just blame the movies with all the blood and boobies.

 

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Claim Horror is Harmful to Children: “Look at what happened to those girls who were hypnotized by Slender Man? They stabbed their friend!”

If your children are violent, you need to take a good look in the mirror, not at trivial outside influences like entertainment. I watched horror movies as a kid, and I grew up to be an upstanding member of society. Jeffry Dahmer, on the other hand, never watched a horror movie in his life yet perpetrated acts of extreme depravity (I actually have no idea if that stuff about JD is true, but it would be perfect for making my point). It’s true that horror movies can be upsetting to young children, causing nightmare and insecure behavior, but that’s because horror movies aren’t for kids. And if you really need me to explain this to you, then you really shouldn’t have kids.

 

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Defend Censorship in Any Way, Shape, or Form: “I heard about this ‘Serbian Movie’ and this ‘Human Centipede’. That garbage needs to be banned, burned, and buried!”

Look, you don’t have to like it (Hell, I don’t even like all of it), but artistic freedom gives horror practitioners the right to push envelopes and boundaries, thereby making “squares” very uncomfortable. Deal with it! If you don’t like it, don’t look at it, but don’t for a moment think it’s okay to impose your standards on adult men and women. We can make up our own minds, thank you very much, period, end of story.

 

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Take an Inflexible Stance: “All modern horror is just blood and guts!”

The final peeve on this list is, unfortunately, something horror fans often do to each other. My Blood Shed colleague Evan Baker recent got blocked by someone on Facebook for having the audacity to disagree with the example sentence above:

Evan: I was pissed off by his sweeping generalization about the era/genre, he was pissed off that I was contradicting him. He literally accused me of lying when I said “Not all modern horror is full of blood and guts.”

Come on, people, don’t we get enough flack from the “squares”? There’s no need to inflict it on each other. Horror fans are some of the most open-minded, intelligent people I know, so don’t give the lot of us a bad name by being a stubborn jackass. Life would be so boring if we all loved and hated the same things, and diversity is the spice of life. You have your preference, and that’s fine, but different strokes for different folks, okay?

 

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Now that I’ve thoroughly vented, what are your biggest pet peeves as a horror fan? Sound off in the Comments section!

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7 Comments on this post.

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  • Matthew Myers
    3 May 2015 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Great article! I have heard people say every single one of these things on different occasions when I stand up for horror!

  • Michael Kehoe
    3 May 2015 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Your blog was spot on! My experience with the horror genre has afforded me with new contacts in my industry that I otherwise would not have had. None of the people I came in contact were violent. The Horror genre is like Ben & Jerrys, there are so many flavore to choose from. Great job!

    • Queen Angel
      4 May 2015 at 5:04 am - Reply

      I love your comparison! I’ll take 1 scoop of body, 2 scoops of paranormal, 1 scoop of found footage, 3 scoops of 80s slasher, 2 scoops of torture porn, 4 scoops of psychological, and 1 scoop of monster for my horror sundae please! I want to be a horror director/writer Wes Craven, John Carpenter, The Soska Twins, Stephen King, and H.R Giger are my inspirations. My mom is tje person who got me into the genre. She always says this when people say that horror causes people to become aerial killers “if that’s the case call me Aileen Wournos”

  • Gary Niles
    3 May 2015 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Great list. Especially love the one about blaming horror for real life violence. Its the most ignorant thing ive ever heard. They blame music they dont understand too. Adolf Hitler mustve just finished watching Martyrs when he decided to commit mass genocide……….riiiigght

  • Evan A. Baker
    4 May 2015 at 1:16 am - Reply

    So, let’s say my brain in part confuses fictional violence with real violence. I can buy that. Art evokes emotions because we conflate it, to some measure, with reality.

    AND THAT’S GOOD!

    The goal of horror is to HORRIFY you! If you see someone gutted alive on screen, part of you SHOULD FEEL GENUINE EMOTION! You should feel the same REVULSION as if you were seeing it happen to a real person!

    Horror encourages NON-VIOLENCE. You want a movie that encourages violence? That’s what patriotic, reactionary action movies are for.

  • Josh
    4 May 2015 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    My only concern is the claim that Jeffrey Dahmer never watched horror movies. I’m not implying that there’s any relation between horror films and real-life murderers, but if it’s a misconception that we want to debunk and if there’s no citeable source to back this particular claim, then it’s probably not worth bringing up. Otherwise, thank you for taking a stand for the genre!

    • Josh Millican
      4 May 2015 at 1:09 pm - Reply

      Good point Josh. Probably would have been better to say something like Gary’s comment above: “Adolf Hitler mustve just finished watching Martyrs when he decided to commit mass genocide……….riiiigght”.

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