As far back as horror in any form has been the source of entertainment it has also been the target of scrutiny and blame by society as a whole for everything that is wrong with society as a whole. Of course I am referring to films, but the tirade is not limited to that medium. Long before we decided we wanted to see blood on the screen, the writers of horror novels and the likes of penny dreadfuls found themselves under the gun for causing the decay of morality. The violently sexual exploits of the Marquis de Sade were reviled and his works banned in the 18th century.
In the late sixties and early seventies, heavy metal began to rise onto the scene and it was only a matter of time before bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were accused of leading teens to devil worship. That trend continued with Marilyn Manson and similar artists. In 1974, the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons was released and found itself to be the new target of mainstream hatred. Fast forward a few years and video games like Mortal Kombat fall under the gun.
Of course I can’t cover everything, this isn’t a history lesson, but you get the idea. Any time anything out of the norm falls onto the ears of the mainstream audience, you can expect a backlash from the fundamentalists and conservatives claiming that this new plague will be responsible for the death of morality in youth and the downfall of society as a whole. And all along those years, horror films found themselves landing in the mix. If only that were the case, we could end violence with a swiftness by eradicating these forms of entertainment (a plan that has thankfully failed so far) but where is the fun in that?
The fact is that violence is woven into the fabric of human nature. Mankind’s downfall is mankind itself. Stories of murder and greed go as far back as the emergence of the human creature. There have been morality codes meant to pull us away from our own evils as far back The Bible’s Ten Commandments and The Seven Deadly Sins yet that has done nothing to qualm the violence. I don’t think Elizabeth Bathory played too many video games or watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre too many times.
Movies like the ones we so obviously enjoy are entertainment and nothing more. Who can say we are wrong for enjoying them? Some of the kindest, gentlest people I know are horror fans. Just because we enjoy watching someone get decapitated doesn’t mean we want to decapitate people. And it certainly doesn’t mean we will take violence in real life any less seriously. I know the difference between fantasy and reality. Personally I have a few ideas of my own as to why society appears to be on a downward spiral. For one, children crave and require guidance. It ticks me off when I see parents who are afraid to let their kids be mad at them. Your job as a parent sometimes requires them to get pissed off. It’s okay. That’s the way it goes. I also believe families spend too much time apart nowadays.
Everyone seems to have a full social / activity calendar yet too often the parents have no idea what the kids are really doing. That goes for the Internet as well. We have to pay attention to the children, people. They are the future. If you watch them, you may see the warning signs before it’s too late. But we can’t blame the parents for everything. Education is heading down a very bad path and I don’t see a break in the near future. Of course teenagers have always been dumb shits and always will be. It’s the hormones, it can’t be helped. But with proper guidance, things turn out okay. Take things in hand and teach kids from an early age what is and is not acceptable behavior. Teach them to be good humans with good judgment. It doesn’t matter what they watch or read or listen to or play. My parents loved horror and shared it with me from the time I was born. That was something we did together. I haven’t killed anyone yet.
We see unspeakable acts taking place around us so we must blame someone or something. There must be a reason. It seems easiest to say that the murderers and serial killers of our world must have gotten inspired by something they saw in some sick horror film. Why is it so difficult to understand that it is the other way around. Film makers use the horror genre to reflect the things they see and feel in society. They are meant to tell us about ourselves, not give us ideas.
Horror films themselves can be seen as modern morality tales. Take a look at the slasher subgenre. I have already discussed how the ones who die first are generally the ones you see drinking, smoking or having sex. It is usually the innocent who dispatches the aggressor in the end. Of course innocence does not always prevail. But don’t we all love to see an unhappy ending here and there? The true horror hits home when we realize it doesn’t matter if we are “good” or not. But I digress.
The question is this: Can horror movies be blamed for violence in society? I say of course not. Humans are to blame for violence in society. We as fans have all been watching horror most of our lives and few of us (hopefully none but you never know) have ever acted on our violent fantasies. Those who have and attempt to blame their chosen form of entertainment were obviously damaged goods to begin with. If you don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, no amount of watching The Care Bears will keep you in line.