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Archive for the tag “horror”

Violent Movies, Violent Minds?

Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world?

Really, the question boils down to how susceptible people are to cultural factors.

I’m a big fan of horror. Stephen King is my homeboy. I, like most people, am exposed to violent images on a daily basis. I watch Criminal Minds, I play Grand Theft Auto, I get my Pokémon to beat up other Pokémon. Strangely, I’ve never killed anyone.

Certainly, a person is influenced by their culture. Popular culture influences what we wear, listen to and read about in trashy magazines. And certainly, we attempt to duplicate it on some level. That’s how culture works. If Jennifer Lawrence is swanning about in platform sneakers and a velour tracksuit, and you want to be cool, then by gosh you better go out and rustle up some platform sneakers and a velour tracksuit. (Please don’t do this! Fashion begs you!) But this doesn’t cause much harm (except to fashion!).

So can the media influence us to do things we wouldn’t usually? Like hurt somebody else? Let’s have a personal example. I was watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation recently. I would advise you not to do so. It was terrible. Afterwards I wanted to erase the experience from my memory. what I didn’t do was pull out my chainsaw and go to town on my neighbours. For violence in movies to inspire violence in yourself, I think you need to be predisposed towards violence. I doubt it encourages us to re-enact violence. But I think it may desensitise us to violence. If violence saturates the media then it becomes just another everyday occurrence and, to an extent, normalised. I think that perhaps violence in the media influences our reaction to violence: over-exposure leads us to view violent acts as less shocking than they really are. But I don’t think it causes us to be violent. To say so would be to believe humans have no agency of their own.

To put the blame solely on violent movies or video games neglects the influence other social factors have on us, such as family, friends, education and religion. If violent media does influence violent tendencies, then it is simply one part of a bigger problem; indicative of a society that tolerates violence.

Well that’s what I think. This post was inspired by a Daily Post challenge. If you want, read what others are saying, or add your own thoughts in a comment or blog post of your own. But why do that when you can just read what I think?! A hardy-ha-ha. ‘Til next time!

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If You Go Down To The Woods

As I said before, I really like horror stories. My favourite ones are short and (not so) sweet. Ones that lead you along a path, perhaps a path you think you’ve walked many times before, except you soon discover you’re heading in a very different direction to what you thought, and maybe – just maybe – someone else is walking that same path.

What I’ve posted here is a short little piece I wrote that will hopefully unsettle and entertain. I thought of it as I was walking through the woods alone – or at least I hope so.

                                                               

The young girl made her way through the thick undergrowth. It was not yet dusk, but the sun would disappear quickly behind the densely packed trees. There is a sort of amplified silence that resonates through woods. All outside noise is cut off so that the only remaining sound is the woods itself. That’s why the sudden crashing to the side of her startled the girl so much. Animals know the danger of making such noise; this was no animal. She spun around as a man emerged from the foliage.

Surprise flashed across his face but was almost instantly replaced with a warm smile.

“Hello little lady.”

The man’s hands were dirty. He was carrying a shovel. The girl wondered what he was doing out here.

He spoke again, “What’s your name?”

“Goldilocks.”

The man laughed at this. “Well, I guess that makes me Papa Bear.” He smiled widely. “What’s a girl as young as you doing here all by yourself?”

“Looking for my friend Janie.”

“Well I can help you look for her.” He grabbed hold of her hand. “Where’s little Janie likely to be hiding?”

The girl looked sad. “She’s not hiding. She’s missing. Me and Janie used to play in the woods together. But last week she didn’t come back.”

“The woods can be a dangerous place for a little girl. Don’t worry, though. I’ll take good care of you.” Again he smiled that big smile of his.

The man began to lead the young girl further into the woods. Hand in hand, they walked on until the trees towering above them entirely blocked out the sky. The girl shivered.

“Poor little thing. You’ll catch your death.” They both stopped as the man lay down the shovel. He took off his jacket and helped the girl into it. He gave her shoulders a gentle rub. “Do you want to know a story about these woods? Bad things happen in here. That’s what I heard. There was once a little girl who was walking through here all alone. It had gotten so dark that she couldn’t find her way back home. Luckily for her, she found a nice man in the woods.”

“Lucky for her”, the girl said.

“Lucky for both of them. He was able to take her back to his house – his little gingerbread house – all alone in the woods.”

“That sounds nice”, the girl said. “What happened next?”

“Unfortunately, the girl was naughty. She wasn’t grateful to the man for saving her. She ran off, back into the woods. That night, the little girl died, all alone in the woods. No one ever saw her again.”

“How do you know she died if she was never found?” the girl asked.

The man leant down, drawing his face close to the girl’s. “Someone has to know, don’t they?”

The young girl smiled as she swung the shovel into the side of the man’s head. “Your stories are so good. I think you’ll make a great friend for Janie.”

The girl whistled to herself as she began to dig a hole.

How Horror Works

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…

– ‘Knock’, Frederick Brown

 

It’s fun to be scared. Haunted Houses, Halloween, scary movies and Stephen King: all terrifying (Ok, perhaps not Stephen King himself, I’m talking about his books.) and all gloriously entertaining.

Horror novels aren’t considered ‘high art’ by literary critics, more of a cheap thrill. And what’s wrong with that? But I think there’s more to the horror novel than cheap thrills. Something is going on that accounts for its enduring popularity. (Something sinister? Dun dun dunnn!!)

They evoke this very powerful, very visceral and primal emotion of fear. Fear is universal: everyone experiences it. What is so terrifying about a set of pointed fangs, glowing red eyes and sunken pale skin that they are able to evoke such a fear in people regardless of age or ethnicity?

There is a certain exhilaration that fear brings. It’s like adrenalin. When you feel fear your instinct kicks in. Fear raises your senses: you’re suddenly attuned to every infinitesimal detail of your surroundings. A sudden movement or noise captures your undivided attention.

Compare it to why people enjoy rollercoasters so much, and why they love to scream the whole way through it. Like a rollercoaster, the horror novel provides a safe fear: one we’re in control of. We choose to take it on and we feel that rush throughout and then come out the other end exhilarated that we’ve conquered the fear.

I think that’s why we love horror novels so much. They test us. Test our limits. Just when we think we can’t handle anymore, there comes a far more terrifying scene. We’re terrified, and yet we get through it. We haven’t let the fear overwhelm us. We’ve experienced it and overcome it.

Not so scary after all, is it?

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