Hating horror: The scapegoat genre

A man chokes out a high-pitched wail. He is thrashing face down on a weight lifting bench as a drill churns his anal cavity into borscht. To the casual observer the camcorder grade footage seems grainy, suspiciously lifelike, and highly disturbing. It almost seems real. Thankfully it isn’t. It’s only a death metal music video for the song “Forced Gender Reassignment” by Cattle Decapitation.

However, many in society and the media view such extreme content to be disgusting, reprehensible, and therefore partially responsible for evil in society.

It’s a topic that is close to my heart. Every time a serial killer grabs society’s attention, horror genre metaphors and tired snide remarks are doled out liberally to titillate general audiences – it’s yellow journalism at its worst. It makes horror fans look bad to society at large and perpetuates stereotypes about people who really, really love niche entertainment.

David Dollard, a Toronto-based horror genre producer and writer expressed his thoughts on why the horror genre is such an easy whipping boy for media outlets when graphic topics reach their news desks.

“The content is hardly sought after by the general public – especially exploitation genres which will try to capitalize on gore and shock type techniques,” states Dollard.

“The media happens to obsess as much as the people who read and watch the evening news. Possibly the obsession fits a political interest and/or targets opponents arguments. The news can be just as guilty [as horror] of placing the violent content into public awareness.”

While horror can seem extreme and out there to the uninitiated, what really is the issue that many seem to have with it?

“The debate seems to be ‘what makes someone harmful and do harmful things?’ Fact is everyone is capable of harming others or themselves,” says Dollard.

An obvious conclusion, but it’s one that many find hard to accept. People want justice – a clear-cut reason for the horrible events that take place in our society whether it’s drugs, teen pregnancies or school shootings. If it isn’t horror, it’s something else under the “greater good” spotlight.

Famous directors of bygone eras considered these ramifications, as Dollard explains.

“Hitchcock’s response to some of his horrific set pieces is the mentally broken/unstable individuals who are capable of harm to others or themselves would have caused harm in some manner anyway, only his films have merely made them a little more creative.”

As someone in the creative industry, Dollard contemplates on a regular basis the effect media has on those who experience and consume it.

“Stories with many details are usually more effective. Psychologically speaking, suggestion is more powerful when something is left to the imagination and only shown and not told. That is the true art of film.”