I seem to recall a Stephen King quote citing horror as an inherently conservative genre, being that it’s largely about the fear of the unknown. This article argues otherwise, citing anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist messages in films such as They Live and Night of the Living Dead.
Except, see, here’s the thing. As a woman, it’s really hard for me to see horror as an inherently “progressive” genre due to its historically shitty treatment of women and other marginalised groups (“black guys dies first”, anyone?).1 Not to mention that the one genre the linked article cites as being “right wing” horror, slasher films, is also the one genre that is most likely to feature female characters in some sort of heroic role (the “final girl”). So… yeah. About that.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the social politics of horror recently while watching through the Masters of Horror series. Season 1 was okay, with a couple of stand-out gems (notably the two episodes that revolved around the relationships of women). Season 2, on the other hand, has just been…
Urgh. If I have to watch one more story about some white guy cutting up his wife because of his midlife crisis manpain I think Imma gonna puke. (And don’t even get me started on the fact that the one episode here based on a story by a woman, Alice Bradley Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Screwfly Solution”, is literally about mass gynocide. And I ended up skipping the episode after about ten minutes when the Obligatory Shrill Strawfeminist showed up. Lesigh.)
Anyway. It’s not like this sort of thing is limited to horror; sexist/racist/homophobic/et al. attitudes (not to mention endemic sexual abuse) are well-attested in men coming from otherwise ostensibly left-wing/progressive movements.
In other words: Pat yourself on the back for “critiquing” capitalism all you like. But if the only women in your works are there to show tits and die, then don’t expect me to laud you for your politics.
- Incidentally one of the few horror tropes not directly referenced by Sigmund in Liesmith.↩