Oh, for the Love of HorrorApr 19, 2019
Horror is a genre for people who are comfortable with going against the grain. Society values conventionality and tends to favor conformity as a way to encourage an individual’s regression to the mean. As a byproduct of that value system, society punishes individuals who fall outside of rigid boxes by name-calling, shaming, and bullying. Just watch what happens on a playground or in a traditional classroom to a kid who looks a bit different, feels a bit different, believes differently, or comes from a different background; it’s frightening.
As a balancing act, horror works as a pressure relief valve for those of us who don’t feel at home in the prefabricated box of convention. Conformity is oppressive by its very nature, and out of the depths of that oppression, we “the Nightbreed” cheer for Jason Voorhees and other underdog champions in our likeness where we find them.
In defense of this unprovoked rant, I recently found myself in an argument regarding the merits of a public school education. To summarize the entirety of the debate, it was an argument about conventionality. The person I quarreled with was in favor of a traditional public education, whereas I came to the defense of more progressive forms of education employed in Nordic countries. In terms of measuring the quality of an education, she seemed to weigh it by an individual’s content recall, and I made a case for critical thinking – an individual’s ability to evaluate and employ information. Both measures call for different forms of education, and both forms of education might be successful for different kinds of people. In general, she tends to be a more traditional person who agrees with the principles of conformity, and I tend to bite my thumb at formalized systems.
Coincidentally, I listened to a podcast later that day that happened to discuss Confucianism and Taoism, which is essentially the same discussion. The funniest thing about that is that I first learned about Eastern philosophy in my public school education – and likely even did well enough on a test to demonstrate my supposed comprehension of it. But listening to the podcast was like hearing about both philosophies for the first time. My content-regurgitation education left me without any meaningful takeaways from those ideas.
Anyway, as I was thinking about this traditionalist friend of mine and the ways in which we share the same stage on Earth, I remembered a catalogue of experiences growing up where I was made to feel “other-ed.” And as I think of the kind, diverse, and off-beat but wonderful people I’ve bumped shoulders with at horror-punk shows and horror conventions, I think it’s important to remember that we’re all perfectly OK just the way we are – strange haircuts and all.
So, in the words of AC/DC, “If you’re into evil, you’re a friend of mine.”
Keep it spooky,