Horror's Puritan Values
When you think of the horror genre, “Puritan” is probably not the first word to come to mind. At face value, horror appears to be the antithesis of Puritan, but behind the buckets of gore, sexual promiscuity, lewd behavior, and general murder, there’s a real sense of Old Testament justice.
To really explore this thought, we have to go back to antiquity and explore the modern world’s storytelling roots. From a time, even before the written word, the human race has sought to tell stories. While the way we tell these stories has dramatically changed, the why has not. A good story is there to disseminate information or ideology, to entertain, to teach, or to just plain scare the shit out of its audience into doing the right thing. This last motivation is a big one and examples of this can be found in any culture across the globe at any given point in time.
These storytelling tropes have trickled down through the ages and coalesced in a very tangible sense within the horror genre. The pure and virtuous hero triumphing over the darkness that threatens to swallow the land can describe almost every slasher movie before the millennium. Hell, Scream even directly addresses this with its “How to Survive A Horror Film” rules. The first two rules are about the sin factor, no premarital sex and drugs/alcohol are a no-no. But it extends to more than just that. Any of the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, envy, lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth) could place you on the chopping block.
As time went on, we’ve seen less of this kind of storytelling because people in general are way more accepting of the same things that would have created an angry village mob, not just 50 years ago. We still get shades of it in the modern horror scene, but it is not as prevalent as it used to be and I personally think its for the better. Even fire and brimstone can lose its potency when used too often and when a character is allowed to have flaws, it makes their tale more endearing. No one is with out sin, so to place such stringent expectations on our characters, even fictional ones, seems like a mistake.
Do you guys agree with my sentiment? Let me know in the comments below. Thursday’s post will be a new Kaiju of the Month. Haven’t done one since before Dreadtober so I hope you all drop by then!