Saturday, July 27, 2013

IS HORROR REALLY CONTEMPORARY?: AN ANALYTICAL LOOK AT TODAY'S YOUTH IN SCARY MOVIES VS. REALITY

I watched The Ghastly Grinner after school...
I was born in 1990.  Yes, you read that correctly. 1990 as in, I'm only 23 years old.  From the very beginning, horror movies have focused a lens predominately on the life of the teenager.  To quote The Director from The Cabin In The Woods, when it comes to horror, "It's different in every culture, and it has changed over the years, but it has always required youth." The vulnerability and immortal mindset of the teenager has always presented the generation to be ripe for the slaughter.  For most fans of horror, we either are teenagers, or have survived the teenage years.  Horror films are always particular in that while everyone is afraid of something, everyone's fears sit on a varying scale.  Taking a look at a time frame that a large majority of the horror audience has already survived gives audiences something they can all identify with.  Strangely enough, most horror movies as of late have been focusing on families because people were downright sick of seeing teenagers hacked to bits in horror films.  My question, why?  I asked around through social media and many told me, "Because teenagers today are so abysmally obnoxious, no one wants to watch them, even if they die."  Considering I'm only a hop, skip, and a jump out of my teenage years, hearing an assessment like this is incredibly frustrating.  I'm sorry, elders of the horror community, teenagers today don't act the way horror movies portray them.  Horror movies are always hailed as being one of the most contemporary portrayals of its time period, but I think that modern horror movies have completely gotten teenagers wrong.  Don't get me wrong, teenagers are a bunch of fahkin' idiots, but teenagers have ALWAYS been a bunch of fahkin' idiots.  The teenagers of the new millennium aren't any more ridiculous that the teenagers of the generations that came before us, and in fact, we might be a little less ridiculous...
Granted, The Cabin in the Woods was mocking this idea, but you catch my drift.
First of all, teenage girls are not all a bunch of sluts and whores.  Sex and horror go together like peanut butter and jelly, and it always has.  Somehow, for some reason, despite the years and years of horror movies showing teenagers playing "hide-the-boner" in the most inopportune of moments, the horror fans that aren't presently in Generation Millennial are under the impression that kids today are having more sex than ever before.  Uh, really?  Okay. Well, thanks to Medical News Today, studies have shown that teenagers today are waiting longer to have sex for the first time in 25 years.  Not only that, but even if we WERE having more sex than the older generation, why does that even matter?  Society has a whole has become overtly sexualized in the last 20 years and it has nothing to do with teenagers and everything to do with marketing.  This sexual spin started happening when the older generations were teenagers, and it has become the market in which today's kids have been raised in.  The kids today are simply products of their sexualized environment that has existed from birth.  Then again, women today aren't having more sex...they're just less ashamed of their sexualities. Score one for feminism.

Detention is the single most offensive film to my generation. Period.
Another common misconception perpetuated by horror films, is that Generation Millenial are a bunch of entitled brats.  "Back in my day, I didn't have a cell phone until I was 25 and now I see kids today with iPads before they can drive!"  Fair assessment, but cell phones also weren't readily available and affordable for all people until you were 25.  You also weren't a child during a time with some of the highest rates of crime in history, or in a time where children are more scheduled and involved with extra-curriculars than ever before.  These parents aren't giving their whiny teenagers new modes of technology because they whine for it, having cell phones are a survival requirement.  Some elementary schools are requiring 9 year olds to have iPads to help teach them how to adapt to the constantly advancing world of technology.  However, instead of actually thinking about why the modern teenager is able to text faster than the average CEO and work their way around modes of technology that will be a necessity by the time they're looking for career planning, the older generation sees "entitled brats" and reflects that mislead mentality in movies.  Teenagers may be a little tech-obsessed, but at least we know how to handle it.

Sure, Tamara was bullied...but don't act like you weren't pushed in a locker 20 years ago.
Every day we see growing reports of teenagers offing themselves from years of bullying and cyber-bullying and somewhat of an epidemic rate.  These numbers often inspire filmmakers and screenwriters to portray teenagers in the cut-throat world of high school and college as nothing more than assholes hell-bent on ruining the lives of those we deem "inferior." Look, I'm not going to sit here and make up some lies about how kids aren't cruel, because that just isn't true.  I am, however, going to analyze the fact that unlike when the generations that came before us were bullied, there wasn't any physical (and constant) documentation of it.  Bullying feels more intense than it did 30 years ago because now the bullying is inescapable.  The mean things you would hear in the hallway are now staring at you in the face on twitter with no way of erasing it. Bullying isn't more intense, just the medium has changed.  We have our bullying assholes the same way you had your bullying assholes, the only difference is that now our bullying is in print.

But mooooooooom, I want to do what I WANT.
















Did you know that today's teenager is totally selfish and only cares about themselves?  Yeah, despite the fact that more teenagers today spend their summers doing community service than going to a summer camp, we're totally a bunch of self-obsessed assholes.  "Teenagers today don't move out of their parents' homes and are a bunch of free-loaders!" you my cry, but what these horror movies DON'T show about today's modern teen is the ridiculous amount of shit that we have to deal with that effects our future that the teens that came before us never have to experience.  Student loan debt is at an all time high and most teenagers are graduating owing a god damn house before they ever step out of mom & dad's front door.  Why are we still living at home? Because we can't fucking afford to live anywhere else.  Screenwriters see this idea of a free-loading teen and write characters that are whiny, constantly looking for ways to weasel themselves out of responsibility, and inattentive parents that give their kids whatever they want.  Sorry, but that's not how it is. It's really, really not.

Look at my abs. Look at my no-pants. LOOK AT MY RADIATING CONFIDENCE!
We're all image obsessed and totally confident, too, you know?  This one makes me a little insane.  I don't understand the sudden wave of horror casting directors opting for "look" before "talent," but it's getting really old, really fast.  My generation is BOMBARDED by media outlets influencing our appearance harder than ever before, and because of it, horror films are under the impression that all teenagers either ARE top-model gorgeous or want to be top-model gorgeous.  Combine this with the idea that we're all selfish, and we're breeding a character that is completely unlikeable and painfully annoying.  Weird, I wish I knew a modern teenager that wasn't falling into the statistic that we're more depressed, anxious, and paranoid than ever before...

I have the power of life and destruction in my hands, and I totally know what that means. LOLJK.
Perhaps the most troubling, is that despite all of the negative attributes screenwriters are attaching to their characters, the idea that today's teenager has the same worldview as the 45-year old who wrote the character, is pretty damn alarming.  Adam Barnick brought this idea to my attention through twitter, and he's absolutely right.  At the end of the day, teenagers are still teenagers.  We're just as naiive as the generations that came before us, yet our screenwriters make it seem like we have this insane existential grasp on society as a whole.  We can't be bothered with the direct instant-gratification of fixing our own problems, we're too busy saving people from falling buildings when a monster attacks us.  Yeah, our first instinct, despite being so "self-absorbed" isn't to save ourselves...it's to save our ex-girlfriend or something.  It's ridiculous.  You can't give us all of these noble qualities and in the same breath, insult the absolute shit out of us by making us look like a bunch of selfish jerks.

I'm not trying to say that teenagers today aren't a bunch of toolbags, because they are, but so were every other generation of teenagers that came before us.  I'd just like to see a little more depth into my generation, because I promise you, we're not nearly as vapid as the films would make us out to be.

14 comment(s):

Gene Phillips said...

Excellent post. I'd add that it's sort of crazy to protest the image of teenagers as "sex-obsessed morons" in horror films, because that's what horror films did as an easy cliché. The teens of the FRIDAY THE 13TH generation enjoyed such moronic portraits as a goofy stereotype, not as a look into their souls-- and for that matter, even the original FRIDAY doesn't make the teens seem especially stupid or horny.

Agree that the "naturalism of sex" is strongly traceable to feminism, though there's some influence in America's exposure to non-Judeo-Christian religions.

Not only was bullying in many periods not documented, it was often tolerated by school officials who didn't give a crap. They only started giving a crap in recent years, IMO, because some parents started suing schools for complicity. THEN schools became bullish on "anti-bullying."

Helena Philomena Liebekraft said...

I love your insightful analysis. I'm old enough to be your mother, quite literally. I was there when the classic slasher flicks like Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth came out.
I still love horror, but it really doesn't scare me on a visceral level any more. It takes something intellectual to get into my head and stick with me. To be honest, Storm of the Century (Stephen King) disturbed me a lot more than many far gorier offerings because of the helplessness that the parents felt when their son was taken from them.
I think when one gets to be my age, if one has gone through enough, our attitude towards the potential heebie jeebies out there is "oh, what do you want? Do you think you can take me? Well, come and try."

Rob said...

You make some good points, but I would posit that it's not that modern teenagers are dumber, more self-absorbed, sexual, or what-have-you. Rather, it's that horror movies these days are so dumbed down and geared towards the lowest common denominator that screenwriters actively GO for these tired cliches of teens because they know the movies will make money even if they suck! How much actual "writing" goes into a Nightmare On Elm Street reboot? Or the 23rd Paranormal Activity? Even ADULTS are portrayed as morons in most of these movies because, in the end, it DOESN'T MATTER. As long as there's a familiar title from the past to put asses in seats, it's irrelevant how good the characterization is (I'm looking at YOU, Evil Dead remake!). I'm sure I sound like an old geezer here, but dammit....you've got to look hard and long to find a really good horror movie these days, with or without teenagers. Every decade has its' share of stinker horror movies, but man....at least Sean Cunningham, Wes Craven, and other directors of teen-geared horror movies, TRIED!

Chucky said...

Macumba, give me the naked Brittney Jade Colangelo on her 18th birthday circa 2008, i beg of you ! ! !.

the sayer of the truth said...

Gene, always remember, the definition of someone being "the scum of the earth" is "anyone who treats another human being badly or disrespectfully for no good reason" and bullys are the worst examples of the perpetrators of that truly loathsome and horrifying behaviour and activity, kill all the bullys (irrespective of their age) and you would essentially have a perfect society literally with-in a few days.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Brittney, i know you`re a straight bird but would you agree that when Pauline Hickey was 17 in 1985 she was THE most gorgeous bird of all-time ! ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Brittney, what kind of porn do you like ?, i prefer the Windows Vista Media Centre clips, the same 5 or 6 thrusts of the dick in and out of the birds bum over and over again or the same 5 or 6 squirts of spunk into the birds gob over and over again, somehow i find it easier to jerk-off to the repetition of those clips rather than watching the entire movies.

Pearce said...

This is a great post. Even though I'm a bit older, I have plenty of young friends and can tell that most current horror movies about teenagers are way out of touch. Just because the filmmakers have heard of social media doesn't mean they know squat about modern teens!

Rob wrote:
"Every decade has its' share of stinker horror movies, but man....at least Sean Cunningham, Wes Craven, and other directors of teen-geared horror movies, TRIED!"

I personally think that despite the relentless onset of brand-name horror remakes and sequels, horror movies are in pretty good shape these days. From the mid '80s to the early '00s the genre was in terrible shape - way too many dumb comedies and Freddy clones meant that finding any actual serious horror movies was a cause for rejoicing. I remember jumping for joy when Candyman came out because there hadn't been anything one-half as good for years.

Now, good horror is being made all over the world - and more importantly, we're getting to see it. The American mainstream is largely in decline, but great stuff has coming out of France, Spain, the UK, Sweden, Brazil, Uruguay, Korea...

For quality US horror movies now you often have to look at movies not being marketed in the genre, e.g. Martha Marcy May Marlene, which features an intruiging young heroine and is subtly terrifying but toured the arthouse circuit instead of horror film festivals and multiplexes.

Sorry for wandering off topic!

jimmie t. murakami said...

Pearce, the UK does NOT repeat NOT produce good horror films (or indeed anything good for that matter, celluloid or otherwise), all it produces (both cinematically and in every other concievable way) is freshly excreted faecal material, never forget that, OK ! ! !.

jimmie t. murakami said...

Pearce, ALL American made horror movies are great simply because they ARE American made ! ! !, horror movies from everywhere else (especially Britain) are a bloody ludicrous joke in comparison, dont bite the hand that feeds you my old mate, America is the greatest, AT EVERYTHING ! ! !.

BJ Colangelo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jervaise brooke hamster said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael Kamp said...

I think the new focus on families are not really a strike against teenagers, but the discovery of a new market.

Most of us older horrorfans have families now, and that opens up an entire new world of fears.

Playing on the age-old fear that you cannot protect your children are much, MUCH scarier to me than any other thing they can cook up.

Warden Stokely said...

I'm 50, no 51. And after reading your thorough and comprehensive, not to mention intelligent and articulate, blog, I feel like the "fahkin idiot." hahaha. Seriously, I lol'd when I read, "Because teenagers today are so abysmally obnoxious, no one wants to watch them, even if they die." Give me a "fahkin" break. I was abysmally obnoxious when I was a teenager, and I could argue that I'm still abysmally obnoxious. I think the change from teens to fams is a poor decision, and a dismal marketing strategy. Most of the people who go to horror movies are teens. And most teens would rather hang out with other teens than their fams, so whose bright idea was to switch to horror movies with more fams than teens? Some dumb ass, that's what I say. Sure am glad I found your blog. I just started one. I've been held up watching horror flicks for about 40 years. I hope to be writing about them for at least 40 more. Nice work, Cruella. Until next time, keep those fires burning.
Eternally yours
The Warden

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