Wednesday, January 7, 2015

AN OPEN LETTER TO ALICE ROBB: THIS IS WHAT IT REALLY SAYS IF YOU LIKE HORROR MOVIES

still from THE BABADOOK
 Dear Alice Robb,

I'm more than positive that you have no idea who I am and until a few hours ago, I didn't know you either.  From what I've gathered from your contributions to The New Republic, you seem to be a woman after my own heart.  We have a lot in common, Alice.  We both like social justice posts, we enjoy psychoanalyzing the media's influence on society, and we like writing about gender equality.  However, you've recently written an article in response to THE BABADOOK titled "What It Says About You If You Enjoy Horror Movies."  My facebook timeline has exploded today with people posting in anger, frustration, and heartbreak about your article.  But, it was my dear friend (and fellow horror enthusiast) John Squires who wrote a heartfelt response to you that compelled me to hop on top of my soap box and do the same.  I'm sure I won't be the last one to do so, and it is with the utmost sincerity that you avoid googling yourself for a few days unless you desire being actively educated in a world you truly know nothing about.

I could very well turn this entire piece about how I am living proof that your article is untrue.  Not only am I a female, but I'm an active philanthropist, a rape survivor social advocate, I work with children for a living, probably one of the most painfully cautious people I know (my idea of "thrill seeking" is not checking the star rating on a Netflix film before clicking play), and I watch approximately 90% of horror films by myself--without the assistance of a male companion.  It would be quick to use my life experiences to disprove everything that you've written, and I could very easily pull hundreds of biographies from horror fans that also don't fit the mold of this picture you've painted. However, I'd much rather talk in a language you speak.  Statistics and numbers.

You first stated that horror fans lack empathy.  In 2013, a tragedy occurred when there was a bombing at the ever-populous Boston Marathon.  I'm sure I don't need to go into the gritty details of how gruesome, gory, bloody, and horrific the day was.  Hell, you've actually written a piece about the "irony" that Boston is the hub of explosion detection.  During your research about the Boston bombing, did you ever once come across an event called BOSTON STRONG hosted by a guy named Adam Green?  Probably not, but I'll educate you.  Adam Green is a prominent horror filmmaker working today and the mind behind the ultra-gory HATCHET franchise, the psychologically terrifying FROZEN (no, not that FROZEN) and the horror comedy show HOLLISTON.  Green is also a Boston native, so the bombings truly hit him close to home.  This horror fanatic should have lacked empathy, as you stated, and with all of this gore and carnage being plastered by the media, you'd think he'd have found this "thrill seeking" as you also claim horror fans to be.  Here's where you're wrong.  Adam Green took it upon himself to try to better the situation the only way he knew how.  Adam Green held a 3-day event of film screenings, celebrity meet & greets, and an auction with items supplied by Dark Sky Films, Blumhouse Productions, 1492 Films, and Anchor Bay Films (all prominent horror film distributors) as well as personal donations from Wes Craven (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SCREAM), John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN, THE THING), Eli Roth (HOSTEL, CABIN FEVER), Tyler Mane (ROB ZOMBIE'S HALLOWEEN), Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister fame), Oderus Urungus of GWAR (Rest In Peace), Rob Zombie (HALLOWEEN, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES) & John 5, Zach Galligan (GREMLINS, WAXWORK), artist Alex Pardee, Chris Columbus (HOME ALONE, GREMLINS), Sid Haig (THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, SPIDERBABY) and Mick Garris (HOCUS POCUS, THE STAND).  All of the proceeds went to the One Fund to help those affected by the Boston Bombing.  The BOSTON STRONG event managed to raise $15,000 for the One Fund.  Mind you, this was 100% an event geared towards horror fans and filmmakers.  Talk about lack of empathy.

The second thing you noted about horror fans is that we're more likely to be aggressive or thrill seeking.  First of all, you cited studies that in some cases are almost thirty years old.  Do you remember how the world was 30 years ago?  The 1985 study you used to prove we're "thrill seekers" was published closer to when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness than it is to today.  Here's information from a study conducted in 2012.  Research done by Dr. Mathias Clasen suggests watching horror movies is great for our DNA.  We as humans use memories to help us deal with scary situations, but our day to day environments usually don't put us in a scary situation.  However, watching a horror movie is an emotional stimulator, and it triggers our DNA to respond accordingly.

"As the brain senses danger it produces additional energy directed at the activeness of neurotransmitters – glutamate, dopamine and serotonin. As a result, the body remains in a state of combat readiness for some time. Another interesting factor is that a potential threat signal passes through the brain, specifically through the hypothalamus. Since the hypothalamus deals with the glandular system, it initiates the release of  adrenaline which causes the release of opiates which in turn creates an anesthetic type effect. This causes the phobic reaction to shut down and trains the brain to have a similar reaction in real life situations. In a sense, watching a horror movie is almost like a training ground for the body and psyche." --Collective Evolution

You can call it "thrill seeking" all you want, but horror fans are merely just training themselves to be better prepared mentally to deal with the things that happen in our lives that could be, well, scary.

You also claim that most horror fans are men simply because more women reported being afraid.  Just because you're scared of something doesn't mean you're not a fan of it.  I'm a horror fan and I have been for my entire life, but I still jump in the theaters and pretend to be looking at the screen as my heart pounds when I'm really looking directly above the screen to avoid any scary moments.  That doesn't make me any less of a fan.  I watch horror movies because I enjoy that feeling.  I love the adrenaline rush, it's fun. Sorry, there I go getting personal again.  You did cite an article from 2014 showing that women are catching up to men in film attendance, but even there...you're wrong. Here's an article from 2006, showing that women have been attending horror films more than men in the target demographic.  That would mean we've been doing so for almost a decade.  If that isn't enough for you, I'd like to introduce you to Women In Horror Month.  Did we know we have our own month?  Boasting over 12k fans on Facebook and celebrating its 6th year anniversary next month, Women In Horror Month not only celebrates all of the incredible contributions women have made to the genre, but it also hosts a world-wide blood drive.  Horror fans all across the world donating blood to save lives? What was that about lack of empathy again?

Your final statement is that horror fans are most likely men, accompanied by a frightened woman.  Here is where I am going to get personal, and quite frankly, a little stern.  If the statistics I posted above showing that women outnumber men for horror movie ticket sales doesn't disprove your outdated source enough as is, I'd like you to sit back and realize what a backward sense you have on this genre.  The movie that triggered your entire post was a film called THE BABADOOK which, as my friend Johnny already stated for you, was directed by a woman.  This year, in addition to THE BABADOOK, there were films like HONEYMOON and A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT all over horror sites' top 10 lists (usually in the top spots) that were also directed by women.  I don't know about you, but I highly doubt these "frightened women" needed a man by their side to create some of the most genuinely horrifying films of recent memory.  By using your old and dated statistics, you're allowing yourself to be part of the problem that perpetuates the idea that females are weaker and frailer than their male counterparts.  As someone who writes about gender studies in pop cultures as you do, I'm disappointed that you didn't look a little harder to see that you had the chance to champion the gender that still isn't treated in society the same way as our male counterparts.

Ultimately, I'm sure your article was nothing more than click-bait and this angry response means you've done your job.  However, you need to understand that as a mouthpiece for the public, your words have weight.  For the misinformed, people that read your article are going to continue to believe that horror fans are the angry and evil creatures that Fox News wants to believe we are the next time a mentally ill kid kills someone that just so happened to like horror movies.  Don't continue to be part of the problem, educate yourself and be the change we so deserve to see from the media.

Sincerely yours,
BJ Colangelo
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