Friday, February 6, 2015

Perspectives in Horror

Hello, from the snow.  Boston is snowed under and plowed under.  Temperatures swing wildly between rain and black ice to sub-zero cold that pierces like a hundred needles.  ‘Hope it’s better wherever you are.

So, this is Women in Horror month.  Alexandra Christian has said she looks forward to a time when no consideration will be given to whether a horror author is male or female.  But, perhaps the form horror takes, in subtle ways, is a reflection of the current state of our culture.  Perhaps most deeply felt of all, in male vs. female perspectives.  The differences aren’t always obvious, but one can’t expect a writer’s perspective on the world and its darkest corners not to be shaped by the attitudes that writer encounters in life, and how he or she connects with life in general.  How and to what extent that difference in perspective manifests in a story is hard to define.

To cite two classic examples of horror:  “Frankenstein,” a horror novel written by a woman, depicts the horror of what happens when a man tries to control life and ends up creating his own destruction when he finds he can’t.  He can’t offer unconditional love, he must control, and so is doomed.  “Dracula,” a horror novel written by a man, takes a very different perspective.  The enemy is ancient and foreign, reaching out from a shadowed corner of a benighted, still-pagan land to despoil the enlightened west.  Men take control and save the day by destroying the evil and saving the women it tries to claim.

Oversimplified of course, but you take my point.  Darkness has an essence of its own and is pretty much the same for all of us.  But, how we approach the darkness at its edges depends greatly on what we feel on a primal level, and on what artificial paths society carves out for us and how we navigate them in coming of age. That’s true in art and music as it is in fiction.  Christina Perri brought her haunting melody “Jar of Hearts” to life in a smoky, sexy, visceral video showing a woman taking back her heart from an alluring ex-boyfriend who is a kind of warlock or incubus, sucking the life out of the women he seduces.  A man couldn’t write a story like that, at least not as effectively.  And, it couldn’t resonate as effectively with a male audience.


  I remember when the film “Thelma and Louise” came out.  Men were furious that they were being depicted as the enemy.  That film forced society to take a hard look at the everyday horrors and indignities suffered by women from a woman’s perspective.  It was a cultural milestone in the action/adventure genre.  I suppose we’ve yet to see a film or novel that has a comparable impact in the horror genre.  I guess no horror author has crossed the decisive line yet.  Maybe that’s the challenge.

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