Sunday, March 20, 2016

On Censorship, Thought Police and Their Impact on Horror




OK, so I missed last week's update post. Sorry about that. I was having...um...issues. Yeah.

Anyways!


I was watching some old interviews with horror directors and writers this week (Clive Barker and Friends On People Are Talking from 1990 and  Horror Cafe) and I realized three very important things:

1. The market goes in cycles and it will always go in cycles. Right now, horror is on the upswing. So yay!

2. When horror is popular, (like other genres) a ton of writers jump on it and pump out a bunch of crap because they think it will sell. And then it doesn't, and they get weeded out and the good writers are left and are still making money, even when horror goes out of style in pop-culture. Remember, it's quality over quantity, in all things in life!

3. There will always be a percentage of people don't understand what horror does for people, and find the feelings that it stirs up in themselves and others to be extremely unnerving. They also tend to be the same people that believe that it causes people to be violent. (Not all of them, mind you. But I've noticed a trend here.)

"Oh, Freddy Krueger is damaging our children's minds! We must save them from enjoying cheesy campy humor from a character that will point out your flaws and then rip you to shreds in your dreams. A Nightmare on Elm Street is going to turn my kids into mass murderers that invade people's minds and kill them in their subconsciousness."

When put that way...it seems rather ridiculous, doesn't it?

Look, I hate to point out the obvious to you nutjobs, but when a horror movie is Rated-R, there's a reason it is Rated-R. That means little Johnny shouldn't watch it, no matter how much he nags you to take him to the theater, or the video store, or to unlock the parental controls on Netflix. (They exist. I forget what they call them on there, and I'm too lazy to look it up. Deal with it.)

Most Rated-R horror films earned that rating because of violence and gore, sex scenes or potty language.

Sometimes, very rarely, they earn it because they're just too damned scary for the kiddies. Such as Guillermo del Toro's "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark." Yes. It is that scary.





That movie has no swearing, no nudity, buuuut, it has a few violent sequences that are extremely cringe-worthy, and it's one of those movies that gets into your head...if you enjoy watching slow burn horror that is. If you don't, you'll find it boring and not scary at all. And that's OK. That just means that it's not for you.

Yes. I went there. Don't make me say it again. Because I have no problem repeating myself until you understand what I'm saying here.


Get it?

No?

I'll wait....


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Alright, glad you took the time to think about that.


Let us continue.

The people that worry about the poor kidlets and stand there hand wringing and proclaiming "But what about the children?!" would love it if they could rid the world of what they perceive as the source of all violence and nastiness in humanity- namely horror books, video games, movies, comics etc etc etc.

There's a problem with that though. And I'm not just saying this because it's so easy to scapegoat and blame creative people for little Johnny's temper tantrums and "giving him ideas" about how to steal daddy's Mercedes Benz and go pleasure cruising when he is 10 years old. I'm also saying this because it's a symptom of a bigger social disease that has had yet another outbreak: Censorship and Thought Policing.


Censorship is bad. Mmm'kay?

It's bad.

Period.

BAAAAAAAAD. Like what the sheep say.

I may not agree with you, I may not want to read about Kim Kardashian's butt implants or crack open a copy of "Mein Kampf," but you know what? Some people do. Some people are interested in Hitler's thought processes or why Kim is addicted plastic surgery and being a camera whore. And that's OK.

Why?

Professor Cassie is gonna 'splain it to you.

Eliminating all copies of Hitler's Cookbook (ooohhhh too soon!) won't do anything for anyone. Keeping his rants in print and allowing people to read his words, typically allows them to see what a douche nozzel he was and to know that damn...he was charismatic as fuck and that's why he took over Germany. What happened after that? Well...we all know where that led the world. (Hint. It was a BIG WAR.)

My point is that just because I don't like something, hell, I even hate some things that I honestly believe should not exist, doesn't mean that I have the right to go on a book burning party and removing all copies off the face of the Earth. Even though it is tempting considering how popular "50 Shades of Grey" is...

However, bored non-jaded housewives that have never been exposed to the wild world of sex think that it's exotic and don't know enough about BDSM to know that some of those scenes are abusive or just plain idiotic and/or dangerous. They read it because it entertains them. It got them so turned on that they started looking into that part of sex culture and decided that hey, this whole being tied up and trying anal thing might not be all that bad.

And that is why I won't ever throw a book burning party of bad Twilight fan-fiction chick-lit porn. Because it engages people. It makes them think. It makes their lives less boring and more tolerable. And I'm fine with that. The more people are exposed to different ways of living, and thinking, the better.

The quickest way to stop engaging people's minds, is to outright ban all the things that they love, the things that entertain them, that they find fun and enjoyable. Once people are no longer engaged in life, it's easy to get them to conform to radical ideals and go on witch hunting expeditions.

Censorship is a slippery slope. And I'm talking like Astroglide slippery here. Like there was an accident at the lube factory and a barrel of it exploded and you turned the corner and stepped into a puddle of it and you fell on the floor and cracked your pretty skull open kind of slippery.

It starts with one thing. One pretty innocent thing, like say...FaceBook banning all pictures of boobs that show exposed nipples. Regardless of whether they are pieces of art or not, they're all treated like pornography and deleted by bots.

Why did FB start doing that? Some bullshit about offending people.

You see, censorship is always encouraged by those with delicate sensibilities, the ones that are offended by everything, that see everything as an affront to their personal feelings or to God or whatever. I hate bringing religion into any discussion, but here it is necessary, as most often nudity censorship is brought on by the slavering mobs of angry Christian women...the Mad Mom Brigade from Hell if you will. These people are often hypocritical and the most un-Christian people you can meet by the way. They hate with a passion of a thousand burning suns. They forgive no one. They help only themselves, and are quick to jump on anyone or anything that they deem "harmful" to their children.

On the flipside of the censorship coin are the Thought Police. The current incarnation of the Thought Police are the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) that have gone so far out into left field that they fell off a cliff and are drowning in an underwater echo chamber. "You can't say these words. You can't think these things. It'll upset someone!"

They not only tell everyone else how to think and act, they even do it to themselves, to the point where they have to take breaks from thought policing. For instance,  there's a video where a girl actually says that sometimes she has to take a break from "being a feminist" because it's just too stressful to control her own thoughts like that all the time. That, my friends, is the definition of insanity.

Heaven forbid that you have your own worldview challenged. And my goodness, how horrible it is to be confronted for oppressing people and attempting to obliterate certain types of speeches, movies, works of art etc, that point out the fucking obvious- that there are some parts of humanity that are ugly and horrible. And they will never, ever, ever go away. It is a part of the human condition.

These people are so nuts, they require "safe spaces" where they can go hide when the world overwhelms them.

Guess what? That only makes their condition worse.

The best way to deal with fear is to confront it, not to encourage behavior that denies exposure to it. It's a scientific fact. Tons of studies are out there that talk about it. Just Google it or whatever. Use your preferred web browser and look up how to deal with phobias. (I once met a person terrified of bananas. I kid you not. Never really learned why either. True story bro.)

The world should challenge you. You should meet people that will listen to what you have to say, and then completely obliterate your position in debate class. You should make friends with as many different types of people as you possibly can. Sometimes you won't agree with them, sometimes they won't agree with you, and that's OK. That's when it gets fun. Friendly debates are good. Trust me. I get into them all the time.

Censorship and Thought Policing are not mutually exclusive. They prey upon each other in a nullifying frenzy of obliteration.


First you can't say these specific things. Then, you can't even think them. You can't read these books, you can't watch these shows, you can't go to the movie theater and see these movies, and the next thing you know, you can't speak out against your government and a simple benign statement such as "I like to eat hotdogs with relish, ketchup and mustard", sends you to the Gulag for life.

Sure, this is a bit of hyperbole, but I think you get the point. What offends you, might not offend me. And sweethearts, let me tell you a big secret.

You ready?

You can't get post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from reading words, or looking at pictures or seeing a movie. PTSD is triggered by sights, sounds and scents/tastes. The human mind stores memory as a combination of senses and it's hard to tell when something will make the mind recall a painful, traumatizing memory. That's where the term "triggering" comes from. A specific combination of things in an environment trigger the recall of the traumatic memory. However, "triggering" and the ubiquitous phrase "trigger warning" are not used in this sense. It is used to refer to any bad feeling that something may cause a person to experience. And you know what? It's OK to have bad feelings. Really. It is. Even the bad ones have their uses. We experience them for a very specific reason, such as having a strong moral center, or strong survival instincts.

Fun Fact: Did you know that our taste buds formed so that we would know the moment we bit into something poisonous that it was deadly and we'd spit it out because it tasted disgusting? Yep. Having "bad feelings" is like that. Except, it's more centered in the brain and based on our behavior and not the tongue and what we are eating.

Sure some things may be so upsetting that they stick with you for a few weeks. I myself was shocked, dismayed, and utterly infuriated by the live turtle dismemberment scene in "Cannibal Holocaust." They killed animals for shock value in that movie. It's disgusting. I totally went on a rant about it on FaceBook. It was an interesting conversation, to say the least.

Why did I feel that way? 

Because I value all life equally. Killing an animal strictly for shock in a movie, that's wrong to me.  I was raised in an environment where you kill an animal to eat it. You don't let its life go to waste. (Yes, I'm a person that loves animals and has no problems eating meat. Isn't humanity fun? We're all walking contradictions!)

After my outrage died down, that turtle slaughter scene no longer popped into my head. Because I didn't get PTSD from seeing that. I just experienced a natural gut reaction, because it's wrong to kill animals for entertainment i.e. sport.

Does that makes sense? No? OK then repeat after me:
"Triggering" is not PTSD.
"Triggering" is not PTSD.
"Triggering" is not PTSD.

Yes. That is correct. Having emotions evoked in you means that you are being human. It does not mean that you are now traumatized for life. Sorry. It doesn't work that way. (It never did.)

Some things will stir very, very strong emotional responses in you. And that's OK. That means that you have enough RAM for feelings and are technically, not a robot. (No offense to robots. You guys are super cool in my book.)

The fact that negative feelings, such as disgust, horror, revulsion, anger and outrage are seen as being so scary that anything and everything that evokes them should be abolished is not only ridiculous, it's impossible to undertake. Why? Because we're human beings. Emotions go part and parcel with our logical thinking skills.  (Ha! Logic! Now there's a funny one.)

It is impossible to make people not feel fear or other emotions. Just like you can't force people to police their own thoughts and make them fit your cardboard cutout version of reality. It's not possible. It can't be done. Our minds don't work that way. We all have prejudices. We all have things we hate and things we love. Again, that is part of being human. Can we learn to tolerate things that we don't like, things we hate them and find no value in them? Sure. It's possible. In fact, it's the preferred state of being.

Why?

Because, my rights end where yours begin. Simple as that. You want a cut and dry definition of freedom? That's it. Right there. 


Fear is important. Fear drives us to go beyond what we ever believed we were capable of. It pushes boundaries. It helps us find meaning in life. It brings us together. (The down side is that sometimes fear can also be used to push people apart. But, that is yet again, another part of being human. We are social herding creatures. It happens. And it sucks. Big time.)


Horror in it's purest sense, is a form of entertainment that is made with the sole purpose of making people afraid. It unabashedly brings social taboos to the forefront and forces people to confront them. It's transgressive. On purpose.  Ah...Good times!

Not only is horror an essential part of literature, it's also a crucial part of our lives. If we didn't have a way to express feelings of terror in our mundane, mostly threat-free existences, we'd start thrill seeking, and killing not just animals, but people, for sport. (Well, more so than we already do...Ohhhh snap!)

We've always had horror stories. Even back when we were just using hand signals and grunts to communicate. There's bad things out in the woods. Make the fire bigger or they will come eat us. That sort of thing.

Horror stories as a narrative help us define what it means to be human. It's a part of what makes us tick, how we think, how we experience the world. And what better way to do that, than to find what makes us terrified and to discover just why it makes us feel that way?

In that respect, Horror has something in common with Science Fiction Tropes, as the biggest trope in Sci-Fi is "what makes us human?"

Are all horror films as useful as this? Not really. Same can be said for some horror books. Some are just brain candy, pure entertainment. Some are made for shock or disgust value, others are more artsy fartsy. I enjoy all types...well, except for extreme torture porn. I find them distasteful and shallow, but even though I don't like them, there are a lot of people that do. Hence why James Wan's brainchild Jigsaw has had so many movies made about him.

I'd also like to add that horror movies and video games are cathartic. (Even the bad ones are useful as there's at least one person in the world that finds it entertaining.) They reduce stress and help people cope with how shitty their lives are. They don't increase violence, they decrease it. This too, is a scientific fact. Yay! Science! (There's a ton of papers and books on this subject. Feel free to look them up. There are far too many for me to list here.)

To eliminate the very things that allow for emotional release and helps prevent violence in society is harmful.

Censoring horror is harmful. 

It financially harms the filmmakers and authors and game producers, and shoe-horns them into a tiny box with which they can no longer explore the darkest aspects of humanity and bring them to life as monsters. It stunts creativity. It stunts critical thinking. It makes horrible white-washed products like the mainstream PG-13 crap that Hollywood vomits out and calls horror. "House of Wax" anyone? Yeah...you know what I'm talking about. That is why most current remakes of classic horror films fail. Because they've been neutered by censors and the thought police. Mainstream horror has lost its bite. Its teeth were pulled out and replaced with ill-fitting dentures. And it's time for that to change.

I think that there's a specific type of person that wants to believe with all their little hearts and minds that all the nasty things humanity is capable of could be eliminated if only we could find the true cause and cut it out with a rusty scalpel and leave a gaping, oozing wound in its wake. But it's not that simple. Humanity isn't that simple. We're walking, talking contradictions. We're complex creatures. We have conflicting thoughts and emotions and reactions that scare even us sometimes. And that's fine. Because that is what makes us human.

Maybe those people, those thought policing censorship whores, don't want to accept that we are equally capable of committing great goods and great evils. Sometimes, we commit these acts at the same time!

The true solution isn't elimination and censorship.  It isn't the denial of thoughts or feelings or making people not do things that offend us.

The true solution is enlightenment. It's education, in all its permutable forms. The more educated a person is (unless they fall in the SJW category, because those people have closed off their minds and that's why they're so messed up) the more they learn about the world, and that we're all pretty much the same.

You cut us, we bleed red. 


That is what horror teaches us. That we're vulnerable, that life is fleeting, that the human body is fragile, that we could cease to exist at any moment. Death is with us from the time we are born until it claims our final breath. It's a beautiful, terrifying thing. And it's precious.

I'm not saying that everyone that loves horror is always thinking so deeply or waxing philosophically about the genre and humanity as a whole. But sometimes, it's there, hiding deep in their subconscious mind, waiting to jump out and scare the bejeezus out of someone. And that's just the way it should be.



Until next week! Have a scream kiddies!












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