Monday, October 31, 2011

Horror and the Psyche

In honor of Halloween, I want to point out Christian Jarrett's great little piece in The Psychologist on the experience of horror and the psyche. Horror is a human emotion, and it seems like a primal one. It's often described as a blending of disgust and terror--certainly the kinds of feelings that we like to attribute to our more animal selves. Of course, the experience of subjecting oneself to horror would be a uniquely human experience, and both the reasons why we might seek horror and the types of things we find horrifying can offer an insight into the psyche.

Jarrett points out that the common villains in horror movies are frequently animals, or humans with exaggerated animal-like characteristics, such as giant claws or a taste for human flesh. And because I am a social worker, I have to ask what kinds of cultural scripts are also depicted in horror movies. And that's why I want to point to another piece, this one from last June's Sex Roles, called "On the Perils of Living Dangerously in the Slash Horror Film" examined one common trope in horror movies: The promiscuous girl gets killed. The researchers here examined 50 films, and concluded that yes, the more sexually active a female character is a horror movie, the more likely she will die, and the more violent and prolonged that death will be.

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