Sunday, October 9, 2011

Horror and Consent

Last night I clicked on a random Youtube link that I thought was going to be a music video. All was well until – halfway through the video – my laptop speakers emitted a scream and a gruesome picture popped up on my screen. I jumped out of my seat like the coward I am.

Har har har. Very funny prank.
After a few minutes, though, I was left feeling …sad. I had been all snug in a sweater and earmuffs, and that video robbed me of my serenity. It killed the Zen.
It got me thinking about different types of horror. Why is it I like reading H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe and R.L. Stine, etc., but I can’t stand when things pop out and give me a cheap scare? I realized that it’s a matter of consent.

Before I start Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Lovecraft’s short story The Nameless City each Halloween, I am preparing myself for something spooky. My mind dips in and out of the words at will, embracing the mood the stories induce. I control how far I’m willing to submerge myself, how much of my emotions I’m willing to invest. If a horror story ever goes too far – like some of Edogawa Rampo’s stuff, for me – then I can stop. Close the book. For as long as I am reading, the writer has my full consent to scare me.  I actively choose to mull over their words and conjure dark images in my mind; with the aid of those words, I create my own demons.

When it comes to movies or, with my example, stupid Youtube videos, scariness relies upon shock tactics and visual aids. And with shock tactics, there’s not enough time for consent. Where literature is scary because it puts your own mind in control, and then attempts to inspire the darkest parts of your inner self, this is scary because it makes you feel powerless.

I am not putting down scary movies or anything else. I’m saying that this is why I love horrific literature. It’s more tasteful, to me. And it allows me to feel all Zen in a sweater and earmuffs while also being terrified that misanthropic gods are hiding in my shower or Dracula is climbing up to my bedroom window.

With that said, I will soon be reading The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes, both by Ray Bradbury. The latter was suggested during my giveaway. Happy almost-Halloween!

1 comment:

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