As a kid, I remember watching Frankenstein’s Monster flee from the villagers in James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), and straight up sobbing. Why? Because even at that age, I identified with the monster. A creature who was looked so down upon, that he wasn’t even given a name. To this day, we still refer to him as Frankenstein, the surname of his careless creator, an act of stripping the personal identity from the monster...
...I could relate, because every day I went to school as the outcast. Picked on for my looks. My clothes. My shyness. Pitchfork wielding villagers replaced by bullies with clenched fists that cornered me at my locker for my afternoon punch to the gut.
I was Frankenstein’s Monster, and he was me. Both of us given a life we didn’t ask for but were trying to live the best we could. Both of us misunderstood.
Horror has always been there for me and likely all of you reading this, in one way or the other. As horror fans, we’re often the outcasts of society. The monsters of our own story. We look to these stories for inspiration and the strength that we can stand up against AND defeat the evil in our life, as Nancy does with Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But there’s a problem that’s been brewing in the horror community. Lately, we’ve become the angry villagers, and anyone who disagrees with us is the monster. Everywhere I look, I can practically imagine a body-snatched Donald Sutherland pointing his finger towards a new target to descend on in the social media sphere.
Someone thinks a woman should play the next Pinhead?
They’re a witch, burn them!
Someone didn’t like the new Black Christmas?
They’re a witch, burn them!
This isn’t a new problem. For as long as I’ve been an active member of social media, I’ve seen infighting amongst the horror community. But lately, disagreements over who the better horror icon is, Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, and whether or not Alien 3 is actually a good sequel (I love it), have transformed into a snarling beast that leaves us wounded day in and day out.
That beast is bullying, and it’s beginning to take over us all like cruel body snatchers.
Over the past few days, one event in particular caught my eye. The Last Drive-In host Joe Bob Briggs of Monstervision fame was once again being slammed for an article he wrote in August which raises questions about the LGBTQ acronym. Now, whether or not you agree or disagree with Joe Bob’s comments isn’t the point I want to discuss. If you must know, I lean progressive and don’t always agree with what he says, but this is about the reactions towards each other over his comments, and the persistent problem amongst horror fans. The fact of the matter is, we need to stop making each other out to be the monster when we do disagree.
With each question raised about Joe Bob’s comments came a slew of attacks from Joe Bob’s fans, which lead to a slew of attacks from defenders of those questioning the comments, and so on and so forth. Hateful comments with everything from calling each other morons to bigots to crybabies...
It got ugly. Uglier than any creature you’ve ever seen in a horror film.
Subtweets rose from the depths like C.H.U.D. hungry for more victims to wander helplessly into the comment section.
Retweet after retweet spread like a ravenous wildfire, before eventually, half the people in the discussion weren’t sure what they were fighting about or what the original statements even were, but that there was something to fight about, and a monster needed to be slain. Most of the time, I suspect we don’t even want to understand why or how the argument originated. We just want a place to direct our anger.
This is not a defense of either side of that argument. This is a plea for this community to start supporting each other and paying attention to what each other has to say when it comes to the genre and the voices within it. But, most importantly, to stop punishing those who wish only to speak their minds.
For some, Joe Bob Briggs is a voice in the horror community that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Let them voice their concerns.
For others, he provides a dose of community every Friday for horror fans who truly feel like “mutants”.
Let them have that.
And this doesn’t just apply to us fans. It applies to the leaders at the top. The voices with thousands to hundreds of thousands of loyal followers. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen a fan of various publications or podcasts that have had their private messages pulled and put on display for any willing follower to immediately hiss and throw stones at.
I don’t care if that person feels said media is too progressive or isn’t progressive enough. That’s not the point.
Horror is something different for each of us. For some, we use it to see ourselves, and we look for it to evolve with the times and give us more to identify with. For others, it’s pure escapism, people who don’t want to think about what the world is or should be, but who are perfectly comfortable with ninety minutes of schlocky, nudity and gore filled entertainment.
Fans are just looking to get out of the genre what they need psychologically to get through their days, their weeks, their years. And none of them deserve to be publically shamed for it.
One of our writers, Amylou Ahava, is a teacher, and pointed out to me that, in her classrooms, students often begin statements with, “this is probably wrong” or “you will hate me for saying this” and it’s likely because they lack confidence, thanks to bullying over their views in the past. And we’re starting to see that in the horror community.
That’s a problem.
The horror genre is supposed to be a safe space for all of us, where we can be the “weirdos” we want to be, and no one looks down on us for loving what we do. The more those within our own community harass us for our views relating to the genre, the more we don’t feel safe to be who we are anymore.
The scars of growing up as a horror fan in the 90s, when I didn’t have friends who felt the same about the genre, will always be with me. I’ll never forget what it felt like to be labeled a future serial killer because I liked Jason Voorhees. I’ll also never forget what it was like the first time I met someone who understood my love of horror, and, rather than judge me for it, supported my passion.
That’s what the horror community has always been for me, for the most part. That’s what it needs to continue to be, for all of our sanities. All of us have, at times, felt like outcasts in our day to day lives, treated like we have some kind of sickness for loving this genre. I don’t understand what good it does any of us to hatefully react to anyone and everyone in our community sharing a different opinion than us. Let people express their views. They’re allowed to do that. But if you don’t have anything constructive to add, you don’t need to belittle them for doing so.
We have to be better. We have to put down the pitchforks and the torches, and we have to let our kindred spirits voice their opinions, whether or not we agree with them. We’re in a pandemic, for fuck’s sake. There are greater evils to be slain. Bigger monsters to take down than those we deem are too conservative or too progressive in the horror genre.
We need to remember what it feels like to be the misunderstood monster, and that there are real people on the other side of screens and avatars. There’s a person underneath that monstrous rubber suit that you’re attacking.
Horror fans are shamed and discriminated enough outside of the confines of the horror community. We have to start listening to each other when it comes to the way we view the genre we love most, and the voices within it. Disagree, but do it respectfully. Don’t attack. Don’t burn at the stake. Don’t be a bully about it.
It never works out well for the bullies in a horror movie.
We can’t become the thing that horror films have always taught us not to be.
By Matt Konopka