For those who are not completely enmeshed in the horror genre, when asked to explain what horror is, I suspect most people automatically think of the antagonists: Chucky, Dracula, Frankenstein, zombies, etc… And then there is the automatic assumption of violent death and gore. There is a reason these characters pop into everyone’s heads—it’s because they are notable. They are the things of nightmares. I don’t believe these characters are really why we watch these movies, though.
Sure, we all have our favorite antagonists, and we all giggle and mentally roll around in the filth of entrails and gushing blood. It’s a kick, it wrenches our gut and feeds our need to enjoy some good old fashioned violence. In the end, though, we watch these movies not for the antagonists, but for the protagonists. A really well written book or movie has compelling characters who we grow attached to. Not because we want to watch them die, but because we want to watch them succeed.
We watch these characters face overwhelming odds with a variety of emotions that make the characters real to us. We see them in moments of weakness, moments of fear, moments of despair. These are all traits we experience in our daily lives as we struggle with social connections, work, or finances. We all wonder how we would deal with difficult and horrifying situations, but we rarely get a chance to test our limits. The only context we have without these amazing storytellers is our failures and successes in the mundane world.
When we watch these so very human characters fall and get up--or die trying--we feel a little bit of ourselves. We feel the pain of their deaths intimately. We experience the passion of the protagonists personally; and when our protagonists show courage we feed on their strength. The protagonists’ paths helps us connect our own traits and forgive our own failures. We are able to visualize ourselves in these situations and suddenly we are stronger and smarter than we ever were. Ever find yourself saying “No, not that way!” or, “Well I would have done…”? The reality is we would likely make the very same mistakes, but our exposure to horror has made us pros; the fallen comrades and the successful heroes provide us with a sense of security in ourselves, and help us tap into the strengths we have but so often ignore.
Or at least that’s why I’m a fan.
Regardless, they said I could write a blog, so I did. Love you all!
Shaun Phelps, MS
Shaun is a Licensed Mental Health counselor, psychology professor, and parenting instructor. He has a large variety of credentials including a specialization in anger and trauma, and over eight years of experience working in the fields of child welfare, domestic violence, substance abuse, and parenting. He received a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Counseling (Clinical Mental Health) from Troy University and finished the coursework for a PhD in General Educational Psychology with Walden University. Shaun has been published in the professional field for his work in Parenting, recently published Mental Health Tips for the Zombie Apocalypse: A Workbook, and has also has released a variety of short stories in collections such as Hunger Pangs: Dark Confessions, All things Zombie: The Gathering Horde, and most recently, Zombie Stories for People with Short Attention Spans.
You can keep up with Shaun’s writing on amazon.com at:
Shaun also runs a popular Facebook group, Zombie Book of the Month Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ZBotMC/