In the past, conservatives have claimed that violence in media promotes real life violence. Examples of violent music, movies, books, video games, and other media promoting violence date back decades. Every time some new act of random violence occurs, there are many people quick to point the finger at pop culture and entertainment.
But according to one article on Psychology Today, there’s very little evidence to back up that claim. Violence has been used in entertainment for millennia—you’ll find it in Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s tragedies. To date, there have been no studies that have found a conclusive, scientifically proven link between violence in media and real life violence.
So when people believe that the horrors popularized by horror fiction can lead to people repeating the same twisted, degenerative acts, I’m left to give the same answer: Where is your proof?
Did the number of hockey-masked killers increase after Freddy vs. Jason? I doubt it. Did the Texas Chainsaw Massacre lead to more gruesome deaths? I’ve yet to see any statistics linking the two.
Violence and horror will always be a part of human nature, sadly. It’s what happens when people are oppressed, repressed, mistreated, ignored, and abused. But blaming it on violence and horror in entertainment is just reductionist and a cheap way to escape the reality: our modern society is largely to blame for what happens, not something we watch on TV or read in a book.
In fact, the article suggests that watching horror movies/reading horror novels can be a way to REDUCE criminal behavior. Horror entertainment gives the human mind an outlet for the darker thoughts, preventing all the negative emotions from being bottled up until they explode.
And horror shows what it means to be ANTI-social, thereby giving a subtle yet undeniable PRO-social message. No one roots for the monsters—they all want the heroes to work together to defeat the damned thing.
Stephen King says it best: “The horror story, beneath its fangs and fright wig, is really as conservative as an Illinois Republican in a three-piece pinstriped suit…its main purpose is to reaffirm the virtues of the norm by showing us what awful things happen to people who venture into taboo lands. Within the framework of most horror tales we find a moral code so strong it would make a Puritan smile.”
Chad Stroup is a HWA member and author several short stories and one novel. He received his MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Fiction from San Diego State University in 2014. You can follow him at https://www.facebook.com/ChadStroupWriter or his website http://subvertbia.blogspot.com/.