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Horror Genre

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The idea that the monster within horror works as a metaphor, reflecting the socio-cultural fears of its time is a theory which has been tried and tested since the dawn of the genre. The monster can be seen to illustrate our phobias or uncertainties as a human, changing with the times and therefore always seeming to be relevant in society. If this is true then the converse must also hold the same weight, that by analysing the monster in horror and their psychoanalytical meaning we can learn something of society at that point in time, a snap shot of our weakness and failures historically. Indeed the relevance of the monster and its ability to be on the pulse of our current concern is where the real psychoanalytical weight of the genre lies.

Robin Wood expressed the idea of 'Otherness', using the basic narrative formula that the 'monster - threatens - normality.' I am arguing that the normality is actually self obsession and a lack of morality within society and that the monster who threatens this is actually a representation of the current fears in terms of the socio-economic-cultural-context. The genre uses the 'Otherness' of the monster to set up a thematic focus - good vs. evil, which merges into Levi Straus idea of Binary Opposition within film, this can be pushed further onto the idea of morality/immorality- where is the dividing line? Wood suggests that the monster is an other, and that humans push all their fears and insecurities onto others in order for them to live uncomplicated lives. Freud, a psychoanalyst argued the idea that we all hold subconscious desires, repressed and undressed feelings that we are able to release through dreams. He created the theory of repression, linking reality to the idea that the monster in horror films cathartically addresses and resolves these primal desires within us to kill. A good example to prove this theory is the 1930's classic, Frankenstein. If we were to watch this film now we would find it quite comical and not at all scary because it reflects the fears and value systems of the 1930's. Around this time America was just coming out of the great depression and although thousands of working class men were still struggling to survive and find work, many businesses were slowly becoming 'stable.' The idea that the 'creation' within the film represented the working class as victims and the actual monster was the upper class man, Dr Frankenstein was very effective and relevant to the people who watched this film at the time of its release.

Again the 1930's classic, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein were able to tap into the socio-cultural fears of the day very successfully, making the suggestion that scientific discoveries and new technology can be pushed too far. In the 1930's, the normality was that we had limited scientific knowledge and a healthy respect for human life and the roles of nature and science were separate entities. The film adapted the idea of playing God which terrified the audience into believing that man was fooling around with the natural order. Today technological advances do not scare us easily as we are now a nation who embraces it, consequently Frankenstein as a modern day monster doesn't work in as immediate or intense way. These key binary oppositions at the heart of the monster, good/evil, science/nature and morality/immorality hold true, regardless of how 'dated' the actual filmic illustrations of them become.

Modern horror has, in a way, shifted up a gear and is beginning to focus on us as a society, suggesting that it is the way we live out our lives that is the real monster. The 2004 horror movie, Saw is a very successful film, in the way it was able to create fear within the audience as it expresses the idea that we are all becoming self obsessed and too wrapped up in our own comfort to care about anything else. The film tells us that we are living in a care free society where our looks and careers have become more important that our health, attitude and family, where we are always able to shift the blame onto others and where we are able to dispose of our responsibilities so easily that we are beginning to believe that it is out rights not to have them. It is these thoughts and feelings and this 'whatever' way of living that is destroying us.

There are many different reasons for this selfishness that has swept over us;

Money and personal debt being one of them. The idea that we are all able to take what we want, when we want it by borrowing from others only too happy to lend has become more and more popular over time. According to the credit action statistics, the total UK personal debt from July 2004 stands at Ј1 trillion and Britain's personal debt increases by Ј1 million every four minutes. With a growth rate of 12.4% Britain has recently witnessed the largest single-year increase since The Bank of England was founded in 1694. We have grown up in a society where if we see something we want, we can just take it without a second thought.

The compensation culture is another reason for this non moralistic selfishness we show as a society. Day after day it is drummed into our heads that if something goes wrong it is not our fault, there's always someone else to blame. Research from the BBC suggests that in 1998 compensation claims cost Britain over Ј6.8 billion and when questioned, 78% of people said that taking someone to court over personal injury was 'socially and morally' acceptable. It is this information that proves we as a society are beginning to believe we are continually owed things by others.

Education can also be seen as an ideological change which may explain this selfishness as it, or the government continually injects us with the idea that we need to do better, we need a good education, to get a good job, to live in a nice house and make more money than our next-door neighbours. In the run up to the 1997 Election one of Labours main slogans was, 'Education, Education, Education.' And in 1998 it was revealed that the education spending would rise by a significant 5.1% a year. Blair wants school learners to stay on until they reach 18 and he also wants 80% of these students to enter into further education. Prince Charles recently argued that people should 'know their place' in societies hierarchy instead of all being treated as potential 'winners.'

Reality TV has quickly become a genre of its own, proving to be one of the most significant new genres within media and creating a new 'C LIST' celebrity. Developing from early 'real life' television, e.g. Candid Camera in 1948, An American Family in 1973 to the more recent and successful Big Brother, Survivor and Fame



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