Fear is Fun

Categories: FearOvercoming fear

Society’s fascination with horror movies and stories have been studied and analyzed for hundreds of years. We can not help but find ourselves staring at a redbox deciding whether to go with the safe option or pick one that’s certain to offer countless sleepless nights and paranoia. However, all those negative effects of choosing to watch those type of films or hearing those sort of stories are still not enough of a compelling reason to watch a comedy or a romance film instead.

So why do we do it? Why do we intentionally put ourselves through such horror and discomfort? Although many can argue on what the answers to such questions might be, there are three simple explanations for our obsession with those types of movies such as the excitement and thrill it provides us; the way our natural brain is built to react to such circumstances, and the way the movie is able to provide a Segway in portraying evil as existing in someone’s nature rather than nurture.

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As human beings, we are often more fearful of things we lack answers to. Things that we can not explain. That uncertainty intensifies the fear we experience due to the fact that we have no knowledge of why a certain person did what they had done or how they were driven to do such thing in the first place. The current news channels are sadly filled with awful crime stories that seem to be occurring daily. Brutal crimes such as murder, kidnapping, or torture have always been a sensitive and scary topic to discuss.

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There is no denying that it is nothing less than awful to see so many innocent lives being taken away by such monsters while we try to figure ways to catch and incarcerate them after the damage has already been done. We are never given an insight to their upbringing or life story as a way to predict exactly where they were driven or triggered to commit such evil. Not having any warning signs or probable causes as to why that someone might have committed such acts intensifies fear in us due to the fact that we begin believing that some people are just born evil and it’s fascinating to know every detail about their crimes rather than them which is exactly why we have found such increasing interest in those kind of movies.

When Edward Theodore Gein was first named “The Butcher of Plainfield”, the country as a whole was in fear and disbelief that such an evil person was living among them for years and they were completely clueless. At that time, the community was not provided with any answers or details about who Edward Gein was which left them fearful and on the edge. Inspired by Gein, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was directed by Tobe Hooper, was released on October 1st, 1974. Even though many criticized the movie creators for claiming the movie was based on a true story, it had many undeniably identical similarities to the crimes that were commited by Ed Gein. regardless of all the criticism, the movie brought in millions of viewers that were desperate to get a close insight to what the real victims of Gein might had to go through whether alive or dead but not much about his life before it all went down.

Born in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1906, Ed Gein never had any friends. With a religious mother and an alcoholic father, he struggled to make any friends in school and was deemed a loner from a young age. In addition to coping with the loneliness, gein had also experienced mental abuse as well as physical abuse by both parents who never seemed to be proud of anything he has done. His mother Augusta, loathed his alcoholic father and wanted her two young boys to be better than their supposed “role model” of a father. However, Augusta took her parenting to the extreme by installing hate and fear of women in them from a very young age. She often warned them to stay far from women or the attraction to women as it is against God and the Bible’s teachings to have any sort of relationship with them. After his mother’s death, Edward, who always feared his mother, found her death as an open door to finally act out on his rage that has been built up and bottled up his whole life. This lead up to his gruesome murders and mutilations that inspired the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

In the movie, Leatherface, which was played by the character Hansen, slashes and murders a group of friends and then continues to use their skin as a face mask and their bodies as food. While Edward Gein used a gun and not a chainsaw, what he proceeded to do with the bodies was just as gruesome as what was shown in the movie. In a police report after the murders and the stolen dead bodies from a nearby cemetery, “The authorities sent to Gein’s home that night were greeted by the gruesome sight of Worden’s headless, gutted body hanging from the ceiling. Further investigation yielded more shocking discoveries, including organs in jars and skulls used as soup bowls.”. He did not only used the bodies as articles of clothing, but was also reported to have been cooking a human heart in the stove when he was caught. Although all those crimes are undeniably horrific and unfathomable, the viewers were never given any real insight on how truly mentally ill Edward Gein was. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and so many other movies that were inspired by the crimes of Edward Gein such as Psycho and Silence of the Lambs portrayed the criminal as an evil and heartless psychopath who always had the desire to kill, not just a person who had a tremendously horrible childhood that drove him to commit such crimes. This is a successful mechanism to bring in more horror lovers because the viewers would not want to show or feel any empathy toward the “bad” guy which might occur if their upbringing is mentioned in the beginning of the story or film. However, by only showing the crimes and the horrible things the murderer or monster commit, we feel fear and disgust toward them which is in someway a desirable feeling often needed by our bodies.

Typically, one would think that scary movies would cause us to fear them or trigger something inside of us in which heightens our fears even more. However, this is not true. Our brains actually are more excited and allow us to be more attentive throughout a horror film than many other genres. According to Weebly Medical Site:

“Adrenaline is a hormone that is produced from the adrenal glands above your kidneys…when the brain tells the body it is scared or in danger. Adrenaline can help the body in many types of ways, like help with decision making when you are in danger, or kill the pain of an injury…The adrenaline starts pumping through your body, and you feel like you can do anything, just because your brain thought you were in actual danger.”

With this, it means that such adrenaline produced in our body throughout the movie is what we internally use in order to get through the rest of the movie. With such adrenaline, it could be considered the equivalent of going on a roller coaster; you may and may not wish to do it again. Movies cause such hormones to take over our body and allow us to see the movie through a different perspective. We treat the movie as if we, ourselves, were in the film/scenario and causes us to predict or assume what actions we should take. This can be seen in movie theaters or in a private setting where a person or group of people then interact with the movie. They do this by yelling out loud, screaming, or questioning a characters actions simply because they do not resemble their own. Although it may come across as frustrating to others in the environment, people simply cannot help it. Throughout a horror movie, our body alone has so many reactions to the scenes we watch, but acknowledging that almost everyone else watching the movie is the same way, starts to spark one’s interest. Everyone encounters types of anxiety or stress throughout such horror films, testing each individual’s will power to see if they can sustain the prolonged anxiety and discomfort; but, ultimately in the end of such movies, it is all worth it. After such traumatic and discomforting events, we tend to feel relieved when our emotions are running high. According to Dr. Mathias Clasen, “there’s psychological distance when we watch a horror film. We know it’s not real—or at least, some parts of our brain know it isn’t real… The genre allows us to voluntarily — and under controlled circumstances — get experience with negative emotion.” This allows us to go on throughout the day after such a movie is seen. Instead of feeling attacked or anxiety driven, we implant in our our heads that such things are not real even if based off a true story. Some parts of our brain will be scared, but we will inform ourselves constantly that such things are not real and solely just fantasy. We use this as a mechanism to ensure to ourselves that we are “safe” and basically untouchable from such monsters or villains reenacted in the movies while still getting the rush of feeling chased by a serial killer.

We often find ourselves so interested in trying new things that are outside our comfort zone for reasons we can not explain. Whether it’s skydiving or swimming with the sharks, we seem to never get enough of it. Why are we so addicted to experiencing things that makes excited and horrified at the same time? In 2012, Mgr. Viktoria Prohaszkova stated:

“Every horror fan has their own reasons for seeking outputs that are full of deterrent elements and motives. Some want to experience what they are not allowed in real life; some want to escape from the uncomfortable reality; some are testing their character; some increase their tolerance to fright and fear to avoid panic in dangerous real life situations. Many times they cannot even explain or describe what drives them to seek outputs of horror production, they only know they enjoy them”.

This means that throughout everything we have experienced in our life, including the moments in which we have all regretted, there was a reason behind it; even if we don’t know it. People in life have had moments of regret in certain situations that can scar them internally and be so horrific that they hate to look back on. But deep down, throughout every one of those moments, there is something that drives us, prior to the moment, that encourages us to do it. Is it curiosity? Or is it adrenaline? It’s both. We are who we are for what we have done in our life. We decide who we want to be and do throughout our life before it ends. Movies are the same way. Our curiosity and ambition is what drives us to go see it in the first place, settling in our adrenaline more and more throughout the movie, but in the end of it, the result of satisfaction differs on how you perceive it or whether or not it met your ambitious and curiousness. One may not ever be interested in horror movies, but one day decide to give one a try. Our whole lives are driven behind our ambition, which is why people develop things like “bucket lists” to do before their time ends. This is an individual’s choice to make a commitment to themselves to go out of their comfort zone and let the curiosity drive them to do various different things. As mentioned before, skydiving or parachuting is a classical example of this. Knowing all the risks and dangers behind skydiving alone and the tremendous responsibility behind your own actions in the moment is a matter of life and death. Yet, we still choose to do it anyway. We are willing to risk our life in order to prove to ourselves that we are capable of doing it or internally experiencing such a rush.

Something interesting that a former teacher of mine has said was to Imagine waking up to a door crack open downstairs in the middle of the night and hearing unfamiliar footsteps roam around the house. You suddenly are filled with this hindering fear and it feels almost impossible to move. Even though hearing those footsteps is in no way doing any harm to us, what might occur after it might do just that. In response, we associate that sound with fear. There is so much in life that we are afraid of and yet are willing to try out at the same time. We pay to throw ourselves from flying airplanes, sign waivers to enter haunted houses, willingly get chased by bulls and wild animals, and watch movies that leave us sleepless for days. We don’t just choose a horror movie because we have nothing else to watch, we choose to because it brings so much excitement and thrill to our everyday lives and let our brains explore a range of wild thoughts and scenarios that we might never had gotten to feel if it wasn’t for horror movies. At the end of it all, we feel almost like we are at a state of euphoria which keeps bringing us back for more.

Cite this page

Fear is Fun. (2022, Jul 25). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/fear-is-fun-essay

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