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Old 11-15-2012   #11
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Re: "To Suffer This World or Illuminate Another? The Meanings and Uses of Horror"

Quote Originally Posted by Nicole Cushing View Post
Modern American culture, in particular, tends to place expectations on us that we keep our head up and smile, smile, smile. We are a radically death-denying culture. We have taken as many pains as possible to remove ourselves from seeing the dead and the dying. And when we do interact with the dead and the dying, we spin tales suggesting they've automatically been zoomed up to a pleasure-filled paradise.

...Perhaps, in this way, horror is a safety valve. A means to express that which can't be expressed in polite society, due to our rigid culture. And, yes, I think that this helps us cope -- if only in a subtle way.
I had a different experience. Or one not so easily reduced to such a terse and conclusive sounding soundbite. Down in thedepths of the lower economic brackets murder, suicide, crime, and illness are statistically, and actually, unavoidable occurrence. Denial is a luxury bestowed by distance. And money.

Church was just somewhere nice to go once a week and listen to some nice stories about how maybe you were capable of being loved despite not having a Mercedes and a new pair of Nikes. More often than that it was to share in the grief of someone way too young to be dead. That had met with a violent end seemingly impossible in such a "first world nation". Often the dead were just strangers-of-the-community. But just as often not. The bias of immediately dismissing someone who goes to church as some kind of moronic bumpkin drunk on fairy tales misses this fact. For some communities the church is merely the triage for sad and violent lives. Fairy tales are just the window dressing.

If any adult I knew was smiling it was indeed for purposes of maintaining a status-quo, albeit a fragile one, and was more often than not with great effort, and utterly incongruous with their feelings. I agree most people put on a happy face. Fake smiles. But that's all it is.

On a greater social level I remember gun culture; all the death imagery in metal music (the modern folk music of the poor and pissed off); Nine Inch Nails; Marilyn Manson; Twin Peaks; Ghost shows; In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy; Schwarzenegger; Gangsta rap; Warfare without end; The Friday night horror films where people were stalked by something that could be put on a lunchbox, rather than tumors, crime and industrial accidents; Sugary breakfast cereals with cute cartoon corpse mascots and Saturday morning cartoons about counter-terrorist units; Halloween. The America I knew was a nation obsessed with death.

It seems to me that culture is all about death all the time. Anything that we do including and beyond eating, sleeping, defecating or breeding is all about death - if only by what it is taking such efforts to avoid confronting and saying openly. The craft is in submitting to the deception. The fake smile is just another name for art.

So, not everyone seeks out the macabre as a way of delineating themselves from the sheeple as someone who /gets it/ - taking on the role of a self appointed Cassiel of the species to stare down the abyss and save us all from our ignorance. I sought horror fiction at first because my father read it and I wanted to emulate him (and to answer the mystery of what he was doing within those strange and terrifying covers - was he stalking with the monsters or running with the prey?). Then later because in horror the nightmarish could be transcended for something finer. The victims were not freaks of socio-economic conditions, deserved of clicking tongues and patronizing stereotyping - they were survivors. Heroes. The library's Horror books section was another pulpit promising an unconditional belonging wrapped in a transcendent mystery. Which is the glint in every fake smile.

"Books are a load of crap." ~ Larkin

Ah, boy - this flu...



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Old 11-15-2012   #12
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Re: "To Suffer This World or Illuminate Another? The Meanings and Uses of Horror"

Quote Originally Posted by RaleC View Post

On a greater social level I remember gun culture; all the death imagery in metal music (the modern folk music of the poor and pissed off); Nine Inch Nails; Marilyn Manson; Twin Peaks; Ghost shows; In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy; Schwarzenegger; Gangsta rap; Warfare without end; The Friday night horror films where people were stalked by something that could be put on a lunchbox, rather than tumors, crime and industrial accidents; Sugary breakfast cereals with cute cartoon corpse mascots and Saturday morning cartoons about counter-terrorist units; Halloween. The America I knew was a nation obsessed with death.

The culture may engage physical death, but shirks away from the notion of finality in death and engaging the idea of actual nonexistence. In fact, some of the examples you cited (Halloween, cartoon corpses on cereal boxes, In Search Of...) are ways in which the culture trivializes death. The whistling through the graveyard kind of thing.

To be more specific, I think the culture does a great job of convincing itself that death isn't real or isn't final. The vast majority of people believe in life-after-death (in one form or another), effectively rendering death deathless. That's the sort of death-denial I'm talking about. (Although, to be sure, I do believe that -- in general -- we also tend to flinch from really engaging grief and loss; we're a culture that likes to talk about "closure", etc.).

I agree that churches can be places where communities gather and share trauma. But, in my experience with churches (which stretched decades), the "fairy tale" (your phrase, not mine) seems to take precedence. In other words, if the church just shrugged its shoulders and said something along the lines of: "Yanno, we don't know what happens when you die. Hell, it's probably just the end. But you're welcome to come here and hang out with each other", then I doubt it would maintain its current strong membership.

That's one of the reasons Christian fundamentalism has a great deal of appeal, and why the number of its adherents have been growing over the last half-century and why the mainline Protestant denominations have been faltering. Many people like the idea of a quid pro quo of eternal life in exchange for obedience.
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Old 11-15-2012   #13
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Re: "To Suffer This World or Illuminate Another? The Meanings and Uses of Horror"

The consumption of Weird, Horror, and Uncanny fiction needs no other explanation other than "I dig it." It rings my internal bell. It resonates with my indefinable self.

It doesn't make me a better or stronger person, steeled to the reality of death and courageous in the face of the unknown.

But, it DOES make me a more INTERESTING person, so there's that...

TEG
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Old 11-15-2012   #14
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Re: "To Suffer This World or Illuminate Another? The Meanings and Uses of Horror"

Quote Originally Posted by Nicole Cushing View Post
The culture may engage physical death, but shirks away from the notion of finality in death and engaging the idea of actual nonexistence. In fact, some of the examples you cited (Halloween, cartoon corpses on cereal boxes, In Search Of...) are ways in which the culture trivializes death. The whistling through the graveyard kind of thing.
So, in order to engage grief and loss with any sincerity you'd have people spend their lives weeping with one hand to their brows because they're going to die someday? Snuff films as the primary art form? What culture do you hold as the standard I wonder.

This is a site dedicated to a kind of romanticizing of gloom in layers of Eastern European concrete, iron and mist. That's hardly engaging in "nonexistance" directly. Flip through the consumer link pages here on TLO - music and movies - darkwave, goth, metal, horror, terror &c. This is the same trivialization and romanticizing of death you claim to be above.

Horror is a genre that's original function was moral instruction. Nowadays the majority of "horror" is just a rote march through the same tired tropes to either titillate 13 year olds, and/or sensationalize violence and "trivialize" death. At it's most challenging it is a kind of quilting pastiche of the post-modern, the avant-garde, and the linguistic modes and styles of hundred year old authors and Eastern European writers of "literary fiction". Which is great, I /dig/ that stuff, but it's not reality. If you feel so strongly about engaging in life (and death) completely why not write stories based on real life? There are horrors sufficient enough in the real world for even the most discerning "Macabrist". Better still go to New Orleans and spend some time in the Ninth Ward. Or Detroit, or Haiti, or Juarez Mexico - and write something that holds such a clear mirror up to these places we're forced away from our smug overly entertained complacency and must not only confront these horrors but do something about them.

Or, you can take refuge in the scene and it's "beliefs" of a nihilistic Lovecraftian horror applying an awful pressure on our meaningless world, as a way of learning to confront and live with death. Or allow the religious part of your brain to submit to the groupthink of Anti-Natalism and the superiority that comes from feeling your part of the decision to end the human race - or ultimately, that anyone will listen. Different people respond to different fairy tales, but they all serve the same function. Are processed by the same meat-based technology. As humans we make everything into a religion or a sport. It's comforting - we all do it. (Apologies for the tone of this paragraph - I was trying to outline the way even anti-belief can be a comforting group to belong to and a lens through which to defuse the harshness of life. *Added later.)

On the subject of Christians. You take all the Christians in the world and put them in a room with someone claiming to be the resurrection of Christ and they'd nail the poor bastard to the nearest telegraph pole quicker than you could say "Hallelujah". Belief has degrees.

Quote Originally Posted by T.E. Grau View Post
The consumption of Weird, Horror, and Uncanny fiction needs no other explanation other than "I dig it." It rings my internal bell. It resonates with my indefinable self.

It doesn't make me a better or stronger person, steeled to the reality of death and courageous in the face of the unknown.

But, it DOES make me a more INTERESTING person, so there's that...

The "Just 'Cause" argument and it makes you a more interesting person. Hmmm, touche - you have dismantled the agenda of the article, and this particular sub-forum in one deft move. I would wager these two points are really why we do anything. /Like a boss/.



Last edited by RaleC; 11-17-2012 at 10:06 AM.. Reason: Context, Formatting, Panache
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Old 11-16-2012   #15
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Re: "To Suffer This World or Illuminate Another? The Meanings and Uses of Horror"

Or allow the religious part of your brain to submit to the groupthink of Anti-Natalism and the superiority that comes from feeling your part of the decision to end the human race - or ultimately, that anyone will listen.

Nice dismissal of a perfectly coherent and rational philosophy as a cult. Maybe try engaging with the argument rather than reducing it to 'such a terse and conclusive sounding soundbite'?
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Old 11-16-2012   #16
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Re: "To Suffer This World or Illuminate Another? The Meanings and Uses of Horror"

I've really tried to engage with it, mate - I truly have. First and foremost I agree with it's main premise that our breeding should be regulated. I just don't think it's as simple as it's made out to be. I've watched the weirdly angled videos of middle-aged men boiling over with smug contempt at their fellow humans and saying disturbing stuff into webcams. I watched the bizarre wheel of pain one with "Lil Natal" that boiled down to "You might be born fat, or with hemorrhoids from birth, or an amputee" - so don't breed. Delivered by an obviously uncomfortable overweight person. If it moved beyond the rhetoric of rage and silliness to "adopt the kids that are here, do charity work and lets lobby for some kind of licensing system put in place on breeding; because there's too goddamn many of us and not enough resources for everyone to be clothed, fed and sheltered." I would be there with bells on. Because that would be a logical start to addressing the problem. Just saying "life is pain - don't breed" doesn't begin to address the problem at a practical and realistic level.



Last edited by RaleC; 11-16-2012 at 01:15 PM.. Reason: Parse
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Old 11-16-2012   #17
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Re: "To Suffer This World or Illuminate Another? The Meanings and Uses of Horror"

Most people of an antinatalist disposition agree with all the measures you suggest; it's just that all that is only putting your finger in the dam. Antinatalism is the most practical solution possible. Unless you have some sort of religious belief, or a religious conception of 'humanity' or 'life' that makes you think the show must go on, no matter what the cost, there's really no plausible moral reason for procreating, and even those with such beliefs are going to have a hard time justifying the perpetuation of the species. From nothing to nothing by way of an uncertain diversion that may contain unimaginable suffering, why bother?

Anyway, if you're interested, the core text is David Benatar's Better Never To Have Been, written by a perfectly sane, reasonable, non-ranting man. Please take the time to have a look if you get the opportunity. Just type the book's title followed by scribd. into Google and it'll get you there. (Tried posting a link, but it went wonky.)
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Old 11-16-2012   #18
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Re: "To Suffer This World or Illuminate Another? The Meanings and Uses of Horror"

I apologize for the overall tone of that "engaging grief, romanticizing gloom, yadda-yadda" post. My inner autistic has a habit of diluting any social grouping into the fewest possible motivations in order to tie them to every other social group into some humanistic we-are-all-the-same model. He's not a bad guy though, just not someone you'd invite to the pub.

The point I was struggling to make, through my Cronenberg viral delirium, was that Horror as a make-believe should not be asked to meet the criteria of reality, it neuters it's purpose as an /artform/ - as a living mythology - to affect the way we engage reality. If you go down that line of thinking, that art should be real, then yeah - seek horror in Juarez, Mexico, the newspaper, Reuters,
&c. Machen, Lovecraft, Baudelaire, Poe and Hodgson &c. were writing dispatches from the unconscious - so reading them does not bring you any closer to engaging death than Desperate Housewives would.

(Skulls or SUVS - I'd argue the later could replace the former above crossed bones and be just as effective.)

Making the suggestion that death is romanticized all around us wasn't in any way intended to be a judgment, or dismissal of the fact; and I don't believe covering something in symbolism trivializes it - the aforementioned authors are amongst my favorite and do just that. The point, again as rough as cage fighter on a four day drunk, was I really don't believe we are ever out of contact with the reality of death. It haunts us our entire lives. And dismissing the people, events and arts where darkness is least apparent misses the simple fact that joy doesn't trivialize death - it celebrates living.

Everyone has the unbearable burden of their own life around their neck and judging them on their shiny new BMW and fake-smile alone doesn't take in all the facts. Insecurity is the root of all our evils, and what's at the core of that insecurity? A fear of death. <<End Soundbite>>

The book on AN - I'll check it out.



Last edited by RaleC; 11-17-2012 at 09:42 AM.. Reason: Clarity, Context, Flow
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