As a bona fide horror buff, one of the things I love about the genre is that it’s constantly evolving. Looking back, we can see trends. The 70s brought us religious horror with films like The Exorcist and The Omen. The 80s established the teen-slasher flick with titles like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. More recently we endured a celluloid sea of zombies before venturing into arthouse horror films like The Witch and Hereditary. What I find to be so interesting is that horror films, like all films, have to be relevant to audiences to be successful. As time marches forward and the world changes, so do the things that scare us, and those changes are reflected back to us on the silver screen.
When we look at horror movies, they all have something in common: power. There’s always something scary (and powerful) that threatens the main characters who are (usually) good and made vulnerable by the bad thing. In a way, horror is about empowerment – the good guys have to figure out how to stop the bad thing so they can reclaim their power (and stay alive). This is what makes the genre so exhilarating – the audience, like the characters, loses and then regains power, and it’s a great feeling to know that you survived the big, bad scary.
But sometimes we forget to leave the horror in the theatre. Jaws famously made people afraid to go in the water. On the surface, this is a minor inconvenience, but look deeper and it also means that people were afraid to do what they wanted. That’s a loss of power, and I don’t like that.
I mention Jaws because I see the Jaws Effect rippling through the LGBTQ community. Every time I’ve been asked to speak or educate about the queer community, there’s always been a request to discuss the “issues” affecting our community. That’s always code for “talk about the bad stuff.” Yes, there’s a lot to be afraid of, and I also wonder if we should be telling our youth how scary the world is while we’re also trying to welcome them to the community. Are we holding the closet door open while also warning that danger is on the other side? Are we disempowering those we are actively trying to empower? Are we holding ourselves back by focusing on the big, bad scary?
These are questions I can’t answer. I’m a white, cisgender gay man. Within the queer community, I have a lot of privilege, and I’m aware of that. I don’t know what it’s like to be a trans woman of color with a life expectancy of 35. I know that sometimes I’m afraid, and I also spend a lot of my time trying to help others be less afraid. So, knowing that the world can be scary, what are we to do?
In horror, there’s the classic trope of the “survivor girl,” She’s been through the wringer, but she survives, though not unscathed. We are the survivor girls. We learned how to get through it, and because we can’t change the world overnight, we must help others find their way to safety. Yes, we should educate and advise caution when necessary, and we should also celebrate the successes of our community. There’s a lot of bad, and there’s also a lot of good.
As much as we’d like to, we can’t stop the big, bad, scary things from happening. What we can do is continue to change the script until there’s nothing to be afraid of. We can support those who need help through the scary parts, and continue to use the wisdom we’ve gained along the journey to help them find their power so they can participate in our own cultural evolution. Then, the world becomes that much less scary.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.