I would say that on the whole, people are surprised when I tell them that I am a horror fan. Other horror fans are excited, asking for the name of my blog, or telling me what type of horror they like the best. People who aren’t horror fans seem genuinely confused. “But why?” they ask.
Sometimes the people who ask want an answer to the question that focuses on cinematic merit. They want to know why horror appeals to me. They want to know why I like the dark stories. Every once in a while an open-minded person will listen to what I have to say, and they will ask where someone new to the genre should start. More often than not, though, the conversation takes a turn when the “But why?” is expanded on.
“But why? You look so sweet.”
“But why? You don’t look like you’d like horror.”
People seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that a woman who doesn’t wear goth-style makeup or listen to heavy metal enjoys more than her fair share of blood splatter. And before you ask, it is both men and women who have asked me this question.
The question is, BUT WHY? Why, in 2018, is it so hard to believe that women like horror?
Women have a long history in horror, from Mary Shelley to Shirley Jackson, to modern masters like Lauren Beukes and Mira Grant. The Soska Sisters, Karyn Kusama, and Mary Lambert kill it as directors in the genre. Halloween just broke all kinds of box office records this last weekend, and the storylines are female-driven.
Gender aside, horror is still a bit of a black sheep. This is a real shame. Horror fandoms are some of the friendliest and welcoming. People also seem surprised to hear this fact. Because horror films feature killers and gore, people expect that horror fans are anti-social. Movies are movies. They are not real life. Yet people still have a hard time distancing themselves from the squeamish, the dark, and the morbid. Unfortunately, I think that people still see women as moviegoers who cling to their date’s arm, wanting protection from the monster in the dark.
I went to Halloween on opening night, and I believe that women sometimes also help perpetuate this stereotype.
Countless women in that theater nestled their faces into their dates arms. The woman beside me actually put her legs up on her dates lap so she could hide her face even more.
This can’t be possible, I thought. All of these women can’t be scared this shitless.
I’m guessing that they weren’t. They needed a reason to get physical, and a scary movie is an acceptable place for a PDA.
And you know what? I’m guilty of it, too, but not in the way that many women in the theater around me were.
My fiancé is a trooper and goes to horror movies with me. They’re not his first choice, and that’s okay. Horror movies often make him jump (especially Chucky, but I don’t really blame him. That little creep is freaky).
I’m guilty of it in the sense that I laugh when my fiancé jumps. I laugh because I think it was sweet that he showed his vulnerability. But it was “funny” because he showed this vulnerability and he’s man.
Horror is not the only genre that this happens in. If a man came up to me and said that he had just started blogging about rom coms, I may even be guilty of asking “But why?” In the theater, if a man cries during a romance, we laugh. He is showing his vulnerability, but we’ve labelled it as not the norm. When a woman cries during a romance, it is expected, and she can snuggle her date.
It’s a vicious cycle, especially in genres that have been labelled as “masculine” or “feminine.” Let’s all just start accepting that people have their own tastes, regardless of gender. Men can like The Notebook, women can like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Let’s just go to the movies! If you want to snuggle, you can snuggle. You’re in a dark theater, and it’s romantic on date night. You don’t need a gender stereotype to tell you it’s okay. Men hiding their vulnerability or women hiding their strength in any aspect of a relationship is not acceptable, so why should a night at the movies be any different?