Evil on Two Legs: How my nephew reminded me to defend horror


Halloween is over for 2018, but a young horror fan reminded me that horror is not only fun but totally worth defending. That’s right, I’m hopping on the soapbox!

It’s awkward to be a horror fan sometimes. People have long accused horror of leading people (particularly the youth) astray due to its violent content. I heard this occasionally when I was young, but I always knew it was fictional anyway. Such claims didn’t stop me from watching Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Godzilla, and many other villains and creatures. I used to make Freddy gloves out of paper and tape, and we had a Halloween poster on our wall (along with some Ninja Turtle things).

Normally I wouldn’t bother discussing my fandom, but I recently saw this fan tradition continue. In early November, 2018, my 9-year-old nephew George emerged dressed as Michael Myers, and we play-fought with his pretend knives, guns and even a grenade. It was pretty fun, actually, and I’m pretty sure he knew the difference between fact and fiction. He’s also a fan of Back to the Future, Jurassic Park and Jaws (which inspires one game known simply as “shark problem”).

If that’s not enough, he wrote an article for me called “Halloween: The Complete History,” which goes like this:

Halloween: The Complete History text

The funny thing is, I didn’t really put him up to this. I just asked him if he had any horror article ideas, and that is what he came up with. Anyway, it’s great to see people with imagination having fun playing classic villains and monsters, and committed to learning so many facts about them. He obviously knows his Halloween lore. It’s refreshing to know a new horror fan in the family. It’s sort of like we’re passing the torch.

And speaking of passing the torch, this is the message he recently typed me on Facebook, after my mom let him borrow her laptop: “…next time you come down our way bring your Fred Krueger glove and the Friday the 13th game and system so we can play it.” So we can have a Freddy versus Michael Myers fight, and my mom and I can teach him about lighting cabins to acquire the torch and fry Jason!

My mom and I also discussed the holiday of Halloween. She agreed when I said the date shouldn’t be switched around — either keep it on October 31st or have Halloween year-round! We also agreed that, despite negative stories in the press, trick-or-treating isn’t particularly dangerous, so long as kids stay in groups.

In fact, it can give people a chance to meet their neighbors, which can just as soon reduce danger. (seriously, social alienation tends to lead to more crime, not less!). More to the point, when I went trick-or-treating as a kid, I don’t remember anyone in my entourage getting killed. Nor do I recall finding any tainted candy. Also, even if did happen somewhere at some point in human history, would that mean everyone must stop trick-or-treating? It seems kind of like banning all vehicles because some people get into accidents sometimes. There’s technically a rationale to it, but it’s still nonsense.

The times they are a-changin’

Here I must confess something strange: While fending off my nephew’s “attacks,” I couldn’t help but think of what so many critics would say. As suggested before, there’s this idea that any sort of violent content will warp a kid’s brain. These strange thoughts — these doubts — did creep into my head a bit. I found myself wondering, “Should he be playing as this character?” I’ve been so bombarded with hyper-sensitive media stories that it threatens to mess up great moments like these.

Such thoughts are normally alien to me, and obviously a product of the age we live in. Still, I felt myself almost at odds with the experience, because there’s so much focus on offensive things in media and how they supposedly cause problems. Things are so politicized that, at times, even I think the thoughts of an anti-horror crusader! Granted, they don’t linger in my brain. They come in rapid little flashes. It’s from years of exposure to anti-fun crusaders —  the types who chip away at any entertainment that’s a little ambiguous.

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In retrospect, I was falling into the trap of overthinking and over-analyzing stuff. I was giving too much weight and power to the experience of a child’s imagination, and almost believing he’s really at risk of being a monster. Now I am reminded of the struggles faced by some horror fans, which few talk about because they’d sound like nonsense. Still, when certain areas of the United States crack down on Halloween, banning certain costumes and otherwise legislating the holiday, it seems like something to speak against.

More generally, people often forget that acting is just acting, costumes are just costumes, and we shouldn’t take imagination as a generally serious threat. Let people dress up as they please at least one day out of the year. If someone does misbehave, then hold that individual accountable.  Is that really so much to ask?

Now, I could go on and on about how horror movies don’t really cause crime, but that should go without saying. Suffice it to say, I plan to be a little more invested in imagination as I get older, rather than let this world chip away further at my creativity. I hope the majority keeps feeling the same way. Why? Rather than leading us down the wrong path, our being creative can keep us out of trouble, and potentially bring joy into people’s lives.

The alternative would simply see a drastic reduction in fun as society’s problems continue anyway. Chances are, horror fandom by itself won’t add to an epidemic of murder rampages around the country, just as Ozzy Osbourne alone didn’t convince people to commit suicide in the ’80s. If I play Friday the 13th on NES with my nephew, it probably won’t end up as a tragic news story, okay? So stay weird, watch as many horror films as you can reasonably stand, and don’t let your mind be warped by moral crusaders.

Next. Beware The Moon: Five werewolf movies from the 70s. dark

Tell me your thoughts! Is Halloween and horror degrading the youth, and what can we do to speed up that process? Let us know in the comments!