I Heart Indies

Monday, November 2, 2015

How Porn and Horror are Alike (And Why Horror is Better)

 The content of this blog is not as salacious as some readers might hope, but it begins with a very simple observation: porn and horror both operate on the same principle.

Porn, so I'm informed - I've never seen any myself, ahem - begins with a perfectly banal set-up that rapidly, if not instantly, spirals into sex.  The pizza-delivery guy or the plumber, or whoever, comes over, trades a few double-entendres with the scantily-clad resident, and then a porn groove starts up with a boom-chikka drum beat, and an electric guitar's wah-wah, and the next thing you know, everyone's rolling around on the furniture making sweet, sweet hibbidy-bibbidy.

It's the same thing with horror.

A perfectly ordinary, banal set-up: a new neighbor moves in next door, or the cat dies, but then as quickly as can be managed, a dissonant sound-track picks up in a minor chord, or children's voices singing nursery rhymes just slightly off-key, and the next thing you know, it turns out the neighbor's a vampire, or the cat gets buried in a special graveyard that makes it come back to life as a zombie-cat, or the house is located on a haunted burial ground, or whatever.

In both cases - porn and horror - the underlying concept is that at the border of daily experience is another set of experiences which is not merely entirely different and incongruous, but defining.  In porn, the point of life - its essence - is not getting pizza delivered or your pipes fixed, but sex, and sex with as many different partners in as many acrobatic configurations as can be done.  Likewise, in horror, the meaning of life is not found in ordinary experience - the birth of a child, for example - but in the extraordinary and terrifying discovery that this is the spawn of Satan.

The audience for porn as well as horror is given the impression that the ordinary world is a paper-thin veneer for another world, a world where people's lives - whether for good or ill - are way more interesting than their own, and that these people know something about life that the rest of us are too naive, lucky, unlucky, unattractive, or cowardly to suspect.  Both porn and horror create a sense of expectation that something is just around the corner, and only the boom-chikka, wah-wah or creepy children's voices will tell us what form that something will take.

In the case of porn, this sense of expectation can only be disappointing, frustrating, and to some extent disgusting.  (I really don't want to imagine my pizza-delivery guy has just engaged in complicated, multi-orificical coitus with some bimbo and her three roommates.)  The world, says porn, is a perpetual orgy - an orgy from which you and I, for some reason, have been excluded.

In horror - and I maintain this is what makes it superior - the expectation is a feeling of relief mixed with a certain salutatory dread.  After watching yet another revision of the zombie apocalypse, we are relieved that we don't have to deal with zombies in our own world.  Yet.  And it's that yet that's crucial to good horror, the lingering notion that just because our lives have been relatively safe and predictable hitherto, there's no promise they will continue to be so; indeed, the people we just watched barricaded in a house against legions of the undead outside, were exactly like us at the start of the film, living lives even more boring than our own, never imagining something like that could happen to them.

The expectations set up by porn not only are jejune, but contrived to dissatisfy us with our lives; horror, on the other hand, makes us grateful; thank goodness we haven't have penetrated that thin veneer into the other world of experience.  The notion that the delivery person will be a nymphomaniac who will - with minimal preamble - engage us in an exhaustive and exhausting survey of The Kama Sutra is just plain dumb.  On the other hand, even if the world is as rational and predictable as we'd like to believe, speculating that perhaps it isn't - that the underlying reality might possibly be anarchic and deeply irrational - that below the experience of the ordinary might lurk something quite different, alien, and unknowable - that speculation, which is offered by horror, is not only not to be sneered at, it might be a kind of wisdom.

And that's why horror is superior.

No comments:

Post a Comment