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Reason_Being

The horror genre: it's aesthetic value

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I know I wrote "it's" it should be "its"...

I've been thinking recently about the merit of horror movies, and the horror genre in general.

Is it rational to get pleasure from indulging in fear?

Horror is a wide genre, and can contain valuable intellectual themes within the story just like any other genre can.

But there are also horror movies in which the only purpose is to instill the emotion of fear in the viewer.

I'm kind of drawn to movies like this because I like the rush. Do you guys think that's rational?

Edited by Reason_Being

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I've been thinking recently about the merit of horror movies, and the horror genre in general.

Is it rational to get pleasure from indulging in fear?

Is it the fear itself that you're getting pleasure from, or is what gives you pleasure the experience of being confronted with fear and contemplating/discovering how you psychologically or morally deal with it?

But there are also horror movies in which the only purpose is to instill the emotion of fear in the viewer.

How have you come to the conclusion that instilling fear is the "only purpose" of certain movies?

I'm kind of drawn to movies like this because I like the rush. Do you guys think that's rational?

I think you need to introspect a little deeper about exactly what the "rush" is to you. When watching horror movies, am I correct in assuming that you're not rooting for the monster? If art is a model-builder, as Rand suggested, and it allows us to experience a simulation of events as if they were real, can you think of any value that you might get out of experiencing facing scary situations as if they were real?

J

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I'm a horror junkie. It does kind of suck, because usually there aren't many values to take from it. Even worse, is that this is often intentional. A lot of horror directors are ex-hippies who really hate man and capitalism, and they purposely enjoy portraying man as a victim, or as they would put it: "exposing man for his true evil nature".

Also some sub-genres are absolute trash, like slasher movies. Not only do they have nothing to take from it, they usually are full cliche's and characters that do things that are so unrealistic and un-relatable, it's not even enjoyable.

That being said, I still love them. Specifically suspense. I think one of my all time favorite franchises is SAW. Jigsaw is just such an intriguing character, even though he's evil. There are some moments in the franchise where I would actually like him. And the movies also totally nailed the "mystery/twist" aspect, so each movie made me want to watch the next one.

I guess it's like you put in your title, aesthetic value is how I would describe it.

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I'm a horror junkie. It does kind of suck, because usually there aren't many values to take from it. Even worse, is that this is often intentional. A lot of horror directors are ex-hippies who really hate man and capitalism, and they purposely enjoy portraying man as a victim, or as they would put it: "exposing man for his true evil nature".

Who are you quoting there? I'm not aware of any horror directors who have said any such thing. I can believe that there might be a director or two who would say that they hate "capitalism," but I'd also think that they'd mean something quite different than what I do when using the term. I'd be very interested in hearing of a director who specifically said that he "really hates man."

That being said, I still love them. Specifically suspense. I think one of my all time favorite franchises is SAW. Jigsaw is just such an intriguing character, even though he's evil. There are some moments in the franchise where I would actually like him. And the movies also totally nailed the "mystery/twist" aspect, so each movie made me want to watch the next one.

I guess it's like you put in your title, aesthetic value is how I would describe it.

I like that you brought this thread's title into the discussion where the original poster didn't -- his title mentions "aesthetic value," but then the content of his post questions only the moral value of horror movies.

J

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I like that you brought this thread's title into the discussion where the original poster didn't -- his title mentions "aesthetic value," but then the content of his post questions only the moral value of horror movies.

J

Well, aesthetics is an expression of ethical values. So yes I should have questioned the ethical value of horror rather than the morality of it.

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In good horror fiction, the monsters are just a dramatic device, not the focus of the story. The focus is the protagonists (their choices and character), just like in any other fiction. (a good example of that is the AMC show The Walking Dead, or the movie Zombieland)

Edited by Nicky

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1) I play a lot of Horror rollplaying games, but I think a lot of people play those games out of a "Challenged Accepted!" kind of notion, rather than wanting to surrender to the tropes of the setting. Almost everyone roles their eyes at the "You go crazy and die" kind of play style now. Phyrric Victories and Fatalistic Heroes are the norm now.

When the investigator punches a daemon prince to death, its kind of cool, because the book/storyteller told you weren't supposed to do that, but you did.

2) Horror is a very complicated Genre. I often question the morals and personality of people who watch movies like Cannibal Hollacaust (popular during my highschool year, one of my friends vomited while watching it apparently). Where as Ghost stories are usually mysteries that explore the emotion of guilt, and the concepts of revenge and injustice. Vampire stories on the other hands involve the fear of intrigue, violence, and sex.

I wouldn't pass some blanket judgement on the genre as a whole.

Edited by Hairnet

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Well, aesthetics is an expression of ethical values. So yes I should have questioned the ethical value of horror rather than the morality of it.

No, aesthetics is the study of the nature of art, beauty and taste. It is not necessarily an expression of ethical values. Besides, even Objectivism doesn't see art as primarily expressing ethical values, but metaphysical values.

J

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No, aesthetics is the study of the nature of art, beauty and taste. It is not necessarily an expression of ethical values.

Well, values presuppose an alternative. Only living organisms face an alternative. So, unless your art is an expression of plant or animal values (can't think of a single example, feel free to provide me with one), it's an expression of human values. And human values are ethical values. That's what Ethics is, the study of human values.

Or maybe your art is not an expression of values at all. Not sure what it's good for then (well, I am, actually: it's not good, by definition).

Besides, even Objectivism doesn't see art as primarily expressing ethical values, but metaphysical values.

J

If by metaphysical values you are referring to a sense of life, I don't think just saying "metaphysical values" is going to communicate that to someone. I head to go asearchin' too.

Besides, the only distinction between personal moral values and what you're referring to (if this is what you're referring to) is in scope. Personal values refer to what is good and important for the individual, "metaphysical values" to what is good and important for man in general.

Edited by Nicky

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Well, values presuppose an alternative. Only living organisms face an alternative. So, unless your art is an expression of plant or animal values (can't think of a single example, feel free to provide me with one), it's an expression of human values. And human values are ethical values. That's what Ethics is, the study of human values.

Or maybe your art is not an expression of values at all. Not sure what it's good for then (well, I am, actually: it's not good, by definition).

If by metaphysical values you are referring to a sense of life, I don't think just saying "metaphysical values" is going to communicate that to someone. I head to go asearchin' too.

Besides, the only distinction between personal moral values and what you're referring to (if this is what you're referring to) is in scope. Personal values refer to what is good and important for the individual, "metaphysical values" to what is good and important for man in general.

The "metaphysical value-judgments" Rand wrote about are what the artist personally holds to be "regarded as essential, significant, important" - about existence. These, naturally, can be good - or not - for men.

"An artist does not fake reality - he stylizes it. he selects those aspects of existence which he regards as metaphysically significant - and by isolating and stressing them [...] he presents HIS view of existence."

[Art and Sense of Life, RM]

So, in his creation, from the conceptual to the perceptual, abstraction to concrete, he is guided by his value-judgments, is my understanding.

"Cognitive abstractions are formed by the criterion of: what is ESSENTIAL? [Epistemologically, regarding the class of existents.]

Normative abstractions are formed by the criterion of: what is GOOD?

Esthetic abstractions are formed by the criterion of: what is IMPORTANT?"

[AR]

I think an artist's 'm-v-j's' and his 'sense of life' get mixed up too easily in discussions. "(A sense of life is a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and existence.)"

and also:

"A sense of life is NOT infallible. But a sense of life is the source of art, the psychological mechanism which enables man to create a realm such as art."[AR]

They are closely related, but can often be contrasting and opposed, I think. Loosely speaking, such would

be an artist with "mixed premises", I reckon.

Edited by whYNOT

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Well, values presuppose an alternative. Only living organisms face an alternative. So, unless your art is an expression of plant or animal values (can't think of a single example, feel free to provide me with one), it's an expression of human values. And human values are ethical values. That's what Ethics is, the study of human values.

I don't accept your unsupported assertion that all human values are ethical values. Neither would Rand. In her writings on aesthetics, she clearly distinguished between aesthetic and ethical values. Her position was that one need not like or agree with any ethical or metaphysical value judgments presented in an artwork in order to value its aesthetic greatness. Her position was that an artist can come from an anti-value, existence-hating, destructive mindset and his artwork can be an act of promoting pure evil, and it can still qualify as being aesthetically great by Objectivist standards, as long as it powerfully conveys the artist's views.

Or maybe your art is not an expression of values at all. Not sure what it's good for then (well, I am, actually: it's not good, by definition).

If you mean that it is not good by the Objectivist definition and criteria, then you're wrong. According to Objectivism, an artwork can express a lack of values and be considered aesthetically great. You appear to be having difficulty distinguishing between aesthetic judgments and ethical ones. I'd suggest that you read the Romantic Manifesto. Rand does a good job of explaining the difference and the separation of the two.

If by metaphysical values you are referring to a sense of life, I don't think just saying "metaphysical values" is going to communicate that to someone. I head to go asearchin' too.

Are you not aware of the fact that Rand defined art a re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments?!!!

Besides, the only distinction between personal moral values and what you're referring to (if this is what you're referring to) is in scope. Personal values refer to what is good and important for the individual, "metaphysical values" to what is good and important for man in general.

Um, you appear to have very little knowledge of the Objectivist position on this subject, which seems to be pretty common among Objectivish types. I really would suggest that you study up on it before continuing to fight against Objectivism while mistakenly assuming that you're defending it.

J

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In good horror fiction, the monsters are just a dramatic device, not the focus of the story. The focus is the protagonists (their choices and character), just like in any other fiction. (a good example of that is the AMC show The Walking Dead, or the movie Zombieland)

That's true. And not just the characters and actions of the protagonists, but also the theme and plot.

I enjoyed the series "Supernatural", which might sound strange coming from an atheist. It has many elements of romanticism: Sam and Dean Winchester teaming up against conniving angels and nasty demons, and using all their guile and courage to save the world (what else? can't get bigger than that).

Value of life versus nihilism, as the theme.

Once you grant the basic suspension of belief - poetic licence - that man's mind can battle mystical

powers, and prevail. And that all their efforts were not predetermined by God, anyway...

Hey, you gotta take your romantic art wherever you find it nowadays.

(The show started getting too repetitious lately, and a bit silly - but at its height it was very good.)

Edited by whYNOT

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That's true. And not just the characters and actions of the protagonists, but also the theme and plot.

I enjoyed the series "Supernatural", which might sound strange coming from an atheist. It has many elements of romanticism: Sam and Dean Winchester teaming up against conniving angels and nasty demons, and using all their guile and courage to save the world (what else? can't get bigger than that).

Value of life versus nihilism, as the theme.

Once you grant the basic suspension of belief - poetic licence - that man's mind can battle mystical

powers, and prevail. And that all their efforts were not predetermined by God, anyway...

Hey, you gotta take your romantic art wherever you find it nowadays.

(The show started getting too repetitious lately, and a bit silly - but at its height it was very good.)

If people are looking for a fix of heroism, they might consider trying to be more sensitive to the psychological subtleties of artworks that they like but are worried about liking, such as those in the horror genre, and they might try to reflect a little deeper on their own psychological responses to it, preferably without the pressure, guilt and eagerness for self-condemnation that Objectivists often seem to bring to such self-reflections. A good place to start would be to work on recognizing the fact that the absense of a heroic character does not mean that the art lacks heroism, or that it is nihilism, anti-man, etc. Such art comes from the tradition of inspiring in the reader or viewer the will to resist and to adhere to his highest principles. In effect, it is design to make the reader or viewer the hero.

J

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That's true. And not just the characters and actions of the protagonists, but also the theme and plot.

I enjoyed the series "Supernatural", which might sound strange coming from an atheist. It has many elements of romanticism: Sam and Dean Winchester teaming up against conniving angels and nasty demons, and using all their guile and courage to save the world (what else? can't get bigger than that).

Value of life versus nihilism, as the theme.

Once you grant the basic suspension of belief - poetic licence - that man's mind can battle mystical

powers, and prevail. And that all their efforts were not predetermined by God, anyway...

Hey, you gotta take your romantic art wherever you find it nowadays.

(The show started getting too repetitious lately, and a bit silly - but at its height it was very good.)

Don't worry about it. Enjoy!

I am a big fan of Howard's Conan series even with it's supernatural and dark world themes exactly because the hero is that - A hero. He has his values, he is larger than life, he kicks ass, and gets the girl.

As for horror - I enjoyed the game Doom 3 exactly because it was a horror game that you could win. It wasn't pretty but blowing up demons with a rocket launcher shouldn't be pretty.

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Who are you quoting there? I'm not aware of any horror directors who have said any such thing. I can believe that there might be a director or two who would say that they hate "capitalism," but I'd also think that they'd mean something quite different than what I do when using the term. I'd be very interested in hearing of a director who specifically said that he "really hates man."

Ok, you may be right, perhaps I exaggerated. "Hates capitalism" is definitely there. But there is a documentary on Netflix which interviews dozens of top shelf horror directors like Wes Craven, George Romero, and I believe John Carpenter. Throughout the documentary, many of them describe the motives behind their stories, and anti-corporatism and consumerism is for sure mentioned. But if memory serves me right, I'm pretty sure a couple of them mentioned how in their movies they wanted to show the real truth of "human nature", or something like that. Implying that inside we are ugly.

I'm sorry, this is a terrible reply, I have no definite quotes nor can I even remember the name of the movie. I just remember watching and being pretty disappointed at hearing such influential directors whom I liked, saying such negative things about man. If i can recall the title I'll tell you.

Edited by CptnChan

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According to the movie Scream there are certain rules for surviving a horror movie

 

Scream

Rules to succesfully survive a horror movie:

  • You may not survive the movie if you have sex.
  • You may not survive the movie if you drink or do drugs.
  • You may not survive the movie if you say "I'll be right back", "Hello?" or "Who's there?"
Scream 2

Rules to succesfully survive a horror movie sequel:

  • "Never, ever, under any circumstances assume the killer is dead."
Scream 3

Rules to succesfully survive the last chapter of a horror movie trilogy:

  • "You've got a killer who’s gonna be superhuman. Stabbing him won’t work, shooting him won’t work. Basically in the third one, you gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up."
  • "Anyone, including the main character, can die.
  • "The past will come back to bite you in the ass. Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it. The past is not at rest! Any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you."

Scream 4

 

Rules to succesfully survive a horror movie remake:

  • Virgins can die now.
  • If you want to survive in a modern day horror movie, you pretty much have to be gay.

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