Is Horror Even Possible in a Jaded Age?
As my cinema professor used to always say, cynicism is the antidote of the arts. Now, we thought that he was just being pretentious. We thought he was just being kind of highfalutin and making mountains out of a molehill. In other words, being typical rebellious late teen college students, we didn't really take him all that seriously.
But as I got older and as I got more exposed to different kinds of art forms, the more I realized that my cinema professor was actually spot on. Seriously. It was as if he was Nostradamus or some sort of prophet.
But this should not surprise me. After all, Mark Twain said, as he grew older, his parents became wiser. In other words, when you're a teenager, you are very arrogant.
You think that you know everything. You don't want your parents to tell you otherwise. You think you've figured everything out. But as you get older, you become humbler because you start realizing that you don't know everything. You start realizing that you have to actually engage with reality to see reality.
This is a very humbling feeling because there is no preset template, mind you. It's not like you have some sort of handbook that you read to know your way around reality. This way, you know everything about it coming in. It doesn't work that way. And that's why it really blew my mind that a lot of the things that my parents were advising me about turned out to be absolutely correct.
Now, when they first gave me that advice, I did not want to hear any of it. Seriously. I couldn't care less. But now that I'm older and I'm a parent, boy were they absolutely correct. Money doesn't grow on trees; If people told you to jump off a bridge, are you going to join them? You know, basic advice.
And it really is sad that we have to go through a phase where we disbelieve this stuff. It would have been awesome if we just trusted our parents the first time around. We probably would have saved ourselves a tremendous amount of grief.
Well, the same applies to cynicism because my professor was absolutely correct because if you are skeptical and cynical all the time and you think that the world is just one giant tired cliche, then it's going to be very hard to get scared.
Why? Because it's part of a pattern. And you've seen that pattern before and you think that it's bogus or worthless or shallow, it's going to be very hard to scare you because you always have this idea that, "I've been there, done that."
And to a large extent, being jaded is the antithesis of being scared. Because horror is only possible when it's possible for you to be afraid. If you are so jaded and so let down by life, you feel that you've lost everything. Now, this is a problem because the essence of fear is the threat of loss.
Think about it, why would you be afraid of a bear that shows up out of nowhere and threatens to mangle you if you're not afraid to lose your life? Why would you be afraid that your girlfriend is seeing her ex-boyfriend if you're not afraid to lose her? Do you get my point? There's nothing to be scared about and there's nothing to worry about if you have made peace with the idea of loss.
And in a jaded age where people are so cynical, they feel that they've already lost. If they don't believe that there is such a thing as love, if they don't believe that there is such a thing as the truth, if they don't believe that there is such a thing as a society or a range of values worth fighting for, then they've lost.
How do you connect with those people? How do you scare those people? You can't.
And that's why my professor is absolutely correct. Skepticism is the death of believability. It's the death of art. Because horror is not possible when you're dealing with somebody who assumes that things are lost. What's there to lose? What's there to be scared about? Crazy, right?
But believe me, this is actually very practical because we have this creeping social cynicism that is boiling over in Western Europe, the United States, and spreading to the rest of the world. It really too bad because it really is tantamount to telling kids that Santa Claus is a fake and a fraud and they have no business believing in him.
Believe me, fear, as unpleasant as it may be in many contexts, is also part of life. You have that emotion for a reason.