Last week an article began making the rounds on social media that seemed like it either had to be a joke or was engineered entirely as a troll piece to generate outrage-fueled page views. The author, Abigail McCoy, is a writer for Glamour, and Ms. McCoy apparently has issues with horror movies. Her piece, titled "Do People Actually Enjoy Watching Horror Movies," was perfectly timed — this close to Halloween, even casual fans of the genre are usually showing more love for scare films. But McCoy doesn't buy it. In her words:
"Having an appreciation for horror films falls into the category of 'Things I Understand Exist, But Reject Wholeheartedly,' right alongside anime and micropenises."
McCoy goes along on that basic tangent for a while, also comparing her discomfort at discovering that someone she respects likes horror movies to the revulsion she feels when she hears the word "moist." Presumably she doesn't feel as "dirty and uncomfortable" when the horror fan isn't one she respects...I guess that's something to consider. So, right off the bat, it seems like Abigail McCoy is a woman bothered by lots of things — the realization some folks enjoy scary movies, the word "moist," anime and micropenises among them.
She goes on to say:
"Why do so many smart women I know claim to like horror movies? Are they just...Lying? I'll try to swallow my skepticism as I begin unpacking."
McCoy continues by explaining that her sole exposure to a horror movie was seeing The Ring once when she was 14. That experience was so traumatic that she avoided all things scary until recently, when her boyfriend suggested she watch American Horror Story. Again, that television series proved too frightening for McCoy, cementing her belief that no one could really legitimately enjoy horror films. She explains that "feeling scared is always, always a negative experience, and I don't think it's even the kind with a silver lining."
She continues along that general line until concluding "Does all of this say more about me than it does about them?
This seems like a good point for a rebuttal. Yes, Ms. McCoy, your lack of acceptance that some people...a LOT, actually...enjoy horror films, does say more about you than it does them. I don't doubt that Abigail McCoy hates being scared, and therefore doesn't enjoy horror movies — she makes that perfectly clear. But McCoy needs to understand that enjoyment of all types of art is entirely subjective, and she seems to believe that her preferences are universal. Her inability to accept that other folks might like scary films is patently ridiculous. I'm not bothered by the word "moist"; lots of people enjoy anime, and yep, horror films of all kinds have huge fan bases.
McCoy cites the fact that being scared releases endorphins, and seems to understand that people find the release of endorphins pleasant, but still rejects the very idea that horror fans really like scary movies because she doesn't. I thought about looking to research that indicates that watching horror films might offer health benefits, but then realized that those sorts of possible advantages are beside the point. It's obvious a lot of people, and yes, even smart people, enjoy scary movies, and that's the only evidence that needs to be provided to counter McCoy's elitist and dumb suggestion that either people are "lying," or that they're somehow deficient in some way because they enjoy films she doesn't.
It turns out psychologists don't have a consensus on why many people like to be scared, but it seems like a lot of folks do — at least in controlled ways such as in the fantasy environment of a horror film, or a ride on a roller coaster. These things are frightening, but unless something goes awry, they're safe, so perhaps amusement parks and scary movies are a controlled way for people to get a fear-induced adrenalin rush without putting themselves in a truly dangerous situation. To me, horror movies are also a genre that often shows us things that other films do not — the color-drenched sets in early Dario Argento films or the surreal monsters of Pan's Labyrinth exist in fantasy environments that I'm not going to get to see in the average cop drama or buddy flick.
I don't really enjoy most romantic comedies, but that doesn't mean that I think people who do are stupid or making their enthusiasm up, and occasionally a film like Practical Magic will prove entertaining to me. Horror fans tend to be passionate in ways that other film lovers are not. I doubt that huge horror conventions or long lines to see popular scary movies would exist if everyone were just feigning their enjoyment.
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Abigail McCoy comes off as a dismissive jerk who seems to think that her tastes in film are some sort of universal standard, when in reality she sounds like a particularly timid scaredy-cat who has a limited appreciation of lots of things other people find value in. She sums things up pretty well:
"Does detesting horror movies make me narrow-minded? I mean, perhaps. But I feel fine about it."
No, simply detesting horror movies doesn't make McCoy narrow-minded, but being unable to understand why other people worthy of respect might enjoy them sure does. It's hard to take a person who has her kind of attitude seriously.