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The Paradox Of Horror: The Most Feasible Theory Of Why Some People Like Horror Movies

1767 words - 8 pages

Every year Cinemas are flooded with new horror movies to which people line up and pay to spend two hours biting their lips, covering their eyes, and shrinking away in fear. This observation is thoroughly perplexing as it is reasonable to assume that people would aim to avoid things which cause them distress, and thus has come to be referred to as the paradox of horror. This phenomenon justly commands attention in philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and sociology as understanding it would provide insight into the human psyche and cognitive processes. The most reasonable theories that serve to explain the paradox of horror, or why people would actively seek out horror movies which produce ...view middle of the document...

In this way, the horror movie which initially conjures up and brings to the surface the aforementioned emotions and desires gives way to pleasure by providing a socially acceptable means of escape, thus overshadowing the initial unpleasantness associated with the horror film.
Alternatively to the psychoanalytical premise, one of the leading figures in contemporary philosophy of art, Noel Carroll, has garnered much attention and support for his “fascination theory” as an explanation as to why people like horror. Fascination theory asserts that although people do not enjoy the negative emotions that watching horror films give rise to, they continue watching because of their curiosity and fascination towards the film, therefore the pleasure and satisfaction the individual experiences by watching a horror film is the result of having their curiosity both stimulated and satisfied by the story. Carroll credits the ability of horror films to inspire curiosity and fascination to their inherent plot structure and the monsters that are often featured within the films. Horror movie plots are often ones of discovery, in that the movie goes through phases in which questions are posed— such as whether there is a monster or not, how to defeat the monster, or whether or not the hero will survive the battle—and later disclosed as the plot develops. In this manner, the film manages to pique and sustain the curiosity of the audience until there is nothing left to reveal and the movie is concluded. This theory also states that the monster featured in the film serves to generate fascination as well, because the monster by virtue is an anomaly, whether it is an other-worldly beast or a human with unhuman characteristics or abilities. Essentially, the fascination theory of why people like horror postulates that while horror movies produce fear and disgust, they simultaneously produce fascination and curiosity, and that by having questions disclosed throughout the movie the viewer gains pleasure from having their curiosity sated; therefore the positive effects of viewing horror outweigh the negative and the experience can be described as pleasurable.
Both the psychoanalytical and fascination theories share common ground in that they claim that people attending horror movies do not actually enjoy being scared but that they do so because watching the movie produces some positive effect that ultimately outweighs the negativity of the experience of fear. Enjoyment theory however, rejects this notion completely and asserts that people watch horror movies because they can enjoy being scared and disgusted. This approach contrasts the psychoanalytical and fascination theories in that it does not intrinsically treat fear as a negative emotion, but instead asserts that fear can be a positive emotion and therefore people sometimes enjoy being scared. In this manner, watching a horror movie can be considered a type of sensation-seeking behavior in that the motivation behind...

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