Thursday, January 28, 2021 11:58

Some thoughts on moral outrage…

I continue to be amazed by some people’s responses to film, art, music and television which does not meet with their approval. Shades of disbelief; great anger; casting aspersions on the personality of anyone who participates; calls for banning orders; there are even some people who make the leap from simply disliking something – often just in concept – to considering it on a par with criminality.

Of course, people who watch horror cinema will be familiar with this. We’re aware that some people’s discomfort causes them to believe in a sort of cross-medium osmosis: watch something fictional which is violent, become guilty by proxy of awful things which occur in the real world – or even suspected of a propensity to commit them. In any ordered debate, this sort of ad hominem attack would not stand, but popular modern belief on the subject still holds sway. Horror films are immoral, and political axe-grinders are often keen to pick out controversial scenes from films in order to try and link them to real behaviours. This was at the core of the Video Nasties banned list in the early 1980s, and the same flawed reasoning exists today.

The desire to monitor, suspect and contain horror has a long pedigree. The Nazis were keen censors, and had a particular penchant for consigning horror reels to the flames. Totalitarian regimes of every kind are still doing it now; the Catholic Church, long-renowned for its attitude to anything subversive, is still enthusiastic about misrepresentation and repression. Funnily enough, none of the above have ever gone a bundle on the care, support or freedom of their people or followers. It doesn’t seem to be the case that a strict control on what can be seen/read necessarily makes the world a better place for peopleĀ  – rather, repression of the arts goes hand-in-hand with the repression of people, in a way that has never been proven on the other side of the coin despite frequent protestations to the contrary.

I believe that as long as everyone participating in a medium either as performer or audience member is a consenting adult or if not a consenting adult then not exposed to harm, then whatever they opt to create or watch is justifiable. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to like it. Many won’t. But your personal outrage, especially if it is based on very little, is not grounds to extrapolate a whole feast of assumptions about those who choose to participate. That way lies a slippery path indeed. Everyone is free to elect not to watch a particular film, or to do so and express their opinion, but beyond that – think about with what stance you are allying yourself.

So why do people create shocking, cruel, thought-provoking or frightening cinema, paintings or television? Why do we have a fascination with horror? That is for an upcoming post…

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