Every October, the act of murder is culturally glorified. We are shocked daily by reports of violent crime in our hometowns, yet around Halloween, the tolerance level for violence inexplicably, but undeniably, rises.
Allowing children to dress up in likeness of chainsaw-wielding killers becomes socially acceptable, sites of tragedies turn into profitable tourist locales, and mass murders somehow become cinematic rather than horrific. Today’s passivity for fictional violence, a phenomenon particularly noticeable in the weeks approaching Halloween, is alarming.
This is not to say that celebrating Halloween condones evil acts, or that haunted houses and horror movies should be abolished. Growing up, my neighbors and I annually built haunted mazes in my basement, and a favorite pastime with my high school friends was watching the worst-rated horror movies on Netflix. Moderately spooky thrills of the season do not cause great societal damage.
Rather, it’s the little cracks in the haunted structure that ultimately lead to the Halloween culture’s crumbling morality. Is a copious amount of graphic gore really necessary in order to give us our coveted scare? Do we need to watch others be slaughtered onscreen in movie franchises like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Saw in order to be properly entertained?
We, as a society, need to realize what we have allowed the Halloween season to become: a brief, but potentially dangerous lapse in moral standards.
Defendants of the horror genre will argue that no harm stems directly from the violent acts portrayed in movies and in haunted houses; the audience is aware that the people being attacked are actors, and that no lasting effects exist—it’s clearly all pretend.
How “pretend” is it, though, when a troubled young man kills his mother and sister after being inspired by Halloween’s Michael Meyers, like 17-year-old Jake Evans did earlier this year? When a 14-year-old boy identifies with the serial killer in American Psycho and subsequently murders his best friend, like Michael Hernandez did in 2004?
Yes, these tragic events are rare, but their pattern suggests that excessive exposure to violent crime in slasher movies and Halloween-centered activities cannot be healthy for a functioning society.
Currently, a problematic societal expectation exists. It is assumed that people will eventually become “desensitized” to the graphic images and props found in modern Halloween culture after a certain amount of exposure.
Gore, though, should be shocking, even nauseating. We are not biologically equipped with the natural ability to watch as fellow humans are unceremoniously hacked into pieces, and therefore, becoming more comfortable with such atrocities should not be a normal skill.
Though the fascination with fright is seasonal, the amount of irreparable actions highlighted by the annual Halloween frenzy has a chilling effect on our society’s level of tolerance for violent acts. We must recognize that the haunted houses and horror movies of the Halloween season create an unnerving cultural acceptance for violence.