My fiancé once told me that horror films speak more on the times than any other genre of film. I asked him to explain himself further and he discribed to me that horror films often show us what people of a particular generation are most afraid of, and similar themes repeated are a result of that trend. If this statement is mostly true, we seek lots of serial killers and serial rapists, torturers and the tortured, and personally tormented souls as antagonists. If anything, most of horror films repeat a common theme throughout generations…people are afraid of the mentally ill.
Most serial killers, torturers, and antagonists in horror films have seriously warped mentalities, usually caused by some kind of trauma, because they have some kind of personality disorder, or they have become part of some kind of agenda that has induced a kind of mental illness (which can actually happen, repeated behaviors like traumas, brainwashing as abuse, and even poverty have been proven to chemically alter the brain) with some exceptions of course. I’ll be bold enough to say, because someone really needs to say it, that almost every if not every, main antagonist in horrorfilm is a sick person….literally sick. Mentally sick. I feel like very few can argue with me on that, and if you can I’d like to hear it because I’m facinated by this subject, and I’d like to understand it more.
You would think that this kind of thing would make people sad more than scared. That people would see the back stories and the destructive cries for help and be able to empathize with the potential a person has to become so extremely destructive. Or at the very least recognize that the individual was sick, and not getting help, or being neglected, abused, or just so very broken and desperate and didn’t know how express themselves or wasn’t able to recognize when they went too far. In some cases I think film does this, but unfortunately in most cases, the point of most horror films is for the audience not to empathize with the antagonist, but to come to hate/fear them…and even love to hate/fear them. Even if the director wanted to cause the audience to empathize with an antagonist, more people would say the antagonist’s actions were still not justified, and that the antagonist was pure evil and worth hating. Granted, they’re correct that the antagonist is not justified, because most people, myself included, feel that human life is sacred and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. But because of the way humans usually respond, and depending on cultural values and climates, most people would argue that people who disrespect the dignity of human life no longer are worthy of the same dignity and respect for human life (ironically). This trickles into the our reality, and projects the social climate that waters the deep seeded fear and misunderstanding of the mentally ill in our culture.
The fear we feel for the mentally ill often comes more intensely after we see desperate acts repeated in real life. Shootings in movie theaters, churches, or in schools result in mass outcries for justice and families of now criminalized mentally ill persons becoming secondary victims to their crimes. People then throw around the term “mentally ill” often after the cases and crimes have been conducted, and of course for the first time, since the term was never used to describe perpetrator before. Real life horror stories that only get worse even after the perpetrator may have committed suicide. The more revealed means the more the public is able to reinforce and even justify their misunderstanding, ignorance, and fear of mentally ill individuals. Even though most mentally ill people live healthy fulfilling lives and never actually act on extreme feelings,nor would rather self inflict harm than harm another.
I guess this all bothers me because I’m mentally ill. I’m not a killer. I’m not a horrible human. I’m not a horror film. I am however misunderstood, and have often felt extreme feelings of desperation and loneliness. I have often had issues with disrespecting the sacredness and dignity of human life, because I have wished to take my own. Having that disrespect for your own life and self can cause you to disrespect other human lives too. Not that you want to go killing people, but you wish the wicked would lose more often, and yes, you wish some people dead (even the mentally stable have wished this).
I wish people would recognize that people with mental illness are still people. Broken, devastated, and in severe cases, destructive. But still people, and maybe, people who weren’t always messed up. What the public ignores, is anyone has the capacity to do some drastic and horrible things when put in that situation that triggers desperation. Empathy, education, and help can and should be offered to try keep desperate and destructive behaviors from happening. Mental illness isn’t a horror film. It’s got it’s ups and downs, and can be different and complex levels of difficult, but worth attempting to understand and keep from sensationalizing.