Editorial: On the Cannibalistic Nature of Horror Fandom

Carrie - PJ SolesHere’s how it was in high school. I wasn’t exactly the most popular kid, but I wasn’t the loner either. As far as clique-status went, I got around (not in that way, pervs) and I had select friends in every group.

But as far as my love for the horror genre was concerned, I was the misfit. 

No one understood the appeal of it for me. Cheerleader Annie Thomas, during finals of my sophomore year, saw a copy of Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” and a copy of Fangoria sitting on my desk and snickered with “That vampire stuff is weird – why do you read that?” (Can you tell I was a total chick magnet then?)

It wasn’t until my senior year I brought a few pals into the horror fold when I showed them Evil Dead II and Dead Alive. They were quickly converted and were eager to venture out on opening night to see Army of Darkness with me. Still, these were not “let’s go to the horror convention”-type dudes, they were casual horror fans, so my misfit status remained in check.

In the years following high school, once I stepped out into the world, I realized there were other horror misfits like myself – thanks to conventions and the advent of “The Internet” with its message boards and sites driven by Geocities. We’d trade rare prints of films on VHS and talk about the latest releases. We were fans being fans – a pack of misfits unified by horror recognizing that we didn’t conform but were content that we surrounded ourselves with folks who dug the genre and could talk about it passionately and intelligently.

But something’s gone wrong, guys. Something is broken.

Horror fandom is cannibalizing itself more than ever. Fans are lashing out in all of the wrong ways. They’re eating their own. Misfits turning on misfits. And I’m not talking about trolls, mind you. I’m talking about fans who can carry a conversation beyond “you suck” and are consumed with superiority complexes and lack the understanding that we’re all in this love for the horror genre together.

I see it on Twitter and Facebook and comment boards. Hell, I’ve witnessed this behavior in person. Recently, I’ve see one person’s opinion incite a Twitter lynch mob with needless snark that was out to, essentially, shame that horror fan for expressing their thoughts. Fans like this don’t make the horror genre fun. Without recognizing it, they’re tantamount to “cheerleader Annie Thomas” snobbishly looking down on their fellow horror fans and questioning “why would you even like that stuff?” 

Look, I’m all for playful jokes. I dish it and I take it. Shit, stand in my shoes during a night of Dead Right Horror Trivia where I stand on the stage once a month and face over 70 horror fans who are all ready to call shenanigans if I make a slip-up. But there’s a difference between friendly joking and consistent asshole behavior during a conversation that could be engaging and fun and sans elitist nonsense. If you’re engaged in a discussion with someone who knows less than you? Don’t shame them for it. They happen to like one film or series that you despise? Who cares? Stand by the films you love. Sure, you might not see eye-to-eye on certain films with fellow fans, but horror has such a strong bond and is so tight…guess what? I’m sure you’ll connect over a specific movie or nostalgic moment or sub-genre.

Keep horror fun, is the bottom line.

Don’t be a jerk – there’s nothing to gain from that. We’re living in a pretty incredible time for the genre. There’s a lot more available to fans now than there were when I was that kid toting around a backpack of Fangoria magazines and a VHS copy of Evil Dead II. There’s a lot to celebrate, so let’s celebrate it without the bullshit.

  • PMD2

    I have never been on the receiving end of such venom as when I criticized The Walking Dead, which is a mediocre show at its best, in the comments section on another site. Dozens of people lashed out and resorted to all kinds of name-calling. None responded to my complaints and tried engaging in an adult conversation. I post on several different sites covering TV and movies, and no one has been as vicious as Walking Dead diehards.

    • Philip Suson

      Same thing happened to me with The Walking Dead as well as with Game of Thrones. I gave my reasoning for both of them not being my cup of tea, and got called a hater. It got so bad that I quit the facebook group that I was a part off, mind you this was a group made for talking about MOVIES and not TELEVISION.

    • Billy Bob Throrton

      you’re not wrong.
      the show owes alot to soap opera
      Thats weird you got that reaction, I have too,if you attack a “sacred cow” the reaction is a mix of a brainwashing victim being woken up and a mob mentality.
      If you even imply someone is wrong you get called Troll,but the internet has so much misinformation….

      • PMD2

        I was taken aback by it. Obviously based on the ratings, I know a lot of people are watching it, but I had no idea how passionate its most ardent fans are, and how sensitive they are about even mild criticism. It’s not like I said “it’s the worst show ever” or anything like that.

        • Billy Bob Throrton

          haha taken aback.
          its the most watched show on cable is the thing.When u have a kitchen sink ammount of fans theres bound to be how youtube blew up and now their comments are crazier than any other site

          i can just imagine the warzone u faced,damn.

          • PMD2

            Yeah I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I didn’t realize so many people think it’s that good, like flawless or damn close to it. I figured they were like me, genre fans watching out of obligation because it’s a violent zombie show on TV. Clearly that is not the case for a lot of people. They believe it is a truly great show.

      • Gabbi Cordero

        sacred cow is exactly right. it can do no wrong. i remember someon jumped into a conversation i had with my friend on facebook and was pretentious as humanly possible. i merely stated the valid criticism that “it wouldn’t make sense that michonne’s mouthess zombies don’t attack her if the zombie heads in the fishtanks still tried to feed”

        this guy starts with the whole “this must be your first season”… i’m like, “you at no point addressed the issue i raised”

    • Gabbi Cordero

      that’s the thing that i detest the most. i’m not going to go into a whole “no bullying” feel-good group therapy session but i do find it telling when a person will unload all manner of slander, curse words, and name calling but will be no means address the (legitimate) concerns raised. it’s a knee jerk reaction triggered from desperation and a childish “you bruised my ego, i’m going to mock you to set all things right”

  • Billy Bob Throrton

    if a girl said “That vampire stuff is weird – why do you read that?” I would’ve told her because you’re kinda chubby or because your nose is big and I need something to disract me.
    even hot people’s self confidence is usually on a foundation of sand.
    The f’ed up thing about high school is I was respected more for it.

    i guess i was just lucky, my gf picked Devil’s Rejects and Vodka over the prom

  • Juan Asilo

    huh i was outsider, became more of horror hound,
    since high school had friends,were into more to the splatter
    hell, will turn it into a club.3 years later stated showing film of horror
    to coffe shop,showing old, new, and bizarre. tip careful showing
    Serbia film. lot peuking, yeah that gross it got.but time started
    to change. but it was awesome ride.

  • Philip Suson

    I came from a small town that had quite a number of horror fans. Nowadays though, everything has changed and people get extremely picky and make fun of those whose tastes don’t mesh with theirs.

    I try to find something good about ALMOST every horror film I see, or any genre film for that matter, whereas there are some people who condemn movies without seeing them because of the talent behind it. I come from the mentality that unless you saw the whole movie, your opinion is based on a bias based on your views of the talent, or genre behind the film.

    Bottom line: The internet is a great place to meet, talk, and joke around with people that like similar things, but at the same time it allows those with a bias to creep in and try and ruin the fun for everyone else.

    • K. Lee Adams

      Well said. I agree. I, too, try to find something good in everything I see. Sometimes it’s very difficult ( a recent example – Leprechaun: Origins is so horrid but the least I can give it is that the acting isn’t bad) but I definitely try.

  • Adam Lima

    Well said, Ryan! :)

  • Brian VonDerahe

    I liken it to road rage. People who have something bothering them lash out in a way that is easy. You don’t have to look someone in the eye when posting a nasty comment. When I read said comments I wonder what’s going on with that individual in their personal life that is lending itself to that kind of reaction…or I don’t wonder and ignore it. Anyhoo…good article and hopefully the happy-go-lucky commenting will outweigh the negative crap.

  • Steve King

    First, I would like to also say well said Ryan.

    Second, I consider myself to be somewhere between the casual fan and the die hard fan. I have to say that my experiences with horror fans have luckily been mostly positive. Now I say this as someone whose background in fandom is deeply rooted in comic books. From my perspective this is a far bigger issue in the comics scene. There are large looming issues of severe cynicism, childish antics amongst fans (both in public and online), and outright shitty treatment of anyone trying to get into and enjoy comics. I’m not even going to go into the gender issues and harassment they are dealing with right now. I should also mention that I stopped posting on comics boards over ten years ago. This is the first place I’ve posted in a long time. And I just started that a month or two ago. I really hope Ryan’s editorial gets noticed and people take stock of he way they interact with other fans because I would hate to see horror fandom become as ugly as the comic book crowds tend to go.

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  • josephthered

    Really good article here. There is way too much negativity and hate out there at this point. I enjoy talking about movies online but some comments are just infuriating. People have opinions and (gasp) they may be different than yours. On the flip side of that, it bugs me when someone feels their opinion is superior. You can provide reasons for your opinion but don’t get upset at me for disagreeing. I’ll never knock someone for having different taste in movies than me. Besides, you’re not going to convince me to dislike something I already enjoy, flawed or otherwise. I’m also very lenient when it comes to movies. Basically, a movie has to fail pretty hard for me to use the cliched “worst movie ever” line. I could probably come up with one but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be a horror movie.

  • Dakotah Stricker

    well i can’t say i’ve met a fan of horror who ever criticized me at all..Well then again I literally love everything horror has to offer I don’t really have a specific interest in the genre I love it as a whole and consume myself with it