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.