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From Stephen King to Slenderman: Why the Horror Genre Is Especially Horrible for Women

June 12, 2014 in Blogs

By Anne Elizabeth Moore, Salon

Sex with a faceless demon? No thanks.

When two 12-year-old girls went to court last week for the attempted murder of a third — ostensibly to appease a mythological creature — the horror genre came under the American spotlight once again.

The three girls knew each other from Horning Middle School in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee, where the alleged stabbers claimed the crime was an attempt to become proxies of the mythic Slenderman, an online horror meme. The girls clearly have problems distinguishing truth from reality, but police heard their tale as one of causation. Even as the victim recovered from 19 real-world stab wounds, police named an accomplice in the crime: the World Wide Web, aka an online horror cult. “Unmonitored and unrestricted access to the Internet by children is a growing and alarming problem,” the Waukesha police chief told reporters. “This should be a wake-up call for parents. Parents are strongly encouraged to restrict and monitor their children’s Internet usage.”

Parents did, expressing particular concern for girls’ online behavior. Some told theMilwaukee Journal-Sentinel they would closely monitor daughters’ Internet activities, a defensive gesture that loses meaning if we peek at the school’s library. There, horror, fantasy and sci-fi titles — many aimed at girls — all encourage kids to read offline. Further complicating the call for parental monitoring is that one of the alleged stabbers’ parents seems to have been a horror fan himself. Who’s to monitor taste?

Experts weighed in. MIT professor Sherry Turkle characterized the attempted murder as “a tragic story about our vulnerability to a medium where the lines between what’s real and what’s a game are blurred” in the Wall Street Journal. She added that we — society — aren’t providing “enough guidance” for 12-year-olds to determine right from wrong “when a website tells them to kill someone.” Of course, the same complaints were lodged almost 30 years ago against the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. It, too, blurred the lines between reality and fantasy. It also instilled a whole generation with the dominant gene for Harry Potter fandom.

It’s easy to downplay such a stance …read more


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