The end of Halloween and the genuinely frightening FX show American Horror Story – in which a family heavily interacts with ghosts spanning the generations, where horror began with an abortionist doing his own Frankenstein-type experiments – has provoked the following somewhat disparate thoughts…The sources of horror are really fascinating. Through human hubris, and the ancient desire for man to be as god, we see the source of the most horrifying form of horror as a reaction to radical self-autonomy, particularly in the sexual realm. Sexual intimacy, in other words, will always have consequence – and there never is an exception, no matter how sterile humans try to make themselves. Horror is, in part, a revulsion to excess. Without Enlightenment “morality,” there is no horror. The source of mayhem is sexual liberation. Sterility – contraception, abortion, homosexuality included – is on some level horrific. To remove the consequences of sex (human life) from the act itself is to engage in horror. To fictionalize this truth is to provide fright to an audience that also, on some level, realizes the true source of horror. To consider the show American Horror Story – abortion and the bad results of “re-creating” life are very clearly the sources of the haunted house. Such actions are presented as horrible and with horrible consequences – especially guilt. The characters are like Mary Shelley, a victim of her revolutionary husband who spent the rest of her life creatively coming to grips with her youthful choices. Or consider vampirism. This is a “satanic” (meaning sterility and death) inversion of the Christian order (life through Logos). Man “achieves” immortality through immorality and by infecting others – this is Stoker’s creative response to his syphilis, the fruit of his sexual “emancipation.” And so to step outside of the moral order is to find horror. Here we find the results of lust without restraint. This theme is a common element, from the heights of Dracula and Frankenstein to middling fare such American Horror Story to cultural pollutants such as slasher and gore films, where the ex-virgin is going to die. “Sexual liberation” leads to consequence and remorse, a near-universal experience, sadly. This, in the hands of the creative, is quite capable of striking fear into the hearts of an audience. The Marquis de Sade understood and embraced the consequences of spurning the moral order, which is why he is a terrifying, and terrifyingly effective, author. If “liberty” is used not to act in accordance to reason, but to gratify passion, and especially sterile passion, then the very act of attaining such “liberty” makes one in the thrall of the gratified passion. Sexual passion released from the moral order and from the consequence of life leads to murder, terror, and death. The genius of the Enlightenment project was to make passion an instrument of control. Horror is, on the whole, an expression of revolt.
Sunday, November 13, 2011, 1:41 PM