They say that art reflects life.
Sometimes, I hope they are wrong. But, trends in fiction and entertainment do seem to follow patterns, and reflect the society they depict. In our current events, that reflection includes a higher readership for New Adult fiction, hard erotica and horror.
This uptick may mean nothing; or it may reflect simply the emergence of a highly digital generation. I recently discovered an article, The Lure of Horror, that discussed the psychology of these emerging trends.
With regard to age, there’s a suggestion that enjoyment rises through childhood, peaks in adolescence and then gradually fades with age. Related to this is the ‘snuggle theory’ – the idea that viewing horror films may be a rite of passage for young people, providing them with an opportunity to fulfill (sp) their traditional gender roles.
That connection could explain why the emerging market of new adult and young adult readers are pulling horror back into the spotlight. There appears to be an age factor, and there is a gender factor with studies showing men enjoy horror more than women and more when women are exhibiting fear or dismay. A throwback to those cave man instincts, perhaps.
Is a Zombie ever just a zombie?
As a writer, I really doubt it. We all tend toward themes in our writing because we all have that something, I think, we want to say. Writers are the mirror society holds up to itself. I tend toward themes of social and economic inequality in my worlds, of people being put into positions of making hard social choices with bad options. It reflects my experience of the world around me. I live in a poverty ravaged part of the mid-South, so I find myself surrounded with that social problem every day.
Horror may more accurately reflect our fears as human beings than we like to admit. The fear of being food, the fear of “other”, the fear of our own human nature or the nature around us could be the key to our rising interest in horror. It could also be explained by something even more human, the pleasure/pain response. The chemical kick combined with the crash afterward makes that a distinct possibility.
Likewise, science fiction has traditionally been a voice of warning, a proselytizing of the potential suffering of the future. In the toasters of Galactica, we see the warning of the singularity event that could allow AI to break free of human control, a distinct possibility scientifically. Orwell’s 1984 warned of future events. In disaster movies, both realistic and Sharknado, we see our fear of the elements and our world played before us, and, for some reason, we like it.
So, Let’s get it on.
Erotica has also taken a turn veering hard left, from the days of purple prose splayed out for all the world to infer sex from rather than experience it, to a new breed of hardcore writing that not only displays very human kink, but one that is glorious in its many and varied wonders, quite graphically. Again, here we see the result of loosening moral taboos in our society, but, as with the other emerging genres, we see a burgeoning anything goes market which I think will one day settle back into a sweet spot somewhere just this side of “in your face” taboo. That’s my guess. I have no numbers on that.
Our biggest sexual hang ups tend to come from our religious norms. As we normalize and change as a society, it’s just possible our conflicting attitudes on sex and violence will normalize into something different. It seems likely to me, in fact.
Fiction allows us to try on events, even run mental simulations of them. If we use our fiction to process our deepest insecurity, it stands to reason that society will work those out as individuals do. Or not. Who knows?
In the meantime, as writers, do we continue to hold up that mirror? I think we must. Each of us has a reflection that allows others to process their own fears and feelings. And, there is no doubt that we are creatures of the physical, so that our biological responses at the very least inform our feelings. At most, they directly cause them. As we write fiction, we tap into that well. I believe it is our instinct to communicate our feelings to each other, no matter how tightly wound the societal norms. On some level, we all need to talk things out. It’s my opinion that fiction and entertainment is where we process everything and communicate our fears to each other, possibly seeking either acceptance or solutions.
We’re human. I think it’s what we do.