Subtle distinctions in genres

In the summer when all my regular TV shows are on hiatus, I start looking around for shows I haven’t watched.  I finally got around to watching Supernatural and I’m up to the first episodes of season 2 (no spoilers, please!).  I’ve never been a horror fan, and while watching the show that explores all the tropes and trappings of horror, I have been discovering why.


Horror uses a lot of the things I love- good against evil, action, monsters, struggling against odds, characters discovering inner strengths and plot twists.  There are elements like time travel, magic, occasional space ships, psychic powers, swords and big explosions.  The subtle distinction between horror and the sister genres of science fiction and fantasy is the tone.  You can have a science fiction horror, like Alien.  You can have a Fantasy horror, like       Army of Darkness.  What makes it horror?  The emotion it is trying to evoke.  Horror is dealing with gut emotions, usually negative ones.  Fear, anger, despair, disgust and loss.  Even when the goodguys win at the end, you wonder at the cost and consider it to be survival, not triumph.  I’d say the movie Serenity is horror, even though I’d say Firefly wasn’t as a whole. I’m not sure if Buffy was horror, even though it dealt with classic horror tropes.

It’s not the body-count that makes something horror.  It’s not how powerful the monsters or obstacles are.  I think in other genres, like action, mystery, thriller, science fiction and fantasy, the tone is about struggle leading to more struggle that finally leads to triumph.  It’s about hope, excitement and purpose.  I don’t like to be startled.  I don’t like feeling afraid.  I can watch gory things, but I don’t want to see things that evoke nausea and revulsion.  I feel the same way about drama- I don’t want to watch a show or a movie or read a book whose sole purpose is to make me cry, feel ashamed or guilty.  It might be informative and explore the human condition, but  I don’t entertain myself by witnessing another person’s tragedies.

That being said, and in spite of the “dead damsel in distress” trope, I will continue to watch Supernatural.  Going into 8 seasons?  Hoo boy.

I could be off-base here.  I’d love to start a discussion.


2 Replies to “Subtle distinctions in genres”

  1. I have to agree both with not being a huge horror fan and why. Though I never really took the time to think about it; stories, movies, RPGs that have body counts and survivors instead of victors tend to turn me away.

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