Pasadena City College
Horror Films and Mass Media in the United States:
A Preliminary Analysis of
“I hate television”
Horror films are a particularly reviled cinematic genre in the United States, they are
nevertheless consistently successful in the box office.
Success, of course, is no measure of
quality, but it does serve as a generalized measure of popular interest into disturbing themes and
trends in society.
The popularity of Horror films revolves chiefly around their ability to surface
these deep, and largely unconscious cultural anxieties.
By nature, horror films engage cultural taboos concerning sex, violence, and death.
such, they make great vehicles for critical analysis into the general collective unconscious
society at a particular point in time. By revealing an especially unflattering portrait of human
nature, horror films act as mirror for repression
One recurrent theme in Horror films is the collective impact of mass media on both the
individual and on society.
was released in 1982 at the onset of the mass
media explosion of the 1980’s, and it introduced audiences to an all-American type family
named the Freelings who lived in a California bedroom community called Cuesta Verde.
, the Freelings represent a prosperous American family with all the modern
technological conveniences including three television sets.
One night, however, the youngest
daughter Carol Anne (5) begins to hear voices coming from the family room television.
eerie opening scene, she looks deep into the television snow and begins to carry on a
conversation with an unseen force on the other side of the tube.
In that particular scene, horror emerges from the uncanny
reversal of the television
medium itself. By nature, the television set talks to its audience, it does not listen.
By staging a
dialogue between Carol Anne and the television set,
destabilizes the television
monologue and transforms it into a threatening presence, albeit one that is completely
camouflaged in TV snow.
This dialogue destroys the common perception that television is a passive medium of
entertainment, suggesting that it constitutes an active agency for manipulation and control.
focusing on Carol Anne, the scene further alludes to the indiscriminate nature of television
programming that targets viewers indiscriminate of their age and reasoning capacities.
anxieties concerning the influence of mass media are thus visualized in blunt and dramatic terms.
A strong parallel can be found in the more contemporary horror film called
The central thesis of