Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Horror movies

I really dislike horror movies, often feeling rather sick when I watch them; they're sort of like a miniature form of torture. (While I don't have mirror-touch synesthesia, I do probably have stronger mirror neuron firing than most other movie viewers?) But I think I generally feel more revulsion against pain afterwards than before. Just the few horror movies I have seen are probably somewhat responsible for my general disposition of wanting to prevent suffering.

It's interesting that a stereotypical horror movie watcher is perhaps the opposite of this: The usual image of such a person is a young person, probably male, and probably somewhat macho. It's also likely that watching horror movies repeatedly leads to desensitization. So a strategy of aiming to make people care more about suffering by promoting extensive consumption of horror movies would probably backfire.

Watching disgusting films is a unique experience that has made me a slightly different person from who I otherwise would be. This isn't surprising, perhaps, because apart from being a victim of violence or torture oneself, there are no other ways to encounter cruelty so graphically and forcefully. I wonder: What other human experiences are similarly powerful, to the extent that I should seek them out in order to broaden my perspective on the world?


  1. Confined isolation seems to be much more intense and disorienting than people tend to imagine. Here is a link to a recent BBC documentary that you may want to track down:


  2. Do you view emotional pain as suffering worth understanding, or is your pain fetish restricted to physical pain?

  3. Hi Anonymous. I do care about emotional suffering as well (and I do wish I knew more about it). In practice, I think it's probably the case that it makes sense to focus on physical suffering because there's just a lot more of it out there -- I would guess that a lot of animal suffering is physical, and the amount of animal suffering, at least on earth but plausibly throughout the universe, outnumbers human suffering by several orders of magnitude.

    Of course, if hell exists and only humans can go there, I suppose the opposite would be true. But a lot of the pain of a (fiery) hell would be physical anyway.

  4. I just watch the news for 10 or 15 minutes, and that's usually enough to bring it home. Plus you get to see another aspect of the inanity of the human situation, as some anorexic broadcaster moves facilely from airplane crash to the dog that plays frisbee without a blink (donning the appropriate, shifting facial expressions, of course).