Monday, September 10, 2007

Advertising horror

Every year about this time around Orlando the big theme parks put up billboards promoting their Halloween events. Busch Gardens in Tampa offers "Howl-O-Scream." Universal Studios has "Halloween Horror Nights." To their credit, Disney World promotes what they call "Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party."

It's those first two events that I'm talking about. The billboards are over the top this year. If I were a kid looking at those pictures, I'd freak out. I'd have nightmares. The pictures are more graphic than ever before. The "Halloween Horror Nights" billboard features Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Leatherface, the "stars" from movies like Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The show is called "Carnival of Carnage." The Busch Gardens billboard is equally frightening. I bet every time you young parents drive past those signs you have to lunge for your kids to cover their eyes.

It's irresponsible to put up billboards like that.

At the same time, it's a commentary on our culture's fascination with death. There are an amazing number of horror movies made every year in the U.S. Each one seems to get more graphic and disturbing than the one before. Many (like Saw) are unnervingly violent. What does this say about us?

The Scriptures teach that human beings fear death more than just about anything (Hebrews 2:15). So perhaps making slasher movies and creating horrible Halloween experiences are ways we try to "tame" death - confining it to the screen or to a theme park - so that we can walk out of the theater or the theme park unscathed and feel like we've beaten death after all.

But death can't be tamed. It can be beaten, but only through faith in Jesus who conquered death when he rose from the grave.

When Jesus stood by the tomb of his friend Lazarus he wept (John 11:35). He was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (John 11:33). Death made Jesus furious. Death is hell's revolt against God, a spit in the eye of the Creator who breathed life into man. Death is a sign of the curse. It's no wonder that death terrifies human beings, because it ushers them into eternity -- an eternity in which many people find no comfort or reason for hope.

So in a strange way, I think people are trying to find hope. If they can only show that death may look horrible but it's really impotent, then they can be comforted about the future. What they need is real hope, which is found only in a relationship with Jesus.


Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

I can't figure out who likes to go to horror movies and why. In any case, there was an interesting (if odd) interview on the Mars Hill Audio Journal where the author claimed that horror movies represent an artistic rejection of the program of the Enlightenment, which is certainly something that Christians should also be in favor of (cf. "A Primer on Modernities").

Anna said...

I agree with you about the billboards being over the top. Evie (2 years old, mind you) loves to look at and point out billboards as we drive. As I approached one near our house that we use as a marker to let her know we're almost home, I said, "Oh look, Evie, the billboard has changed," but as we got closer and I saw what it was, I had to say, " Actually, don't look at that one. There's a yucky guy on it." So now she's always talking about the yucky guy and if he's clean yet! But, it's SO disturbing that my small child has to be exposed to such filth just by looking out her window.

Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

There used to be another over-the-line billboard over across from Boardwalk Bowl. It had a bimbo with a come-hither look on her face and very little on her hind quarters, which were sticking up (perhaps even off the normal part of the billboard) as she was bending over to hike a football. The caption advertising the Orlando Predators was clearly sexual innuendo: "Get behind your team." I don't want my kid seeing that one either, but probably the better response with kids who are old enough is to talk about why it is wrong to degrade women and try to bait men like that. Of course, the same conversation could be had about Wing House and Hooters billboards, which are ubiquitous.