The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed society as we know it in recent months, with nearly every industry and corner of everyday life being affected by the virus’ spread. People’s responses to the pandemic have (understandably) been pretty varied — but a new study suggests that fans of a certain genre have had a unique outlook on the ordeal. A new study published in Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture has found that fans of horror movies – particularly those surrounding massive catastrophes – have largely coped better with the coronavirus pandemic. The study, which was conducted by psychologist Coltan Scrivner at the University of Chicago, found that those who have a proclivity towards that kind of media may have “an adaptive predisposition” towards “learning about the dangerous and disgusting aspects of a threat.”
“If it’s a good movie, it pulls you in and you take the perspective of the characters, so you are unintentionally rehearsing the scenarios,” Scrivner told The Guardian. “We think people are learning vicariously. It’s like, with the exception of the toilet paper shortage, they pretty much knew what to buy.”
“You’ve seen it a hundred times in the movies, so it doesn’t catch you off-guard so much,” Scrivner continued.
The study analyzed people’s viewing histories and movie genre preferences, and how that related to an individual’s feeling of preparedness during the current pandemic. It found that those who gravitated towards horror-related media, especially those involving some sort society-collapsing event, sought out that media as a form of escapism, while also making them feel like they’ve vicariously experienced that kind of situation.
“Increased interest in these genres may imply that morbidly curious individuals felt more interested in information about threats more broadly in response to the increased salience of the Coronavirus threat,” Scrivner writes in the study. “However, another possibility is that the broader interest in scary/supernatural and mystery/thriller genres among morbidly curious individuals during the pandemic is due to escapism. Because morbidly curious individuals are generally more tolerable of and even drawn toward morbid phenomena, they may find morbid entertainment more amenable as a form of escapism while they are quarantined at home, whereas those who are less morbidly curious may partake in escapism via other genres.”
Given the overwhelming popularity of films like 2011’s Contagion and 1995’s Outbreak, as well as the 2016 TV series Containment on streaming services since the pandemic began, it’s easy to see this trend — but having concrete data behind it is certainly compelling as well.
What do you think of this report? Do you think horror fans are better prepared for situations like the COVID-19 pandemic? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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