We’re All Dirty Harry Now: Violent Movies for Violent Times

In: The Domination of Fear
Thomas Riegler
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Assuming a connection between violent periods and violent pop culture, this article explores the present conjuncture of fear, horror, and terror in American films and TV through comparison with matching themes in 1970s Hollywood cinema. Both the 1970s and 2000s can be categorized as ‘ages of fear, horror and terror’, shaped by political, social, and economic crisis: Since 9/11 and the beginning of the War on Terror a new brand of explicitly violent horror movies has scored major box office hits. ‘Shoot ’em up’-scenarios and revenge thrillers are predominant, as well as conspiracy and paranoia motives. In a similar way splatter horror and dark thrillers referred to the Vietnam War, political scandals, and economic problems of the 1970s. Once again cultural products tell us: ‘There is something profoundly wrong with our world.’ Dark and nightmarish fantasies express anger and frustration about forces out of control, warlike events, and estrangement between public and elites. The conclusion is that real/reel violence and horror overlap/mirror each other.

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