Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: The Horror Community Needs To Change

May 16, 2020 | Posted by Joseph Lee
A Bloody Good Time The Last Drive-In Joe Bob Briggs Horror

Twitter’s kind of blown up in the horror world in the last few days and I wanted to get my thoughts out.

Yes, I planned all of these different A Bloody Good Time articles during the quarantine and never got to any of them, but this is what brings me out of hiding.

Horror fans, we need to talk.

Recently, it came to light that Joe Bob Briggs, former Monstervision host and current host of Shudder’s The Last Drive-In, wrote an article back in August that some have considered homophobic. Long story short, he expresses his frustration with the LGBT’s use of labels and letters, and does so in a way that has rubbed people the wrong way.

Now personally, I think that while the article is problematic and misguided, I don’t think the intent of Briggs’ writing comes off as hateful. Even at the end of the story, he tries to express the need for us all to come together. Whether or not he succeeds at that will depend on your point of view, I guess.

I tried to dip my toes into the water this week and express this view, but ultimately felt as though I was out of my element and backed off. I’ll let others defend him, those that know him (Darcy, the Last Drive-In crew) or have personal experiences being marginalized, like his LGBT fans. And yes, those people are doing that. Darcy knows him more than you or I do, so she knows what kind of person he is. LGBT fans either have or haven’t met him personally and either way, they would know more about whether something is offensive than I would. So I backed off and let them handle it. Joe Bob’s dealt with controversy before, he’d be okay.

So this article will not be about Joe Bob Briggs.

I should point out that the original comments were made by a writer and others in the horror community have stood up against him. You can find pieces in Medium and Gayly Dreadful that express those sentiments better than I could. This isn’t about them, and yet it is about them.

It is about how a lot of other horror fans reacted to them. Because those specific people I mentioned weren’t the only ones defending Briggs. And some of the people defending him were getting downright nasty. I found this out when I went back to see how things were going, to see if any ground was gained. Perhaps he apologized, perhaps they came to an agreement. I was ultimately horrified by what I saw.

This is not the horror community I grew up loving. This is not the horror community I openly praised every time I got back from a convention.

Who are these people?

Who thinks it’s okay to call a woman an attention whore and pedophile (for liking Interview with the Vampire of all things) because she brought attention to something somebody wrote, that she felt was harmful to marginalized groups? Why attack another well-known writer and accuse him of trying to get people fired just for expressing an opinion? Why take shots at a horror director for simply calling for people to be respectful? Sadly, the only reason I don’t name these people is because I know someone is going to ignore this message and attack them anyway.

I’ve always known the horror community to be the most accepting community in fandom. I wasn’t the most popular kid in school, and my social life is no great shakes now. But when I find people who are into the same kind of movies as me, there’s a special connection that you don’t get with other fandoms. And I’ve found that I can talk to anyone about how awesome it is to see Frank torn to shreds in Hellraiser, regardless of race, orientation, gender or what-have-you. I’ve had people chat me up in line to meet Angus Scrimm just because I was there and clearly we were both Phantasm fans.

I know you guys are capable of better.

So why has the horror community, like so many other things recently, become so tribal? Why is it that we are so unwilling to accept even the slightest amount of criticism? I’m not going to take shots at the wrestling fans on this site, but that’s kind of what it reminds me of, to a more extreme level. And there are others on the other side that actively are calling for Briggs’ ‘cancellation’, but from what I can tell they are in the minority. Either way, the vitriol needs to stop and instead we should be discussing what’s wrong and how we can improve the situation.

Is Joe Bob Briggs really some golden idol that is untouchable? No, he’s not. He’s a 68-year-old Texan who, while his heart may or may not be in the right place, is completely capable of making mistakes. If someone is offended by what he said, they are completely within their rights to be so. Just because the man was essential to my formative years in the horror fandom and shaped my tastes in the genre, does not mean he is incapable of being wrong. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be willing to think about someone else’s viewpoint and at least consider holding the man accountable.

Now there are some out there who take cancel culture to its extreme. I saw a #primevideoisoverparty hashtag yesterday for what, as far as I can tell, was something about mislabeling if Adam Driver was the star of a film or not. Obviously, people can take things too far. This is not one of those times. These are people who feel attacked or know people who are or would feel attacked speaking up against something they feel is wrong. The majority of the people I saw didn’t even want Briggs to lose his job. They just wanted him to better explain himself or at least apologize. And perhaps he should if what he wrote did indeed go against his intent.

Horror is supposed to be the most inclusive of fandoms. We’re supposed to be the ones that embrace all types and make everybody feel welcome, because horror itself is something of an outcast with the more ‘respectable’ types of cinema. People look down on us because we enjoy Friday the 13th or Society. Together, regardless of who we are or what we’ve experienced in life, thumb our nose at the rest for daring to say we shouldn’t like the movies we like. To paraphrase, an attack on one of us should be an attack on all of us, even if that attack comes from within by someone saying something really stupid.

If Joe Bob Briggs writes an article that offends somebody, perhaps we should ask why that person is offended instead of quickly dismissing whatever they have to say. Be civil, open up a dialogue and actually talk about your viewpoints without resorting to insults or strawman arguments. Because the behavior of some people within the fandom has been absolutely disgusting these past few days.

I went and asked Bryan Kristopowitz for his thoughts, because I think we both agree and like me, he’s been influenced by Joe Bob over the years. You only have to read his reviews to know that. Here’s what he sent me.

Joe Bob Briggs has been accused now, multiple times, online of being both a racist and a homophobe. We’ve now had at least two huge instances where these claims have been made, one back in December-ish and one recently. The accusations have unleashed a torrent of negativity, both “for” and “against” Joe Bob. It has not been a fun time on social media at all. And the whole thing is just unwarranted.

It really is.

Joe Bob Briggs is not a racist or a homophobe, and I find any assertion otherwise to be absurd. Ludicrous, even. But that’s just me. There are people out there who think he is both of those things. And that’s okay. It’s always been okay. People are free to think and believe whatever they want. There are people out there who don’t “get” what Joe Bob is and what he is supposed to be/what he’s doing. And that’s okay. What’s not okay is the bullying, the disrespect, and the hatred that bubbles up every time someone doesn’t like Joe Bob. It’s insane to try to destroy people who have a different opinion/see things differently. It certainly doesn’t help that person understand Joe Bob in a positive way. It just reinforces what they already believe and it spreads that kind of relentless negativity that social media, especially Twitter, is known for, and that’s not good at all. For anyone.

So why does it keep happening? Why is it so necessary for people to “shut down” and “cancel” others simply because they believe something you don’t? It makes no sense. And that goes for everyone. If someone out there thinks that Joe Bob has said something untoward, that person should be allowed to speak and make their case. If you disagree, disagree and make your case. But don’t be an asshole about it. Don’t try to destroy “the opposition.” Learn to accept them and engage them respectfully. If you have to “agree to disagree” at the end of it leave it at that. Why is that so hard to do? Why is “victory” so important here?

It’s not. There is no victory. There’s only more negativity. And that’s terrible.

The world doesn’t need this. It never did. You don’t need to destroy people. You need to accept them.

And that goes for everyone. For those of you out there who believe Joe Bob is a racist and a homophobe, I ask you to do a little more research. He isn’t a monster. He isn’t who you think he is. And for those who think it’s necessary to flip the fuck out every time someone believes Joe Bob is a racist/homophobe/whatever, please, just calm down. You don’t need to defend Joe Bob to the death and engage in scorched Earth tactics. Be smart and respectful and engage. That’s what Joe Bob would want you to do. Joe Bob has always positioned himself as a champion of free speech for everyone. I don’t think he would approve of shutting anyone down simply because they think differently. If you’re a fan of Joe Bob you should already know that.

And people who claim to abhor cancel culture can’t then engage in that cancel behavior and then get upset someone has pointed that out. Everything is not a battle of ideologies, nor should it be.

So why is this shit happening? Aren’t we all supposed to be better than that? I don’t really know why it’s happening. But it has to stop. We all have to learn to be better towards one another or the fan community we’re all a part of is going to become irrevocably broken, and then where are we all going to be?

Thanks again to Bryan for contributing.

And if it turns out that Briggs really believes what he says? I’d like to think he doesn’t, but if he said tomorrow that he can’t stand LGBT people, then we should ditch him immediately. If Robert Englund came out tomorrow and said something blatantly racist, I’d ditch him too, because that is not who we are as a fandom. These people are not infallible. The hero worship and personal attacks need to stop. This is a genre that’s supposed to bring us together to watch fictional people get ripped apart. It’s not supposed to be dividing us one way or the other. I think we should all think about how this was handled and continues to be handled, and do better.

But hey, don’t take my word for it.

The smart thing to do when pursued by the evils of the world is to stay together, remember? Don’t be the asshole that says, ‘Let’s split up.’