While traversing my masters in English, I stumbled onto a fact that clicked with me: The Greeks believed that Tragedy was cathartic for the soul. In other words, seeing other folks going through hell, releases the viewer’s personal demons.
This could explain our collective yearning to view horror films. Ghoulies and nasties abound. Even though my daughter is going through the typical fear of things going bump in the night, she still clings to her stuffed werewolf and Lego monsters.
The same cathartic release appears in bullrings. I witnessed a bullfight in south Spain twenty years ago (I was going through my Hemingway phase). Although it was brutal (and plenty bloody) there was this strange sense of unity with the crowd. Just before the killing blow, they all chanted and stomped to a rhythm. It seemed to hypnotize the bull.
Could the same thing have happened in Roman gladiatorial competitions? It’s well known that patricians like Julius Caesar put on many events to amuse plebeians (presumably so they wouldn’t riot). Yet, maybe it also sucked out their fears, letting the gladiators act them out.
One horrific sight I recently stumbled upon was a zombie-like behavior from the audience. Eating fresh liver was believed (by the Romans at least) to cure epilepsy. The liver had to come from a healthy specimen. What better than a gladiator? Consequently, when a gladiator fell, there was a mad dash to tear open his gut and gulp down the liver. Can you picture this? It’s like Romero movie, but for real.
Feeling a little stressed and weighted down? Maybe some adrenaline and screaming will help. Either hop on a roller coaster to slip in a horror disc. Either way, screaming may lead to peace of mind.
I’m not sure I can ‘like’ a post that talks about eating raw liver from a freshly killed gladiator! At the same time, it is interesting to speculate on why people watch horrific stuff. It’s not really my cup of tea, though. I have often said about a writer friend of mine, that I’d be afraid if he ever STOPPED writing horror and began ACTING IT OUT! It just might be the way writers release their demons. 🙂
I never feel any need to act on horror. It’s just a release like roller coasters.
A review of ancient entertainment makes our horror movies look tame. And if watching it is cathartic, I wonder what additional benefit there is to writing it?
The stuffed werewolf…love it!