For the last couple of years I have had a couple of major ideas swirling about in my head- the idea of popular culture as folklore, and the concept of folkloric figures in popular culture- most notable fairy tales and horror movies.
I've managed to write a couple of items that dance around this, and one that flat out declares that Freddy Krueger is just a modern day Bogeyman.
As I scrolled through the SCMS CFP, the panel on horror movies caught my eye, so these were my thoughts...
Popular Culture as Folklore: The Intertextuality Matrix of Modern Monsters and Bogeymen
Folklore is defined as “the traditional beliefs, legends, customs, etc., of a people; lore of a people”. For many scholars, folklore remains something that exists in the past.. However, an accurate analysis must consider what constitutes folklore in the modern world. I argue that popular culture has become modern day folklore. It contains legends, and archetypes that are recognizable across generations and social class. Popular culture is also reflective of the beliefs of a generation or group. Familiarity with current popular culture requires not only a knowledge of current trends and tropes, but also a working knowledge of past popular culture that is referenced within other other works, the lore. There is no better example of this than modern day horror films. While much has been written about how horror films represent the culture and politics of the time, what has not been explored is how these films function as folklore, and how this can be read in conjunction with the real. Rather than folklore being in contrast with exploring horror’s relationship with the real, I believe that it allows us to incorporate many disparate readings, such as the political/cultural background, the allegorical meanings, as well as the influence on future works as these films are forwarded.
In many ways, it is easier to argue horror’s folkloric roots than any other genre. Most horror films focus on folkloric archetypes such as the maid, warrior, fool, and the threat of old gods in the guise of the virgin “final girl”, the jock, the stoner, and most horror movies have an overarching mythology that has folkloric roots. Michael Meyers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhies are all set up as modern bogeymen and monsters that lurk in the dark that serve a particular function for the culture of their times. More recent villains such as Jigsaw serve as counterbalances, or justice to punish bad behavior. In all of these stories, these modern monsters serve the same purpose as their folkloric counterparts- to not only represent a culture and time, but to influence it through its children.