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Branson Morris

Professor Redding
ENGL 1101
10 February 2016
Comparison and Contrast of Why We Crave Horror Movies and Monsters and the Moral
There may not be monsters under your bed at night but in reality they may be much
closer than you have ever imagined. Monsters are omnipresent in our minds. They are always
with us. Stephen King and Stephen T. Asma have both written essays, titled Why We Crave
Horror Movies and Monsters and the Moral Imagination, describing their personal thesis as to
why monsters help us maintain a constant state of mental health. Although King and Asma have
both present theories analyzing monsters link to mental lucidity and constitution, the difference
lies in the nature of their analysis, which bears examination because they both stress monsters
significance to human nature through different perspectives.
Kings thesis implies that monsters are crucial for our mental sanity; and Asmas implies
that they prepare us for the unknown. Asma states in his essay that monster stories offer us the
disease of vulnerability and its possible cures (in the form of heroes and coping strategies)
(Asma 65). Monsters make us feel vulnerable because they are things that we are not sure how
to react to. They offer the cure because they enable us to prepare as best we can for
situations that we have not yet been faced with. Asma is implying that the monsters in stories can
be beneficial by preparing us for the unknown. On the other hand, King metaphorically compares
bad emotions to crocodiles in a pit locked away by a trap door. If the crocodiles are not fed,
through horror movies, scary stories, etc., then they will get riled up and break free. The point at

which the crocodiles break free, metaphorically speaking, is the point that we as humans let our
emotions out in ways we have not previously intended. Those ways could be deemed as
insane. Its healthy to feed the crocs to keep them at bay; when in reality we feed these
negative emotions through monsters. Asma then compares monsters to a virtual sparring
partner. In our minds, we can run through innumerable scenarios in which we defeat the
monster that we are faced with. The monster could be absolutely anything which grants us, as
humans with brains, the ability to create anything. Enabling us the ability to prepare for any
situation that we may not be able to through real means. People create monsters within their
minds to exemplify what they are truly afraid of. Running through constant scenarios to defeat
the monster that has been created allows for preparation. That is the cure to the vulnerability
that we can also create. Although King and Asma are both using examples of monsters as being
tools to help our minds, the differences lie in the kind of examples each author uses.
King uses a mainly metaphorical approach to express monsters importance, and Asma
uses several real-life examples to stress their importance. King states that Our emotions and
fears create their own body that needs to be conditioned in the correct manner to maintain
proper mental health (King 17). The negative emotions do not need to be exercised like the good
ones, but rather kept at bay through means of monsters. That could be anything from horror films
to haunted houses. King is comparing the emotions to a body so that we can visualize and grasp
a clearer view on negative emotions that need to be kept at bay. Asma, on the other hand, cites an
occurrence in Afghanistan where four men decapitated a family (Asma 66). He then compares
the men to real monsters. As opposed to Kings metaphorical example, Asma uses something
that actually happened in order to reinforce his point that the situation could have been
visualized, and prepared for beforehand, giving light to another potential, less heartbreaking,

outcome. However, later in Kings essay he uses an analogy that compares horror movies to
modern day lynching. This is a real life example, but it does not stress the monsters importance,
but their longevity throughout history. It only strengthens the credibility of the subject, not
necessarily the importance. Differences not only lie in the specific examples, but there is an
underlying difference in the method to which each author suggests monsters help us mentally.
Both authors describe monsters as tools to maintain our mental health, but King uses
them as a tool to keep the insanity at bay within us and Asma uses them as a tool to prepare for
the insanity around us. Asma cites a story about Shapiro and Silva in which Silva stabbed
Shapiro in a deranged state of mind. Shapiro was faced with a deadly, irrational, [and] powerful
force that he had never been faced with before (Asma 65). He may have been better prepared
for the situation if he had formulated a reaction in his head through the use of monsters. King
states that we are all mentally ill; those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better...
(King 16). This is a main premise throughout Kings essay. He continually stresses that these
insanities are omnipresent within us and most of us dont let them out through means of
insane actions, rather through the help of monsters. King also states that the mythic fairytale horror film intends to take away the shades of gray (King 17). That enables us to see in
blacks and whites again as if we were children. We use the time that we are analytically
reverted back to children as a time to exercise those negative thoughts and emotions within us
that we shouldnt let out any other way.
The mind is the home of these beasts we call monsters, and we have to keep our minds
healthy. King and Asma both use several different examples and strategies to express the fact that
monsters are significant to our nature as humans, even though they took different approaches as

to how they did so. What we should take away from this is the simple fact that monsters can
seem to gruesome and evil, but, in reality, all they can do is help us.

Works Cited
Stephen, King. "Why We Crave Horror Movies." Monsters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2016.
N. pag. Print.

Stephen, Asma T. "Monsters and the Moral Imagination." Monsters. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2016. N. pag. Print.