Disclaimer #1: Here at GL, we don’t typically discuss issues directly related to religious doctrine or belief systems in general. Ideology? Yeah, sure. That comes up pretty regularly, especially over on our YouTube channel, which is where we put all the good stuff, so if you’re curious, come on over and check it out.
We are not experts on any given belief system, and we do not aim to challenge or condescend to anyone’s religion, spirituality, or personal belief system. This article is really just a bit of fun.
Disclaimer #2: If you’re a child under the legal age of autonomy in your country and/or state who is currently living with parents and/or guardians who may or may not have told you to stay away from scary movies, we recommend listening to them. They probably had a reason for saying that, and if you’re curious, you can ask them about their reasoning.
But hey, you’re an individual, so we’ll let you make your own decisions about how you live your life. Horror movies aren’t exactly equivalent on the danger scale with controlled substances or illicit drug use or even reckless driving.
Is watching scary movies a sin? Many people online have genuinely asked this question, and as it turns out, very few sites have even attempted to tackle the topic, and we don’t blame them. There’s no definitive answer, and the question can’t even really be approached at all except from a religious perspective.
So here’s what we’re gonna do: first, we’re going to hand things over to one of our staff writers who grew up in a strict Christian household and is therefore well-acquainted with common Christianinterpretations of sin as they pertain to contemporary life.
After that, we’ll look at the issue removed from its religious context, instead asking ourselves whether it’s ethical to watch scary movies.
Hopefully by the end we won’t be lambasted on a bunch of different religious parenting blogs, though the publicity wouldn’t really hurt, now would it?
Well, is it?
Hi there, my name is [redacted] and I grew up in a home situation where my parents made it very clear which modern-day activities were sinful and which were not.
Nowadays, I really don’t agree with labeling certain things “sinful,” preferring instead to look at the morality of each action and its real-world effects on other living human beings, not judging the goodness of an action based on the temperament of an unseen god figure.
With all that said, is watching scary movies a sin or isn’t it? Well, if your parents specifically told you not to watch scary movies, it was almost definitely because they felt that these movies were not appropriate for you based on your current age.
And here’s the thing: even a very forward-thinking parent who doesn’t place all that many boundaries on their children and the way they live their lives would most likely agree that certain entertainment content just isn’t suitable for young children, though exact age limits for these kinds of things is up for debate.
Personally, I remember being around the age of 11 or 12 when my friends started getting into ultra-gory zombie movies, which were the hip horror thing at the time. Being a young boy, I was excited by the idea of a piece of entertainment with such ‘extreme’ content.
And when I finally did end up watching some of these movies, without my parents’ knowledge, at different sleepovers and parties, it wasn’t so much that I was grossed out by what I was seeing. It didn’t give me nightmares or anything like that.
Instead, I remember feeling kinda bored. I wasn’t impressed by the gore effects, and I just didn’t really see the point.
As for how major religions view the sinfulness of horror movies, there really aren’t hard and fast rules in scripture about movies of any kind, because, surprise, there weren’t movies in the days of the prophets. In fact, there was barely entertainment of any kind as we understand it today.
So if any religious figure claims that horror movies are inherently sinful, that’s their interpretation of religious texts and extra-scriptural teachings.
We can guarantee that there are other religious figures, of any faith, who would disagree with this viewpoint.
Now, if you’re disobeying your parents to watch a scary movie, that actually does have a direct point of reference in organized religion.
Basically every major religion does indeed have rules about what’s called filial piety: being good to your family and, if you’re a kid, doing what your parents say.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s good to do what your parents say, as long as they are caring for you in a healthy way.
But rebelling against our parents is something that every kid does at some point. It’s even recognized as a part of child development and the process of maturing.
So is watching scary movies actually a sin? It depends on a lot of different things, but if you’re really concerned about the whole thing, it’s best to talk to your parents or guardians directly about it.
Is it wrong to watch scary movies?
Now, the question of the inherent morality or immorality of watching horror movies is actually much more interesting to us, and that’s mainly because there are so many different types of horror movies out there today.
It’s very common in the horror genre to have a clear, unsympathetic villain. That way, when our heroes act violently toward the villain, there’s no moral discussion to be had. They’re either acting in self-defense or they’re acting violently toward a person or entity that is unambiguously evil.
Basic storytelling is much easier when you have a clear divide between good and bad, even though that’s not a very accurate reflection of the real world.
But then you also have plenty of horror movies that focus instead on regular human beings who do horrible things, often because they’re forced to or feel that they have to.
The Mist is a great example of this premise. There are definitely monsters outside of a grocery store where a few dozen people are trapped. We barely ever see the monsters, but we know they’re there.
So the movie quickly becomes about how scary it is when regular human beings feel threatened and start to act more like animals.
Some may argue that these types of horror movies are in some way unethical because they normalize realistic violence and potentially even motivate an unhealthy person to act violently towards others.
Another example would be if there was a mass shooting in a movie. Would this depiction in some way encourage someone to commit this horrible act of violence in real life?
Somewhat similarly, the slasher movies of the 1980s (think Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street) killed off so many characters that it could be argued these movies trivialized the deaths of human beings, which is not something we want to be communicated to living people.
However, in the decades since the slasher movie heyday, the more concerning ethical issue has become the treatment of female characters in these movies.
Film has a long tradition of depicting violence toward women, especially crime movies and horror movies, and in many ways, slasher films seemed to normalize an objectification of women and the trivialization of their deaths.
Outside of specific concerns relevant to specific horror movies, it’s very difficult to label an entire genre as unethical, especially since watching horror movies has not been tied to real-world violence in any significant way, or at all. If there was such a study proving a correlation, you can bet we would have heard about it.
At the end of the day, the majority of people are able to recognize that what happens in movies, especially genre movies, has little bearing on real life. In fact, it could even be argued that horror movies with very unsympathetic villains actually reinforce a certain baseline human morality that it’s bad to kill other people.
This is definitely one of the strangest articles we’ve ever published, but we hope that it has offered some kind of value to anyone out there who might legitimately be struggling with the idea that watching a horror movie might be a sin.
If you’re an adult, go ahead and make your own choices, and if you’re a child, talk to your parents or guardians about it and share your thoughts.