While there'll be some twonk somewhere that'll try and grab this as evidence of me giving out 'death threats' or some other stupidity, I'm actually writing about Eli Roth's forthcoming horror film The Green Inferno. There's a news piece floating around about how Eli Roth's 'Green Inferno' devours the Internet's 'social justice warriors' and that caught my eye because of thoughts I've had on expanding the usual list of acceptable-horror-movie-victim tropes.
There have always been character archetypes in horror (especially slasher flicks) that exist for the audience to hate and cheer on their inevitable gruesome demise. In any teen setting (which is most slasher flicks) you're likely going to get: the thuggish, bullying jock (plus cronies); the beautiful-but-vicious prom queen; the arrogant, amoral rich kid. Over the next few years I think we'll see a new archetype added to that list: the sanctimonious SJW.
Now I imagine at this point some readers are going, "B-b-but what's wrong with social justice warriors? They're good people. They fight the good fight for the minorities and those without privilege."
Hmm, yeah. It's complicated. Social Justice Warrior (SJW) started out as a derogatory term, probably as an offshoot of Keyboard Warrior. Then the meanings got murkier as far-right wingnuts started using it as a label for people they disagreed with and more moderately liberal folk started to embrace the slur thrown in their direction as a positive ("I am a proud social justice warrior/bard/etc"). Now SJW seems to be moving back to its original meaning as more and more normal folks experience bruising encounters on social media with the extremist element the term was originally coined for.
When I mention SJWs assume I'm talking about that extreme element - the people that clothe themselves in the language of social justice and use it as cover to engage in online thuggery (a good example of which can be found here). I've been fairly open about my own distaste for this group of people and with good reason. I'm a creator and while I'm fine with negative criticism, seeing concerted, organised attempts to shut writers/game developers/film makers down because someone didn't like the themes they were using or their personal politics make me very nervous. While they're coming from the opposite ends of the political spectrum, SJWs are the Mary Whitehouses, Tipper Gores and Jack Thompsons of this generation with a slightly different paint job.
Which brings me back to character archetypes. SJWs are the modern Stop-Having-Fun-Authority (as in you can't do x because it's cultural appropriation/triggering/offensive to people with skin as thick as tissue paper/insert buzzword of the day). The Stop-Having-Fun-Authority is a typical antagonist in comedy (and sometimes an annoying obstacle in horror). Typically they're a religious and highly conservative authority figure over-stepping themselves in order to play morality police. With the declining influence of that group it wouldn't surprise me if we start seeing the overbearing morality police characters coming from the other side of the political spectrum. An enterprising comedy writer could definitely have a lot of fun lampooning that aspect of modern US college campuses.
It's something I've been musing about for my own stories. Creating a truly awful character in the knowledge you're going to inflict a hideous fate on them is one of the pleasures of writing horror. In the past I've used the usual tropes - the corrupt politician, violent thugs, the office sex pest, a group of obnoxious teens, a critic abusing their role for sexual favours - and I think there's potential to add various flavours of SJW to that list. If only to make a change from the usual 'guy being an asshole to women and getting his comeuppance at vagina of succubus' story. :)
I did have a playful dab at it here, but to be fair the protagonist is rather mild and the only thing they're guilty of is naivete and foolishness. (Not that I'm exactly known for showing mercy to the naive and foolish).
Given that most people's patience appears to be running thin on SJW nonsense, I'd love to nail that archetype correctly in a cosmic justice type story. I think it will require a little more work to create a truly satisfying SJW asshole protagonist. There are a few pitfalls to avoid. In this case I think an ostensibly apolitical approach is correct. "Haha, take that pinko scum for being a stupid libtard" will play well for a small audience and very badly for the rest. Go for the character's actions making them an asshole rather than what they believe (or pretend to believe).
I'm curious to see what Roth does with The Green Inferno. His previous movies (Hostel in particular) have been interesting in how he subverts the usual horror tropes in who gets killed and when. The innocent virgin has about the same chance of surviving a Roth horror as the slutty-girl-who-sleeps-around character in a Friday the 13th film (basically, none).
It's worth dissecting Deodato's classic horror, Cannibal Holocaust, at this point as this is the main influence to The Green Inferno. The main characters in that film are so repulsive and what they do is so repugnant most viewers will be cheering on the cannibals way before the end of the movie. A problem for a lot of horror films (as opposed to horror short stories) is forcing your audience to spend an hour-or-so in the company of utter assholes while they wait for them to meet their horrible ends can get a little wearing. Cannibal Holocaust gets around this by running two story lines. The moral centre, of sorts, to the tale is provided in the character charged with finding out what happened to the original film crew and returning with their footage.
From what I've seen and read so far, it sounds like the soon-to-be cannibal fodder in The Green Inferno fall more into the category of naive and stupid slacktivists than the vicious online thugs and bullies normally associated with the SJW label. It will probably still be a lot of fun watching them all get eaten, though.