THE HHN "FAMILY FRIENDLY" ILLUSION
Greetings internet dwellers!
Late during the event last year, something began to circulate around the interwebs. While I won't call out those who started this snowball rolling, it's the problem with internet blogging today. The search for hits and eyeballs on your content, tends to create false narratives. This particular narrative forced, Mike Aiello, to address the concerns of fans that had spread throughout fansites, and social media. Unfortunately, months after HHN 28 has ended and HHN 29 is in full planning mode, this idea has not died.
So what was this idea? Halloween Horror Nights will pivot to a more "family friendly" event. Given as an example, was last year's hit Stranger Things. Way back when Stranger Things first aired, fans called for it to show up at HHN. I have said for the longest time, that Stranger Things would not fit well as a house. Why? Because inherently, it is not really a "horror" show. The show is more Sci-Fi than horror. It is more character driven than horror driven. Stranger Things, also bases the core of what it does on nostalgia. The show is built on 80's nostalgia. Here's the thing though, nobody, and I mean nobody involved with the event, had ever said anything of the sort about the event doing any kind of pivot. In essence, it was fake news.
To be fair though, one needs to analyze exactly what "family friendly" means for the event, in relation to its history. Lets take the aforementioned Stranger Things. While I don't consider the show a "horror" show, it does have horror elements. However, the appeal to the show extends past genre, and is clearly geared towards appealing to a wide audience. In other words your FAMILY can watch the show together. In relation to the Stranger Things house itself, it clearly was a hit with guests. Its wide ranging appeal, had people waiting up to 3 hours or more to experience the house.
Halloween Horror Nights, isn't "family friendly". It never will be "family friendly". That being said, HHN isn't exactly "R" rated either. It never has been. While some of the Intellectual Properties have been based on "R" rated material, their houses have always been "PG-13". Stranger Things, is "PG-13". It's more on the lighter side of "PG-13", sure. However, it's still in that "PG-13" age-range. The event itself advertises as "PG-13" and over. Let's take a look at the "PG-13" model, in context of the film world.
The history of "PG-13" is quite legendary at this point. The rating itself, was basically created from backlash over Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom. Parents thought its content was too dark for children. Steven Spielberg himself, was crucial in creating the "PG-13" rating because of this. He agreed that some of the content was darker, but not dark enough to warrant an "R" rating. So, he advocated to create something in between "PG" and "R". So, "PG-13" was born and the first film with the new rating, was Red Dawn.
Since the rating's inception, its fun to go back and look at movies that clearly should not be rated anything under "PG-13". Film's like Jaws, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, and even Raiders of the Lost Ark, should all be "PG-13". It's also interesting to go back and see what films shouldn't be "R" rated either. This brings up an important question though: What constitutes a "PG-13" rating?
Enter the nebulous organization that is the MPAA, or the Motion Picture Association of America. Originally founded in 1922 as the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), it, among other things, was to give guidelines for content. This was called the Production Code, or the Hays Code. This was replaced in 1968, by the voluntary film rating system we know today. This rating system is managed by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA).
Over the years, filmmakers have fought hard with the system over ratings for their films. The assignment of ratings, is completely arbitrary. A group of people watch a film, and determine the content's proper fitting within the rating system. This actually, has become a problem. Especially when it comes to "R" and "PG-13" content. Sure, you have things that are pretty cut and dry. Full on horizontal mambo is a no-go, and overt nudity. Excessive use of the "F" word. And excessive violence and gore of course.
Here's the thing though, there is no guideline to determine what kind of what equals what. It is completely arbitrary to the group. This is especially important when it comes to "PG-13" and "R". These days, the line between the two ratings are blurred more and more. For example, Ghostface walks into a room and slaughters 15 people. You would think "R" rating, but not necessarily. Did we see the knife penetrate the body? Was there blood spray? Do we see any blood at all? If not, then well, Scream 49 may well be rated "PG-13". But wait, the other 48 Scream movies were rated "R", so automatically we shall make it "R".
In particular when it comes to blood, gore, and violence, the MPAA is especially weird about their ratings. Marvin, meets a grisly end in Pulp Fiction. The inside of his head, is now outside all over the backseat of the car. Jeebs, in Men In Black, has his entire head blown off in a gooey mess. The difference between the two isn't just context, it's color. Jeebs, is an alien, and his blood is a different color. This is an obvious over simplification of both films. Pulp Fiction, is "R" rated for obvious other reasons. But the blood issue, is that simple. Blowing someone's head off is fine, as long as it's not red, and he's not human.
The original Die Hard, is "R" rated. But why? The violence in that film, really isn't any different than stuff we see today. Oh, yeah, there's that cursing issue. Titanic is "PG-13", but we see full on boobage in that movie. Oh, yeah, it's "artistic". The point is, deciding the reasons why these films get these ratings, is not really scientific. Unless of course, there is a glaring reason why.
Over the last twenty years, give or take, filmmakers have really tried to push the "PG-13" rating, as far as it can go. It straddles a line, which has caused some controversy. When it comes to horror movies specifically, fans will moan and groan if a horror movie is rated "PG=13". While it may teeter on that "R" line, it nixes the more gratuitous stuff. Then you'll get an anomaly like The Conjuring. A film that was rated "R" because it was "too scary". No gratuitous gore, sex, and cursing that movie.
Halloween Horror Nights, flirts with that "R" rated line. While in the early days of the event, they would sometimes cross that line, for the majority of its 28 year history, it's been a hard "PG-13". It pushes that line of how far can it go, without being too gratuitous. Weather it's scantily-clad dancers, blood, guts, horror, or violence, it never truly crosses that line.
Not every property, or idea, is created equal either. This brings us to the extreme example of Stranger Things. While the show is very much easily accessible with its content, it doesn't mean that this is where the event is headed. What it could do, and probably will, is bring about possible properties that aren't as violent as something like a Halloween, or Saw. Perhaps something like Gremlins, or Ghostbusters, as examples, which are a little lighter in their tone could be possible.
Mind you, both Gremlins and Ghostbusters, are two properties that fans have asked to come to HHN for years. And that's where this dumb issue originates. Once again, it brings us back to fanboy idiocy. Stranger Things is popular, and with its massive success at the event, it will be with us for quite some time. Feigning outrage, is what the HHN fandom does best. And in this case, Stranger Things is the poster child for a conspiracy to remodel the event as "family friendly".
HHN won't be "family friendly" anytime soon. It will continue to straddle that hard "PG-13"/"R" rated line, for quite some time. One IP that isn't quite as gory as others, doesn't mean they will model the event after it. One IP that has a wider audience appeal than a Saw film, doesn't mean that the event will be neutered going forward. Tell me, was the event remodeled after Krampus came to the event? You know, a "PG-13" horror film that had a wider audience appeal? No, because the HHN fanbase wanted it at the event. And that is the issue here, as usual.
Does this mean HHN won't find other wide-ranging, "PG-13" horror properties at the event? Of course not. There's lots of lighter fair that I would fully expect, to show up at the event some day. However, this doesn't mean the event will all become that. It's merely poking the bear, that is the HHN die-hard community.
There's room at the event, for a wide variety of horror. Whether it's Stranger Things, The Body Collectors, The Exorcist, or Krampus. Variety, it's said, is the spice of life. And variety is good at the event. It keeps it moving. Let's keep it moving, and stop being hysterical for the sake of website hits.
Hasta La Bye bye.
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HHN LEGACY OWNER