We Are All Horror: No One Is Innocent

Hello, I’m Jacknife, and I love horror. I listen to “real-life” paranormal podcasts and regularly google “scariest horror movies of [current year].” I grew up watching the X-Files, begging my parents to let me stay up late to watch it (yes, I was a 90s kid), and splashing water on my face to stay awake during commercial breaks. I was obsessed with the show Sightings, I read RL Stine, and devoured my grandmother’s Steven King novels when I was far too young to do so. I believe in ghosts, I have encountered spirits, and feel that I am a healthy agnostic when it comes to aliens and cryptids.

I also love radical politics, working to dismantle all systems of oppression, and prison/police abolition. I am trained as a lawyer and have practiced in two Southern US states, including capital defense (defending people facing the death penalty for alleged murder) and civil rights. I no longer practice law, and most recently before starting this blog, I worked alongside survivors of domestic violence who experienced homelessness due to the violence they survived. I was arrested protesting the inauguration in 2017 and have belonged to many groups supporting people in prison, trans/queer folks, and other marginalized communities.

I don’t believe these elements of myself are in conflict. In fact, I think horror is an incredible vehicle for speaking about oppression and trauma. I’m not just talking about the obvious racial politics of movies like Get Out (although I think Jordan Peele is a genius and do have a blog post planned about his movies), but some of the less obvious elements: how ghost movies are so often actually about trauma, or how zombies have been a metaphor for capitalism, and so much more. I talk and think about this all the time, and so I decided to start a blog to memorialize these thoughts. I have no idea if anyone will read this, but I will enjoy making it.

While horror has often had interesting things to say about the injustices of our world, it also has a lot to reckon for in perpetuating these injustices. The whiteness of horror in the United States – without erasing the incredible contributions of BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and People of Color) to the genre – is recognizable to the point of being a stereotype. Homophobia, transphobia, white supremacy, ableism, fatphobia, and a myriad of other institutional oppressions not only show up in horror, they often form the basis of what is considered scary.

That is what I am interested in discussing on this blog: what are we afraid of? Why? And what, when we strip away assumptions and stereotypes, should we truly fear?

You can expect frank discussion of these issues on this blog. This is not a “Social Justice 101” blog, and I do not plan to hold your hand if you don’t understand, for example, white supremacy as a violent institution that has permeated every level of society in the United States and globally. If you have sincere curiosity and desire to learn, and some of these concepts are new to you, I would be happy to point you to resources, but I will not engage in “debates” about the humanity of myself or my community.

Speaking of myself, more about me: I am white/have white privilege (I make that distinction because it is important to not shy away from my whiteness, but I believe in actively destroying whiteness as a social force), I am of European and Abenaki descent, I am queer, non-binary, and transgender. I use they/them/their pronouns. I was raised in rural upstate NY and currently live in Bvlbancha/New Orleans (the land belonging to Choctaw, Houma, Chitimacha, and other Indigenous tribes). I am currently broke, but my parents are wealthy, although growing up we were often quite broke, and most of my family is working class. I’m in my 30s and I identify as disabled due to mental health and chronic pain/fatigue issues.

Finally, a word about the title of this blog: No One Is Innocent. I attribute this concept and phrase to Ruthie Gilmore, a Black woman and geographer who is pivotal to the development of prison abolition theory and practice. Tourmaline, a Black transgender woman and abolitionist organizer, introduced me to this concept in her conversation with Dean Spade, a white transgender man and abolitionist legal scholar. I encourage you to watch the series of videos with Tourmaline and Dean Spade you want to learn more, but the idea boils down to this: we are all capable of harm. Great harm. Not only that, but we have all harmed and been harmed. The state is invested in upholding a dichotomy between “guilt” and “innocence,” “good” and “bad,” and so on in order to justify locking people in cages and murdering them. However, the truth is much blurrier – I can attest to this as a former capital defense attorney and a human being. The truth is never as simple as who fired the gun.

Likewise, part of what makes horror so bone-chilling is not just that it can happen to you, but that it can be you. I explore this concept in my first blog post, about the movies Ghost Stories and Shutter (the original Thai version). I plan to provide content notes for each post, but be prepared for discussions of violence and other scary shit, including sexual assault. I will very likely swear a whole lot. Also, I will probably spoil every movie I discuss, so if that bothers you, watch the movie first!

Thanks for reading. I look forward to diving deep and getting scared with you.