A Prehistoric Global "Tamana" Culture? Plus: The "Glamour" Writer Who Hates Horror Movies
PZ Myers is (humorously) “blaming” me for introducing him via Twitter this past week to the angry pseudohistory of the white supremacists who believe that a lost white race of Solutreans were destroyed by Native Americans in a “white genocide” in North America at the end of the last Ice Age. It doesn’t get much more disgusting than that, but I’ve learned that there is always a claim that is worse.
On the opposite, but nowhere near as dangerous, side of the race-based pseudohistory coin, I tried very hard to garner enough enthusiasm to write something at length about Afrocentrist fringe historian Clyde Winters’s new article on Ancient Origins suggesting that there was a universal ancient African culture that colonized the ancient world. But I just can’t do it. The argument this time is the same kind of pointless linguistic fantasy that governed so many nineteenth century arguments. Here, Winters reports on the claims of the late Vomos-Toth Bator, a Hungarian who speculated that the appearance of the word Tamana as a toponym on various continents proves that an ancient African culture sailed around the world and left the name wherever it traveled.
This is illogical for a number of reasons. Not all the instances of “Tamana” are related to each other; some are undoubtedly coincidental. Others may have been adopted later, such as the way the topnym “Alexandria” was originally associated with Alexander the Great, but lent itself to unrelated places like Alexandria, Virginia in later centuries. Even where Tamana toponyms might derive from a common source, we cannot project this back to 10,500 BCE, and certainly not—as Winters would like—on the strength of Zecharia Sitchin’s assignment of Noah’s Flood to that year.
Yes, it’s that same argument again—Noah’s Flood is really end of the Ice Age, and the antediluvian world was really Atlantis. The only differences is that Winters gives the formerly Aryan pseudohistory and Afrocentric cast by placing its members in the Sahara.
Anyway, Winters has been flogging this horse since the twentieth century (I found references in his work going back to at least 2000), and he hasn’t found anything new to add since then. I was even less impressed with Dave Miller’s article on Friday claiming that seemingly natural cracks and scratches on rocks in the Appalachian Mountains are actually petroglyphs from the world’s oldest civilization, lost to history until he recognized its writing.
So, instead, I’d like to talk about a weird piece by Abigail McCoy that ran in Glamour magazine last week. McCoy asked how it is that anyone can enjoy a horror movie. She compared her distaste for horror to her dread of “micropenises,” which probably does as good a job of anything of establishing the tone of her piece. “Why do so many smart women I know claim to like horror movies? Are they just... lying?”
Obviously, I can’t claim to know why women might enjoy horror movies, but I don’t believe men and women are so different that the pleasures of the horror genre are limited by gender. McCoy, 28, says that she has watched only one horror movie, The Ring, and was traumatized by the scene where a girl tries to claw her way out of a well to the point that she was unable to ever watch another, and indeed was so traumatized by one particular scene that she continues to obsess about it when triggered by fingernails fourteen years later.
But I maintain that there is absolutely no value in feeling scared. Why do people want to be scared? What is good about that? Feeling scared is always, always a negative experience, and I don't think it's even the kind with a silver lining. […] Do I insist—to my own detriment—on living unchallenged in a comfortable space that's never threatened by demon children who've spent time in wells? Does detesting horror movies make me narrow-minded? I mean, perhaps. But I feel fine about it.
There is no particular reason to demand that anyone watch something he or she doesn’t like, and I don’t begrudge McCoy her taste, but in reading McCoy’s screed, I see a conflation of ideas that seems a bit problematic, but which seems to reflect the current state of horror. Traditionally, scary movies (which are, to a degree unrecognized by McCoy, distinct from dark fantasy or Gothic melodrama) provide a safe way to experience fright, creating enjoyment from the tension between the emotion provoked by the on-screen experience and the knowledge that one is safe. This has changed over the course of the last three decades, as filmmakers have increasingly asked audiences to identify with the monster or the killer and approach horror movies as an exercise in vicarious blood lust. This gets into the issue of the purpose of a horror film. Once, the predominant purpose was to experience fear, but for much of the 2000s and 2010s, the purpose seemed to be revel in grotesquery and torture. Fortunately, that note of horror has been on the wane again.
McCoy thinks physical enjoyment of fear might be possible but wonders why she does not feel the same frisson as others when confronted with the frightening. Therefore, she asks why one prefers horror to other genres:
I can wrap my head around the whole "thrills minus actual danger" appeal, but can't you just get your rocks off by watching Homeland or something else written by writers whose artistic vision extends beyond scenes cast exclusively in blue-grey light with recently-widowed women being terrorized by things and beings that hopefully don't exist IRL?
Here, she seems to engage in a snobbish suggestion that certain types of artistic pleasure are inherently superior to others. Homeland draws on elements of horror as surely as any other piece of dark fiction. It describes and depicts torture and mutilation and feints toward Gothic themes of madness. But because it pretends to seriousness, its world has an “artistic vision” that horror somehow lacks. More correctly, crime dramas sand off the rougher edges of the horror genre by wrapping them in a sort of Ann Radcliffe style Gothic reduction where everything is easily explicable as the convoluted operation of physical and psychological forces. But isn’t that exactly what McCoy didn’t want? She said that she doubted why anyone would enjoy fear in an environment of safety. But crime dramas, even those disguised as prestige television, are just that: a chance to revel in the excitement and terror of crime from the safety of the other side of screen.
10/16/2016 08:42:58 am
>>>nowhere near as dangerous
10/16/2016 08:48:19 am
When we find paleoeuropean bones on the east coast we can talk about solutreans. I'm not that impressed by spear tips looking similar across continents. As for horror movies I saw the exorcist when I was 12 and it scared the shit out of me for years but I still like a good horror movie if it's written well has surprises and irony. Most of the slasher or paranormal flicks are pretty bad though
10/16/2016 12:56:25 pm
Hi TP -
10/16/2016 02:33:12 pm
The lack of bodies is one of the smaller problems. The Solutreans died out something like 5000 years before the superficially similar Clovis points started appearing.
10/19/2016 03:44:09 pm
If a pre-Clovis population's burial practices included either exposure (as in Tibetan "sky burials") without secondary interment, or cremation followed by dispersal of the ashes, there may be no remains to be found (barring someone having been accidentally sat upon by a mammoth, of course). Even so, of course, this would provide no proof of American Solutreans. (And, for the record, I do not recall ever having come across any discussion of exposure or cremation during the European Paleolithic,)
10/16/2016 09:35:57 am
I think it was Ramsey Campbell who responded to the question "why write horror when there's so much horror in the real world?" by asking why crime writers never get asked why they wrote about violent crime when there's no shortage of that in the real world either.
10/16/2016 10:21:16 am
I'm not so sure that ALL fringe constructions of pre-historical civilizations are concocted with racial motivation, even though after the fact they appear that way. White fringees would necessarily write about lost civilizations from a perspective they understand - white. Just as a black writer would cast his imaginary, un-provable magic society as black. What would a black-white fringe collaboration look like?
10/16/2016 10:38:07 am
>>I'm not so sure that ALL fringe constructions of pre-historical civilizations are concocted with racial motivation<<
10/16/2016 04:59:50 pm
And then there's kooky commentary!
10/16/2016 07:50:19 pm
I have a great idea - let's ban Theosophy, Ancient Astronauts, Diffusionism, etc, etc, on the grounds of racism.
10/16/2016 09:53:29 pm
I personally don't subscribe to the Richard Dawkins/Bill Maher approach of in-your-face confrontation and ridicule of true believers. Ridicule never changes minds - only causes the recipient to double down.
10/17/2016 03:44:21 am
YOU CANNOT CHANGE ANYTHING USING ANY APPROACH
10/18/2016 03:41:44 pm
Just because you are impervious to logic and reason does not mean everyone else is.
10/16/2016 01:36:48 pm
Have you ever heard, "fear is of the Devil?" Of course, this doesn't apply to so-called good fear, like teaching children about crossing the road.
10/16/2016 03:28:14 pm
I'm not fond of horror, either, but at least I know what my problem with it is--my imagination is way too vivid for my own good and I turn myself into the victim in my own mind for hours to days after being exposed to the stimulus story. But I'm also well aware that other people don't, so I don't question other peoples' enjoyment of the genre. This McCoy woman just comes across as a sneering snob, to me, and she needs to shut up and find something better to do than inflict her views on other people.
10/16/2016 06:37:44 pm
Amen to that!
10/16/2016 06:34:26 pm
On the opposite, but nowhere near as dangerous, side of the race-based pseudohistory coin, I tried very hard to garner enough enthusiasm to write something at length about Afrocentrist...
10/16/2016 06:59:08 pm
"Good" horror used to be what you didn't see. The classic example is the murder scene in Hitchcock's "Psycho". You see the knife, the victim's agonized scream, and the blood swirling down the shower drain, but you never actually see the blade touch Vivien Leigh. Still, most people remember seeing her brutally butchered. It's is arguably the best edited scene in cinema. I find the full-on graphic gore of more recent films distasteful.
10/16/2016 07:47:46 pm
Stuff that over-rated shower scene.
10/28/2016 09:55:06 pm
Just to be sure I understand, you're suggesting that we "stuff" "the shower scene"?
10/16/2016 11:28:46 pm
Whenever i see photos of those Olmec stone heads, they sure look African to me. Yes, I know Jason has written about it, and all the academics say they look like the native central americans do , so the academics don't buy into it either. One thing of interest to me though, is that there are no Olmec bones or teeth (hence no DNA) to investigate due to the high acidity of the soil in the Olmec ancestral area, so to me that possible African connection to the Olmec still has a slight chance of being true.
10/17/2016 10:42:44 am
Perhaps Ms. McCoy should try that new thing called research. I'd advise here to start with Zombots.net - the D.M. (Dive Mistress) could try to teach her a few things though I don't know if she is capable of learning.
10/18/2016 02:16:03 am
How is afrocentrism any less dangereous? It's way less likely to be called out than white supremacist nonsence and thus more likely to sneak into schools. Just look how easilly 'melanin theory' spread in schools in the '90. Or is it less dangerous becouse you don't care what black americans know about history?
10/28/2016 09:57:08 pm
Afrocentrism doesn't care what black Americans know about history, in fact the less the better.
10/30/2016 09:28:59 pm
I'm no fan of horror films myself. I can enjoy stuff like "Scooby-Doo" but I tend to prefer comedies myself. I prefer to laugh rather than be scared. Don't begrudge someone for sharing her opinion. You may like horror films but I'm also not among those who do. Horror films aren't our thing. I hope you can accept that.
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