A horrifying hello to all my horror addicts out there. Welcome to another great interview with my next meal, uh I mean guest Cecilia Abate.
Where are you from?
San Francisco, California.
Tell us what you do Cecilia?
I’m a horror academic and independent researcher.
What’s your background and fascination in this subject?
Well, I’m a data analyst by day, and my degree is in journalism, so my first instinct is to analyze something and look for potential points of investigation. I love spinning theories about media. I think it’s an enlightening and playful thing to be able to propose a thesis and make connections in a movie or a text that people haven’t thought of. Being able to open up new theoretical doors is very exciting to me.
How did you get started with the Horror Scholar (Great name by the way), what was your inspiration/motivation?
Thank you! Well, it took me ages to put the two interests – horror and scholarship together. As far as I remember, I was talking to a few friends about American Horror Story, and they kept saying things like, “I love horror, but I can’t do the rape scenes, I can’t watch this show, but I really wish I could.” And the more I talked to people, the more I heard things like that. So, I decided to put my feelings to the test and I drummed up my thesis on sexual violence, and started doing the data work for it. Once I was knee-deep in that, I started to think of theories for other horror titles, and it spiraled from there, and I discovered I really had an audience.
What is the purpose of Horror Scholar? Why do you feel it’s important to educate the public on this topic?
I don’t think it’s necessarily about me educating people—I more want to get people comfortable with the idea of educating themselves. I wanna foster and encourage this curiosity and the willingness to examine the things you like.
Why do you choose to keep your identity a mystery or secret on that page?
I don’t want people to be distracted by the person behind the page – I’m not there to promote my face or my personality. I want my work to speak for itself without any bias caused by integrating who I am.
Can you explain your critical study on sexual violence in American Horror Story?
So, the goal of this project is to measure the weight and relevance of each incident of sexual violence in the show. It’s organized season by season, and for each season I release an infograph with all sorts of summaries and graphs/charts, and then a research packet with more detail and heavier breakdowns.
Have you written other analysis?
Yes indeed! I have a lot of pieces that are in the second or third draft stage, but not quite ready to release into the wild. I have a long piece on feminine identify/self-actualization and possession in the Exorcist, body image & representation in American Mary, and a few others in the pipeline.
What do you feel is lacking within the horror industry/genre?
Diversity of casting.
What are your future goals for the Horror Scholar?
Right now, I have two main goals: Get published in some literary journals & do panels on related topics at academic conferences.
Are you working on any other projects?
Horror Scholar is my only people-facing endeavor! I have tons of other weird personal hobbies though. Recently, I’ve been studying spider identification. Super niche but I’m getting pretty good, although that’s not really something you can brag about at parties.
In your opinion, what does horror mean to you (define)?
That’s sort of a broad question. In terms of what it means to ME personally, I think it’s a wide spectrum of varying experiences that challenge our concepts of comfort. It’s a realm in which we can realize and experience parts of ourselves – fear, hatred, desperation, agony – in a safe space and then return to our normal lives without actual harm done.
What’s your favorite horror movie?
If you can choose a horror character to become, who would it be and why?
Carmilla Karnstein! It took some thought, but Carmilla is very dear to me.
Thank you for joining us today Cecilia, now it’s time to go, into my oven…On second thought, I prefer this meal rare.