The Ageing Face. Image Source: Top News.
Generations and changing social values, ageing and anti-ageing are all themes on this blog. For centuries, anti-ageing gone wrong has been a constant horror theme, because it concerns a reversal of the natural order of things. As Millennial genetics and advanced medical research make that reversal the new normal, fears of unnatural immortality seem increasingly outdated.
Anti-ageing taps into other social values and trends, such as relations between the sexes, physical enhancement through medical technologies, the increasingly complex human relationship with machines and the dawn of transhumanism.
Two examples of scary story-telling show how fears around this family of issues are cryptically related and how they changed over time: the 367th episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater, broadcast on 24 October 1975 - and the 1,345th episode, broadcast on 30 June 1982.
CBSRMT's main site, where you can hear all 1,399 episodes, is here. Broadcast each weeknight, this American radio series ran ghostly and horror dramas from 1974 to 1982. This show was part of what could be called the last blossoming of the golden era of radio drama.
The differences between the 24 October 1975 episode, "The Summer People," and the 30 June 1982 episode, "Killer Crab," reveal how much contemporary social norms changed between the sexes in that seven year time period. That shift in attitudes also transformed horror tropes. The 1975 episode provides an old-fashioned witchy occult story about anti-ageing and an unchallenged domestic hierarchy. It plays on the general youthful confidence and relative gender unison of the Baby Boom generation at that time.
CBS Radio Mystery Theater: "The Summer People" (1975) © CBS. Video Source: Youtube.
But by 1982, anti-ageing had became normalized in fiction and was no longer a source of horror in the same way. This is evident in "Killer Crab," which is set in the far distant future. Oddly enough, 1980s' normalization of anti-ageing may have been part of the deconstruction of gender roles and became the imagination's great gender equalizer. The 1980s' alienation between the sexes was weirdly reflected in new horror themes. "Killer Crab" moves from anti-ageing, to gender conflict, to fears of increasingly sophisticated technologies, machines, robots and weapons. Listen to "Killer Crab" here.
See all my posts on Horror themes.
See all my posts on Ghosts.
CBS Radio Mystery Theater is © CBS Radio Network and is reproduced here solely for the purpose of not-for-profit review and discussion.
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