I think the answer has something to do with “genres”--the types or categories of literature, film, music, and so on.
- Innovation—(1974) Texas Chainsaw Massacre & (1978) Halloween get the slasher genre going.
- Replication or “Can I get a sequel?”—(1980) Friday the 13th and (1984) A Nightmare on Elm Street define the slasher genre and generate franchises that still haven’t quite gone away.
- Self-reflexivity—(1996) Scream begins a slasher franchise that is keenly aware of its participation in the genre and occasionally references not only itself, but also other films in the genre.
- Parody—(2000) Scary Movie gets Ghost Face high and makes a pile of money mocking the slasher genre and horror films in general.
- Rebirth—(2004) Saw picks up the serial killing slasher, adds a creepy puppet, and earns its way into the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful horror franchise in Hollywood history.
And here we are. Republican slasher film rhetoric appears primed to make its last final generic evolution. If Trump is the new (orange-tinged) face of conservatism, perhaps his rhetoric is best understood as a generic parody. It all sounds familiar, comprised of the same old scare tactics and fear appeals of Reagan era rhetoric and its replicants, but it’s hard to take too seriously, almost like everything he says is accompanied by a wink and a nod. In fact, his incredible reliance on catchphrases, slogans, and talking points—without any of the argumentation—makes it seem almost as though he’s mocking Republicans rather than rallying them. His fear appeals are ridiculous, laughable, and reprehensible.
But that’s exactly why they’re appealing. The horror audience gets a double pleasure from parody because it at once supplies the scare-tactics that they so enjoy, but also rewards them for getting the jokes and catching the references along the way. Republicans like to be scared, so they tell the same ghost stories with many of the same characters (immigrants, communists, and Clintons), but with Trump they get to revel in the pleasures self-mockery and laughter as they celebrate and pay homage to their rhetorical legacy all the while preparing it for rebirth with a touch of torture porn.