Alien: The Sci-Fi vs. Horror Debate That Infuriated Twitter
Alien is often accurately referred to as a blend of sci-fi and horror, but a recent Twitter debate erupted over its proper genre classification. In some ways, this feels like an inevitable point of conflict, as when it comes to genres, few seem to have more crossover than sci-fi and horror, and it's often contested where one ends and another begins. Such has been the case for films as varied as The Thing, Event Horizon, and of course, Alien.
It's a similar line of debate as what always seems to happen regarding the difference between a thriller or a horror movie. Sadly, horror is still often looked down upon by the mainstream, with studios only too happy to try and court awards season by branding a particularly cerebral horror film a "psychological thriller." For examples of that, one need only glance over at The Silence of the Lambs or Get Out.
While this kind of argument can be fun the results can never really be quantified, as what qualifies a film as a given genre can often be subjective. That's especially true of horror, which is as much about evoking a fear response as it is any particular plot element. Still, whether Alien is horror or not is by no means a settled matter.
The big fight about whether Alien is sci-fi or horror - a question oddly predicated on films only qualifying as a single genre - began with a question posed by Elle Hunt. At first, the general consensus seems to be that Alien is definitely a horror movie, following as it does multiple tropes and offering copious scares. The tenor of the debate at that point was friendly enough until Hunt decided to follow up by claiming she believes Alien isn't horror because horror can't be set in space. She reasoned that "Horror is predicated on the fear of the other, the unfamiliar in the world as we know it – space, we already don't know it." Needless to say, the assertion horror can't be set in space drew some fire.
At that juncture, what had been a fairly one-sided debate turned into a contest to see who could most succinctly refute that opinion, pointing out multiple examples that disprove the idea horror can't be set in space, including slasher sequels Jason X and Hellraiser: Bloodline. Furthermore, the retaliatory argument was made that imposing location restrictions on a genre is too reductive and doesn't make sense, assuming a film meets other, more general horror criteria. Still, there remains no universal answer to the question of whether Alien qualifies as horror, or is instead sci-fi. Most audiences will likely be content to call it both. Thankfully, the Twitter debate surrounding this issue occurred (mostly) without personal attacks or insults being in play, which sadly often can't be said about arguments surrounding films on social media. At the end of the day, if a movie has a rampaging monster murdering terrified humans, it's probably horror. Probably.
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