Cleansing Our Sanctuaries: Ghost-Hunters and Home-Improvement

What do any number of ghost-hunting and home-improvement television programs have in common? Nothing, you might say? Don’t be so sure.

I am working my way through my growing stack of reading relating to the fantastic, and this weekend I read a few chapters in The Philosophy of Horror, edited by Thomas Fahy (The University Press of Kentucky, 2010). There are several interesting chapters in this volume, but one that caught my attention this weekend was by Jessica O’Hara titled “Making Their Presence Known: TV’s Ghost-Hunter Phenomenon in a ‘Post-’ World.” In the chapter O’Hara considers why the numerous ghost-hunting “reality shows” are so very popular in our post-9/11 world and a postmodern skepticism toward meta-narratives. As the author develops her case she makes an interesting connection between ghost-hunter programs and home-improvement programs. I understand why the reader might be skeptical, but consider an excerpt where O’Hara notes the parallels:

In any case, the home-improvement show trend is massive, and ghost-hunter programming can certainly be seen as an extension of the genre. Consider the home-improvement and ghost-hunter’s shows’ common elements: clients call in experts to solve a problem with their home; the said problem compromises the clients’ ability to enjoy the home as a sanctuary; the team applies its expertise and solves the problem. The only difference is that instead of moving a cooking island, adding granite countertops, and replacing tacky linoleum with earth-toned tile, ghost-hunting shows work on getting rid of the spirit hanging by the refrigerator. Indeed, Ghost Hunters directly imitates the conventions of the home-improvement genre, including the up-tempo music, the infighting among team members, and the dramatic “reveal” to the clients, whose reaction of being pleased or not pleased draws upon the narrative struck of shows like Trading Spaces or While You Were Out.

Just one of the gems for reflection found in this book and the probing of horror and popular culture.

Related post:

Phillp Tallon: The Philosophy of Horror

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