Highlighting the stories of Drake students and faculty. Photo by Hallie O’Neill.
Beth Younger, an Associate Professor of English here at Drake University, has been a vegetarian for 35 years. She grows lavender in her home garden so she can attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. She cares deeply about animals, especially her cat and her two dogs. She grew up in Los Angeles as a “beach kid,” adores young adult literature and loves horror films.
“I think it’s because initially when I was little, I had an older brother and he would make me watch scary things to try to scare me,” said Younger. “So I think I just sort of developed, you know, an affinity for them without really knowing why. Because also, I felt like it made me brave if I could watch something … I mean, it’s interesting because it’s a form of popular culture that kind of flies under the radar. It’s like romance novels, nobody takes them seriously. But there’s a lot of cultural ideology in horror films.”
She’s even gotten the opportunity to incorporate this affinity into her curriculum with “Gender in Horror Film,” a course in which students can consider these questions.
“Like, is Silence of the Lambs a horror film or a thriller?” said Younger. “And people say Jaws is a horror film. I’m like, ‘That is not a horror film.’ I mean, it’s about some dudes and a shark. But people found it scary, so is that how you decide? It’s an interesting quandary.”
Outside of the classroom, naturally, Younger tends to allocate some of her free time to the genre. She’s a self-proclaimed pop culture person, so literature and television are often her defaults. The movie theatre remains as one of her favorite haunts.
“I like to go to even the worst, dumbest horror movie that exists because it’s fun to go to the theatre and see it and hear people react,” said Younger.
Younger herself describes her educational path as a bit more “nontraditional.” She didn’t move directly from high school to college. Instead, she took some time off to live on her own and work, those jobs including customer service at a printing company and accounting at a television production company.
This transition period helped fuel her desire to continue her schooling and eventually teach.
“It was just so meaningless,” said Younger. “Like, paying bills for people’s pantyhose on a television show that costs more than I made in a week … I needed more purpose and meaning in my life than doing accounts payable for Aaron Spelling. It was not fulfilling.”
So, she enrolled in night classes at a community college. From there, she transferred to Humboldt State University to complete her undergraduate degree and then Louisiana State University to earn her master’s degree and PhD.
“I would say almost every semester something happens in a class where—I mean, it pretty much happens every week, where I’m just like, ‘I can’t believe this is my job,’” said Younger. “It’s so great, you know?”
And if you’re looking for a horror film to watch this week, check out Younger’s most recent pick: Get Out (2017) by director Jordan Peele.