I would like to start by saying that urban legends represent a folklore that comprises stories which are only factual to those who create them, such as rumors. This term urban legends is used to mean expression similar to apocryphal story.
Since the urban legends oftentimes are repeated and spread through the mass media as well as online (email, chats, forums, www) people indeed believe that such stories happened to a friend of a friend (FOAF) that the FOAF would become the very community to describe such stories. In Great Britain urban legends are called Whale Tumor Stories which derives the name from the famous WWII urban legend about the whale meat.
Urban legends are not necessarily untrue, yet typically they are exaggerated, distorted to the point of sensation and despite the word “urban” do not apply only to the urban settings. The name is used to differentiated urban legends from traditional folklore created in pre-industrial times.
The reason why urban legends both reveal and disseminate ongoing social fears, concerns and anxieties in American culture is because in order for a story to become well-remembered and sensational which these urban legends strive to be, one typically has to scare the audience to believe it since something that took place in urban legend could actually take place in their lives. Actually, it appears that for these legends to survive in the society and get passed from one person to another, they have to possess the role of a warning to humans. For instance, some urban legends speak about women get killed by spiders that created a nest in the sophisticated hairdo, while other urban legends speak about people being sedated and woke up minus a kidney which was removed by dishonest doctors for transplants (Craughwell, 264). Such urban legend was spoken in the context of American immigrants who appear to fall the typical pray to such dishonest doctors since they do not know much about the US legal system and cannot sue them, yet oftentimes children and minorities would have their kidney removed without the consent of a donor. This legend as we can see creates fear in foreigners especially of Latin American descend who are not much liked by Americans since they move to the US in great numbers.
When looking online at http://www.snopes.com/horrors/horrors.asp?music=off one can find horrifying urban legends making up 16 categories. Each category would hold over a dozen of different urban legends some of which appear to be known to me already while others are novel. The website http://www.snopes.com/ has urban legends represented on various topics ranging from love to business to even Hurricane Katrina.
I have to note that the urban legends seem to me to be created for several purposes as the following:
- Educate people and warn them about something. Urban legends typically have some gist in them and some hint that people should focus on.
- Have a topic to speak about. Urban legends allow one to have something to fill in the silence that might appear in-between conversations (Brunvand, 90).
- Manipulate the people’s mood. Urban legends can be horrifying, happy, funny and weird. By using one urban legend or the other one can scare people, make them laugh or get depressed.
In conclusion, I would like to note that urban legends represent the very folklore that modern people need since they are so popular and find application in any industry, race and age. Urban legends typically involve a great deal of emotions such as fear, and depression to be better remembered and passed on to others.
Brunvand, Jan Harold, Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, McGraw Hill, 2004.
Craughwell, Thomas, Urban Legends: 666 Absolutely True Stories That Happened to a Friend…of a Friend of a Friend, Prentice Hall, 2003.
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