May 6, 2008

Craving the Dark

No, I’m not talking about chocolate.

Why do so many of us love horror, dark fantasy, and all around creepy tales? Even children enjoy a ghastly story now and again, even if it does produce nightmares later. Is it a means of test driving our fight or flight reaction as Maya states it in the first chapter of Succession?

“We humans need a rush of adrenaline now and again. How can we trust our instincts, really feel safe and secure, if we don’t test our defenses?”

True, her character is attempting to wheedle her way out of getting caught trying to run away, but there’s a grain of truth there, isn’t it? As our lives become safer, there’s a need to make sure the instincts God gave us are still there just in case our cushy lives aren’t so safe after all. Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.

Then again, if it’s simply a matter of testing our instincts, why is there a tendency for segments of the entertainment industry to become progressively darker in uncertain times? Remember all those post apocalyptic movies? When were most of them made? Surely I’m not the only one who noticed them drop off after the end of the Cold War before gaining in popularity again these past few years.

It’s not a stretch to think maybe we need a way to work out our uncertainties and fears without consequence. What better way to do so than inflict horrors upon a fictional world and work out ways to avoid the worst case scenarios there? It definitely beats doing so in real life.


  1. Absolutely part of our nature to crave the dark, especially in the fantasy world. It's a feedback loop of sorts, like wanting to ride rollercoasters or jump out of airplanes.

    But maybe there's a deeper meaning too. This concept of a universal dark makes me think about Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree. He did such an awesome job drawing out our timeless infatuation with the things that scare us. (and fun for kids too!)

    Fantastic post!

  2. Aw shucks. Thanks.

    I haven't heard of The Halloween Tree before. I'll have to check it out.

  3. There's just something about darkness -- not just in horror stories. But when I am alone, darkness turns me into a wimp in my own home that I have to turn off my hearing aid to ensure I don't hear sounds I can't identify.

    But like roller coasters -- some people thrive and others fright. Darkness has that effect on people. Some love it and some fear it.

  4. You make a good point, Meryl.

    I know personally I enjoy delving into the human psyche, both the dark and light bits of it, but I hate the feeling of an adrenaline rush. I hate it, but there's something oddly reassuring at the same time, after the rush is over of course.

    Thanks for commenting.

  5. Funny...DH and I talk about this all the time. He loves the dark, esp. with storms, lightning etc. And horror movies are his absolute favorite pastime.

    I absolutely hate it. I'm always opening the blinds, curtains etc. and wouldn't be caught dead in a horror movie.

    I wonder why we're so different?

    p.s. thanks for visiting me over at MOMformation!

  6. I'm a complete Momformation addict.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Most don't have much overt fear in our relatively safe and comfortable world. Some of us need to take a dose of artificial fear just to keep in touch with the reality of a dangerous world.

  8. Exactly, Ian. Thanks for stopping by.