Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Why does scary stuff work?

 It’s almost Halloween. Our six-year-old has been obsessing about Halloween since August. So I feel like I should write about ghost and horror stories/movies/authors/board games/RPGs. But man, where to start? I mean, what can I write about Edgar Allen Poe that hasn’t already been written? 

Really, between ghost stories, gorror, zombies, vampires, undisclosed generic horror, werewolves, demon types and all of the fun you can have with Cthulhu, there’s a lot of subcategories in the whole ‘scare you’ genre. 

Clearly, it touches some kind of nerve on the human race. Perhaps fear fascinates us or is so fundamental that we all can relate to it. According to Paul Eckman, fear is one of the six core emotions (the others are joy, anger, disgust, sadness and surprise and, yes, the Pixar movie Inside Out drew heavily on his studies) 

But our love of media that have scary stuff in them is clearly not just related to fear all by itself. Being able to indulge in it safely and in a controlled way lets our minds add joy to the equation which changes everything. I’m not actually worried about a rabid dog attacking me when I read Cujo or zombies when I watch Night of the Living Dead.

(Too much control can remove all the fear, though. I was in a D&D campaign where we mugged a litch. Took a lot of planning and very special circumstances but we did it. And it wasn’t scary at all)

Clearly, while there are lots of specific niches of scary stuff, media that has scary stuff in it is not really a niche. I’d go beyond saying it’s mainstream and go so far as to say that it is universal. And it’s clearly not just for Halloween.

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