Are We Afraid of Being Scared?

Digital Spy

Hannah Lonergan, Staff Writer |

2020 hasn’t been the only year with unprecedented disasters and political strife. Every year we see the classic cycle: “last year was terrible, this is going to be my year” followed by, “this year is terrible, I can’t wait till next year.” However, we have always lived amongst an world and individuals whom we cannot control. We should not shy away from raw, scary things that mimic reality.

Children’s media has changed the way kids are exposed to creepy or strange things. When I was young, I watched “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” and “R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps” until I couldn’t sit alone in my basement any longer. I was afraid of the unusual characters that were laid out before me. At a young age, my imagination would run wild with the idea of a ghastly figure standing outside moaning “return the slab.”  

But though these shows, among others, were scary and always had me turning my back while walking upstairs, they always had important lessons for the audience. “Courage the Cowardly Dog” provided us with countless examples of being brave during seemingly impossible situations. Courage always overcame the problem in front of him, even if he didn’t succeed the first time.

Most of these old, creepy children’s shows are rarely on anymore, as they’ve almost all disappeared during the early 2000s. Kid’s shows just aren’t as scary as they used to be. There was a small period of time, seemingly ending right as I was growing up, where episodes of fairly innocent TV shows even had some creepy aspects.

“SpongeBob SquarePants” used to feature what they called “gross-ups” which were close up images of the characters that highlighted sweat, wrinkles, bloodshot eyes and crusty skin. It was weird, but it had character. The “Rugrats” also sprinkled in the occasional nightmare fuel. It depicted how childhood can be scary, especially when you’re still learning about the world around you. 

Even newer “horror” media for teens doesn’t seem to last. “Scream Queens,” a horror-comedy, was canceled after two seasons. “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” will not see a fifth season on Netflix, even as “Riverdale” continues on. Even “American Horror Story” has seen viewership decline as it moves to its tenth season, despite its relevance in the mainstream media. We should ask ourselves what place horror has in our lives. Why do we not like scary media, despite it being a tool to adjust to the relentless outside world?

Horror books used to feature creative and intricate covers. The “R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps” children’s books had some of the most eye-catching images in children’s literature. The cover art was just part of the fun when stumbling upon them at a Scholastics Book Fair. Even adult horror novels are hard to differentiate from any other genre. Cover art doesn’t seem to take the same risks it might have in earlier years.

Maybe it’s because I’m aging, but Halloween also has lost its edge. It doesn’t seem as relevant anymore as it quickly gets shoved out of stores in time for late-October Christmas preparations. Television programming for Halloween is usually divided between replays of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Hocus Pocus” and “Halloweentown.” Though those are fantastic films, there is little else in the child horror genre to be shown throughout October.

Fear is one emotion that can bring people together, and as terrible as it sounds, might be a helpful tool for us now.  Horror can be a wonderful genre. It tells us that the world isn’t so neat, that there isn’t always a happy ending but that there is always a reason to persevere. There will be a reason and a way to make it out alive – even if it’s not clear at the beginning.

Yes, 2020 has been tough. So has 2019, 2018 and every year prior. The bubonic plague hit a few years after the “worst year ever” of 536 A.D., but that also went away. Humans will adjust and change, political strife will be resolved and justice will be served.

Scary stories for children can prepare them for some of the terrors that come along with growing up and entering a world that has little remorse. Even adult horror has a place in our lives, if we can open up to it.

1 Comment

  1. I’m part of a podcast called Geesebumps that re-explores our old childhood love affair with Goosebumps and Fear Street.
    Going back to these books as an adult has actually been somewhat surprising–the books can actually become darker and a bit more sadistic when you read them with the benefit of adult knowledge of the world.
    And of course in other ways they’re sillier than I remember…and somehow the kid characters seem more contrived to me now than when I was an actual kid reading the books. Nevertheless, I still love them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.