May it be binge-watching the newest season of American Horror Story, or staying up all night reading about true crime stories, why do humans love dark themes so much?
The simple reason may be the same as why we enjoy roller coasters. The adrenaline rushes. Followed by the feeling of knowing that we are safe. It is comforting to know that we can confront our fears and look at gore without batting an eye.
Horror has also been used as a metaphor for society. For instance, the Spanish psychological horror film The Platform is often described as a metaphor for the class system. The film is set in a vertical prison where those at the top get the most food, and those towards the bottom have to fight for the leftovers.
Several subcultures such as Goth, Punk, and Emo, in fact, celebrate the darkness. Presenting yourself in an alternative aesthetic can be empowering due to the feeling of not conforming to societal standards of what one must look like.
The love for heavy metal creates a feeling of joy and liberation in its fans. Originally associated with demonic thoughts, the genre served as a source of rebellion back in the 80s and the 90s. The psychology behind this comes from the fact that those with naturally aggressive thoughts find solace in music that matches their emotions. This leads to them using the songs as a healthy coping mechanism for their anger regulation.
Gothic literature by writers such as Mary Shelly and Edgar Allan Poe reminds us of the darkness that lies around us. Despite the presence of supernatural elements, the most gruesome stories are that of humans. Frankenstein may have been the name of the scientist and not the monster, but what is more monster-like than creating a monster and rejecting it? In The Masque of Red Death, the red death may have caused agony, but what is more agonizing than a prince failing his subjects and partying with the wealthiest while his kingdom faces a deadly plague? As Sister Jude from American Horror Story: Asylum said, “all monsters are human.”
The tendency to be fascinated by true crime is an interesting one, but much more common than you might think. You can even see it in your parents who love watching Crime Patrol. It gives us an opportunity to analyze the psychology of criminals; it helps us look at the gruesome things a human can do closely. From The Ted Bundy Tapes, to Inside the Manson Cult, we grab onto every opportunity we have to look inside their minds.
How much is too much? -When interest in true crime transforms into an obsession
Several true crime ‘fans’ develop a savior complex due to their empathy for the criminals. They wonder if they could’ve saved these killers had they known them, and that passing thought manifests into a romantic attraction to them. With pictures of serial killers tattooed and real-life crime scene pictures worn on t-shirts, the one question that one must ask themselves is – am I being disrespectful to the victim? Our intrigue for the crimes should not take away from the fact that the victims of these killers were real people. They are not just stories or characters.