By the strictest definition of the word "horror", I'm a bad horror fan. Why? Because I don't like being scared. I also don't like being grossed out, shocked, disturbed or any of the other uncomfortable descriptive feelings that may often accompany the horror genre. And yet I do consider myself a bit of a horror geek. In fact, I have a great love for the genre.
The truth is that I enjoy a lot of things that other people consider scary. I enjoy the art of horror. I like things that are dark, weird and creepy. I love learning about the behind-the-scenes elements of horror films and where the ideas of horror literary fiction come from. I like reading about the production and the process of creating things that go bump in the night. I love so many of the trappings of horror, the themes, the clichés, the camp, and the ground breaking moments in horror history. And yes, sometimes I even enjoy scaring other people myself. For me, it's less about fear and more about fun.
But this is an aspect which is rarely discussed when talking about this genre. Horror's intended purpose is to invoke fear, after all. So any conversation about the emotional appeal of horror almost inevitably centers around questions like "why do we enjoy being scared?". But this way of approaching the topic leaves out some important realities that would be very familiar to horror fans. For example, there are many horror fans who can watch the same classic films over and over again, far beyond the point where they are no longer scary, and yet still enjoy them. Or what about our capitalistic fascination with turning horror icons like slashers and monsters into cute plush toys and bobble heads (a fascination which I completely approve of)? And what do we make of the "everyday is Halloween" crowd who seem to be more genuinely comfortable being surrounded by creepy things? Or even the once-a-year Halloween celebrant who enjoys going all out for the holiday? In the U.S. Halloween is the second most merchandised holiday after Christmas, and surely all of those plastic skulls and cardboard coffins are not invoking enormous amounts of dread in all who see them. And this doesn't even include subgenres like horror-comedy, which many have pointed out can seem like a bit of a tricky emotional contradiction. It's clear that there is something else going on here that isn't normally brought up when discussing the concept of horror.
It's About (Dark) Fun!
Now you could easily come to the conclusion that none of these things are technically horror, for the simple reason that they don't inspire fear. But if that's the case, what are they? Do we have a good word to describe these very horror related concepts and forms of entertainment which are designed to amuse and delight, rather than terrify? And to make matters even more complicated, there are plenty of horror fans who do genuinely enjoy being scared. But these people will also make a distinction between the pleasure they get from horror entertainment, or "fun fear", and "real fear", which is not so pleasant. Counterintuitively, it seems like the real value of horror is ultimately good feelings. And honestly, why wouldn't it be?
This is why I've chosen to define what we do as "dark fun". It's meant as a catchall term for all things spooky, villain or horror related, without falling into the trap of being exclusively about invoking fear. It can certainly include that of course, but it can also include things like dark comedy, surreal strangeness and empowering villainous monologues. The darkness can be philosophical or aesthetic, the point is that it's designed for enjoyment.
This is also meant to address another reoccurring issue with darkness (horror or otherwise); mainly that it is often assumed to be bad or negative. Once again, this type of thinking does not square well with many of the different forms of dark entertainment, genres and subcultures that approach these things as being enjoyable, empowering and even comforting. It's very obvious that darkness, as it relates to the entertainment or lifestyle space, is more about pleasure and fun. Of course the real issue is that not everyone sees it that way. Countercultures, by definition, are not the majority and most of what we're talking about here falls under that category, with only certain bits and pieces of it bleeding into the mainstream. This isn't to say that there aren't many more people who know about these things, because they do. But they don't necessarily fully embrace them or align with them. They may dabble with the darkness a little occasionally, but they don't see it as friendly. Or to put it in Clive Barker terminology- "They're not Nightbreed. They're meat. Meat for the beast". I think it's this difference in perception that makes a term like "dark fun" necessary, or at least helpful.
Take It From The Addams'
Perhaps the best way for me to describe my views on this is to use the example of the Addams Family. For this iconic household, the darkness isn't negative or depressing, it's business as usual. They're comfortable in it and they own it. It's their preferred reality and it just so happens to be strange or spooky to everyone else around them. It's not scary to them, it's home.
This idea of darkness not being frightening or even novel, but simply being your reality is something that I can strongly relate to. But it's something that other people seem to have trouble wrapping their heads around. For them it can't be anything but weird. I think that this comes as a result of the fact that in some ways we all live in our own little subjective worlds, our own little bubbles of reality. We exist in our own cultures. The Addams family certainly does. After all, what is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.
One of the greatest curses of the Internet is that it makes it easier than ever to come face to face with ideas and cultures (including things like subcultures, countercultures, hobbies and fandoms) that might seem alien and bizarre to us. This is why I think there is often so much drama online. People are opening up their closets and skeletons are pouring out in what is essentially a public setting. People are exposed to other peoples worlds that they would not have normally had any contact with before this information age. Sometimes these different ways of thinking can seem shocking, frightening or appalling. But this is also one of the greatest strengths of the Internet and modern communication. It's easier than ever to spread ideas. And this puts an individual in a position where they have more options to choose from and more ways of creating and customizing their own personal worlds.
One of the purposes of Twisted Jenius and our mission of "spreading dark fun" is to increase these options. To provide another way of approaching the darkness and looking at it in a way that might be more interesting or appealing to some people. I'm a person who really likes dark and spooky things, not because they are scary or just for the sake of being different, but because I truly enjoy them and find them fun and often comforting. In my world villains are inspirational, strange creatures are cool and the night has a kind of magic and beauty that the day can simply not compete with. My desire is to spread these ideas and to make this spooky version of the world bigger. To turn the collective cultural mindshare just a few shades darker and make the larger, mainstream world of lifestyle and entertainment just a little more friendly for all of our inner monsters to go frolic in.