The perks of being afraid of the dark
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 20:10
October is my favorite time of the year. It brings cooler weather and the leaves change to vibrant colors but, above all else, it has Halloween, which has always been my favorite holiday. This isn’t just because it’s an excuse for the small child in me to start eating inordinate amounts of candy or because I can dress up like Captain America in the only socially acceptable occasion for a grown man to carry a shield for an extended period of time. No, the real reason that I love October 31 is that it’s the one time of the year when everyone enjoys a good scare. It’s a holiday that allows me to revisit one of my favorite childhood memories that made me fall in love with the horror genre in the first place.
Every Friday night in the 90s, my parents, my older brother and I would gather around the television, flip to Nickelodeon and watch the best 90s kid’s show ever, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” It is my theory that the people of our generation who flock to new and promising horror movies, shows and stories, do so out of a blind nostalgia for their love of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?,” “Goosebumps” or whatever your particular childhood go-to scares were.
For those of you who don’t know, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” was a children’s show about a group of teens that called themselves “The Midnight Society.” They would sneak out of their houses at night and meet at a bonfire in the woods to share ghost stories that the viewer would see in live action. The stories stemmed mostly from spins on public domain fairy tales or urban legends but they were all tailor-made to frighten small children in the most socially appropriate way possible. I’m sure my parent’s can remember many a sleepless night of me being afraid that the green vampire or Zeebo the clown would emerge from my closet or under my bed, straight from the screen to my nightmares.
While my parents might regret letting me watch such scary material at such a young age, I thank them for it. That thrill that I got from watching these clever stories play out eventually led my brother and I to sneak off and watch some of the more adult horror stories like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th.“ I was the only kid on my block to have seen the first four “Halloween” movies before the age of ten, a fact that seemed much cooler at the time. In fact, Vulture recently posted a few concept posters as a fun, but fake, idea to remake old “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” episodes into R-rated movies.
The show was not a way to frighten children but expose them at a young age to just how thrilling the horror genre can be. Through the mass of cute, cartoony lollipops and sunshine dreck that is usually produced for children came a show devoted to showing kids the wonders of the paranormal, the absurd and the science fiction.
As the years went on, the show was unfortunately subject to a lot of watering down as showing skeletal monsters and murderous clowns became less and less acceptable for children. It was eventually pulled off the air in early 2000.
The problem with today is that a show like that would be immediately dismissed as fostering a generation of twisted serial killers, or something equally as asinine. The only possible negative outcome for a young generation is that they learn how much fun it can be to turn out the lights, get together with friends or family, pop in a DVD and dare a story to scare them once again.