Monday, October 22, 2012

U Is For Unnerving (Or Uncomfortable)

Why do people love Halloween so much? 

Is it the costumes and candy? The special editions of their favourite television shows? The Horror movies? Or decorations? 

Much like Christmas, Halloween has a huge following - some might even say it is cultish - but it isn't the warm, let's all hold hands and show each other we love one another feelings. It's being unnerved. Uncomfortable. Creeped out. Terrified. Frightened. 

In this month, North Americans will spend millions of dollars on spooky costumes, haunted attractions, scary movies and anything that will give them a thrill and chill. It is ingrained in us to believe we should avoid our fears. Close our eyes at the frightening parts. Run away from the bad. Except these days people disregard the most common learned behaviour and chose to embrace their fears instead of run away from them. And that is because we love being scared. And that's exactly what October is selling. 

Human beings are funny creatures. We need to explore what we do not know, and we go out of our way to try and master situations that are threatening or dangerous. This comes down to control. As we approach losing control, we get a bigger thrill, more satisfaction. Of course, we would be insane to try to do this in real life. If someone is chasing us with a knife, we are going to run...unless we have a death wish. So, while we love the thought of facing danger and staring down evilness, we also want to have safety. 

Here enters artificially created horror that won't actually harm us. It certainly isn't the same. No, not at all. But it still produces the adrenaline spike we crave. The prickling of skin. Uncontrollable giggles. Shiver up our spine. Manic laughter. Cringing in our seats. We love these feelings because ultimately they make us feel alive. Whenever there is a race in our heart and a rush in our blood, we are reminded that we are here, participating. 

And we love that reminder. 

More so than being alive, horror and Halloween allow us to explore the unknown (another 'U' word). We revel in the darker side of life. That which we do not understand, and which might not even exist, excites us. There's a reason vampires are so popular and ghost stories are shared around camp fires. The supernatural enthrals us. What is even more interesting is that this curiosity for the mystical, mysterious and macabre only grows as we get older. Though some children are fascinated by witches and ghosts, their fixation with it pales in comparison to adults. 

Often, children are less afraid than the grown-ups surrounding them. This can be attributed to the fact that kids don't  understand the reality of life and live in a fantasy land where everything is going to be okay. Adults, on the other hand, know all too well how harmful the world can be. It's this fear of being hurt that makes us react the way we do to horror films, roller-coasters and anything else that has elements of danger. 

On the surface, Halloween appears to be a holiday for children, but this isn't true. If you dig a little deeper, you will see that this month long event is geared towards adults.

No comments: