I’ve been thinking about horror lately. Sure, we’re a few weeks removed from official spoopy season, but horror is omnipresent and does not abide your calendar rules.
I’ve been rewatching Courage the Cowardly Dog, a show that affected me when I watched it as a kid, and hits me in a totally different way now. I plan on talking with a friend about it on their podcast soon, so I’ve been watching with a more critical eye than I might otherwise. I’ve also been consuming content like the always haunting Over the Garden Wall, listening to Allie Nimmons’ podcast on female horror, Hysteria, and moving through the original run of Are You Afraid of the Dark thanks to a borrowed Paramount+ login.
It seems obvious what some answers could be when I ask what it is about horror that is drawing me in more than usual right now. While I am comparably safe and secure, there are a lot of things to be worried about. I spend a good part of my day every day concerned with something in my life that needs doing or that I cannot quite figure out or manage. It’s a quiet, subdued kind of horror. The malevolent spirit is always hovering just out of view, lurking in the cracks between moments when I try to catch my breath and slow my mind.
As Timothy Morton said in a recent Wired feature discussing their book, ‘Hyperobjects’, their intent in writing what could be viewed as a form of existential horror was to “offer people a dose of disquietude in hopes of inoculating them against the growing weirdness and terror of being alive”. There are some concepts that cannot be forced down into the understanding of a single person, and the feeling of helplessness that engenders is palpable.
But what kind of horror are we dealing with really? Most of the episodes of Courage are about misunderstandings viewed through a lens of trauma, where maybe the need to be afraid isn’t really there. As shown regularly throughout the show, it is how we deal with the trials that come our way that shapes us. Our own fears are what can turn us into monsters.
Horror has some value then. It can provide a shock, a jumpstart to the system to shake us from complacency. It’s not necessarily the best way to deal with problems, but it is one way to remove us from stupors that lead to inaction. On a personal level I’ve been struggling with some issues that I can’t find the right answer to, and it’s only at those times where a bit of fear settles in that I feel a motivation to run and to just do something.
Is this healthy? Not any less than some other ways of getting into motion I’d argue. The safety of a little imagined fear is better than some of the real world horrors that can’t be addressed by a single person. The hyperobjects that are unfathomable beasts can be beat, but we need to be scared out of our hubris to really view them head on.
If you made it this far, why not share this newsletter with a friend? Or share with me some of the things that you found that you liked this week. Either way, I’m thrilled!