Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Creepy Is

     I was watching a Twilight Zone episode with my daughters and afterward we had our standard debriefing.  The episode we watched leaned toward the scary end of the Twilight Zone spectrum and I've found that discussion and understanding often prevents bedtime anxiety.  My ten-year-old had been squeezing my hand pretty tight during the episode, so I asked if it was a little too scary for her.  "No," she assured me.  "I mean, it was a little creepy during the episode, but once I knew what was going on, it didn't scare me at all.  Things are creepier when you don't know what's going on."
     Now, the final explanation for all the creepy goings on in that episode ("The Hitch-Hiker") is a supernatural one and, in concept at least, no less scary than the rest of the episode.  But, as someone who tries to attain a sense of weirdness and creepiness in his own story-telling, my daughter's comments did highlight a crucial point for me.  Creepiness is all about not knowing, about not being able to explain something.  That, essentially, is what creepiness is.  Yet stories (or perhaps it's really readers of stories . . . or perhaps it's really publishers of stories) seem to demand an ultimate explanation.  As enjoyable as creepiness is for many, it seems intolerable that it should linger beyond the end of a narrative.  It's as if, if that were to happen, it would be to suggest that the world doesn't work properly.
     Many of us seem to read stories for a sense of closure or satisfaction that feels unattainable in our actual lives.  But I often wonder, isn't there something compelling, something enjoyable, maybe even something healthy, about facing our unease over things that are simply beyond our ability to control?

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