One word: Catharsis.
I joke often that this is a weird time to be in the dystopia business. I watch as clips from my trailers and key historic events from my series come to fruition, unsure how to proceed. Do you capitalize on these tragedies? How you market something that, for many, hits so very close to home?
“The story is a frightening look into what lies under the thin veneer of civilization. It explores not only the world post disaster but also the consequences when that protection from the wild within our own nature is broken.”Amazon Review
There’s a reason why the Walking Dead, Supernatural, and pandemic films are so popular. It’s not just our morbid fascination that leads us to consume art that touches on our fears–there’s a real psychological benefit to it, too. Right now, we’re living in a world that is consumed with anxiety. We feel powerless to change our circumstances, and completely at the mercy of our current climate. You’d think that gazing endlessly at movies, drowning ourselves in art, and devouring novels that explore these dark themes would be… tiresome. Redundant, even? Instead, we find the process somewhat… empowering.
Catharsis (from Greek κάθαρσις, katharsis, meaning “purification” or “cleansing” or “clarification”) is the purification and purgation of emotions—particularly pity and fear—through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration.
What stories like Wild Things Will Roam and the rest of the Collapse series do, is provide an outlet for our fears (I’ll cover this more in my upcoming Deconstructing Design post). They hold our hands and walk us–from a position of relative safety–through the situations we are most terrified of, allowing us to emerge more resilient on the other side.
As reported by a recent Guardian article, “Danish academic Mathias Clasen, director of the Recreational Fear Lab at Aarhus University, has even argued that watching horror ‘may have positive effects in terms of fine-tuning coping strategies’. Clasen and a colleague at the University of Chicago, Coltan Scrivner, followed this up with a study of 310 recruits who answered questions ‘used to assess their morbid curiosity, how prepared they felt for the pandemic, how they were feeling during the pandemic, and their movie preferences’.
Their results indicated that people who watched horror learn about their own fear responses and so are better able to regulate their emotions.”
Hope in the Hopeless
“I most appreciate this space that West created for healing. With each character, especially Lash and Liv, you can see how they deteriorate mentally from the strain of previous events, but they have to keep going to survive. Although it’s not said directly, but I got this sense that it’s okay to not be okay.”Goodreads Review
The reason why I enjoy reading and writing these kinds of stories, is that I believe there’s something hopeful to be found. Even in an otherwise hopeless situation (I’m looking at you, The Terror, and In Harm’s Way), there’s a sense of determination to survive that I resonate with.
How well would I do in the Collapse? Yes, I know how to make a toothbrush, but if my Oregon Trail days have anything to say for it, me and my family would all die of dysentery not long after our ox got swept downriver. But play-acting my responses and riding the emotional waves help me to explore my looming fear that something big, and possibly bad, may be just around the corner.
So lean in. Queue up that Halloween marathon or crack open your copy of WTWR. If nothing else, that catharsis might make you feel better, after all.