Terrified and loving it: What’s up with all the scary TV shows?

The gore and violence on shows like "Hannibal" is incredibly realistic.
The gore and violence on shows like “Hannibal” is incredibly realistic.

‘Tis the season for all things that creep, crawl and go bump in the night and, if your TV Guide is any indication, it’s also the year for it.

There’s been a noticeable shift in the medium — where horror used to lurk almost entirely at the box office, we’re seeing a large influx of spooky, scary and sometimes downright disturbing programs on television. From long-running shows like “Dexter” (R.I.P.) to newer fright fests like “American Horror Story” (its third season premieres tonight!) “Bates Motel” and “Hannibal,” there’s no denying that viewers have developed an appetite for TV with darker inclinations.

This begs the question: Why do we love to be scared? And why now, seemingly more than ever? The world is a scary place, and the truth is too often more disturbing than fiction. Why, then, is there an expanding market for fictional shows designed to horrify?

According to Dr. Robert Kraft, a psychology professor at Otterbein University, this curiosity is innately human.

“The world has always been a scary place and people have always enjoyed terrifying stories — from the myths of ancient Greece through … contemporary stories of horror in film and on television,” he says.

However, he agrees that there’s been a shift as of late.

“One change has been the increasingly realistic depiction of graphic violence. More than half a century ago, the famous shower scene in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ never showed the victim getting stabbed. Today, that scene would be shot with multiple gory close-ups of the actual stabbing. Another change has been the migration of graphic, violent stories from the movies to television,” he says.

Even shows not expressly designed to be scary (dramas like “Breaking Bad” or new FX crime thriller “The Bridge”) depict gore and violence that would have been deemed unairable not so long ago. Meanwhile, shows like “Criminal Minds” allow viewers a chilling peek inside the psyches of psychopaths and serial killers.

And, in a time when what we see on the news should be scary enough to sate anyone’s need for that kind of voyeurism, we seem to be seeking it out more than ever.

“People watch disturbing, gory shows for the excitement, the vicarious experience of violence, the strong emotions and the ultimate resolution of the conflicts,” says Kraft. “Many follow a familiar trajectory that allows people to be scared while also knowing that there will be a clear resolution.”

In other words, we watch because it allows us to channel our real world fears into a compartmentalized, manageable form of entertainment.

Emmy-winning media psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman agrees. “When the murder and mayhem on TV is over, we can turn it off and feel safe,” she says. “It gives us a sense of control.”

So, when we watch some form of the bogeyman wreak unimaginable horrors on a fictional victim, we conversely feel safer.

Kevin Howley, a media studies professor, sums it up. “These shows offer viewers a vehicle to explore the dark side in relative safety and security,” he says.

“In this respect, these programs are part of a longer storytelling tradition — think Grimm’s fairy tales, for instance — that help explain the world, a sometimes dark and scary place, and do so in a thoroughly engrossing and enlightening fashion.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Girl, 10, dies after being pulled from water…

A 10-year-old girl died after being pulled from the waters off Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, police said.

News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 7,…

Drunk girls and ghost brownies: here’s your weekly ‘Pretty Little Liars’ recap by way of Q&A. Q: do they really not check for feet under…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.