Horror, Fantasy, and Curiosity

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Throughout human history there have been many literary genres to come and go. Some were entertained by the general public while others may have had a critical reception by a marginally smaller audience (or minority). Though what remains the same, across the board of all genres, there is the thirst for imagination as well as the fulfillment of human curiosity. Albeit relatively new, both fantasy and horror (also respectively different) are successful and popular as genres, for they are able to satisfy the basic human emotion of curiosity and are able to cater towards the human imagination. Sigmund Freud explains how children’s role-played imaginative worlds become suppressed adult fantasies and are therefore tended to go through various mediums; literary fantasy being among one of them. Horror has been able to capitalize on the human’s natural curiosity for the unknown, or death, by bringing its audience as close as possible to it. Although the horror and fantasy genres are different with respect to their content, they share many similarities as to why they (and many other genres) are so popular. Their deep psychological impact on human curiosity and imagination has been just as relevant to both sets of their audiences.

Fantasy has been able to entertain a widespread area of different demographics, although still a relatively young literary genre, in comparison to others such as romance, gothic, etc. The reason for its success is partly due to its psychological impact on the human mind; specifically how it is able to play into a human’s desires to re-enact their imaginative sequences. Regardless of who the person is, they still have their own curiosities, desires, and imaginations. In Sigmund Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, he describes how children begin to form curiosities about life, such as adulthood, sexuality, etc. He goes on to mention that for a child to explore his curiosities through imaginative role playing, such as pretending to be an adult in their own fantasy world, would be considered acceptable by society. However, once the child grows up and enters adulthood, no longer shall performing their fantasies be acceptable by society, and thus the adult must then withhold any sort of imaginative performance and keep it inside of them. Freud goes on to talk about sexual fantasies and fulfilling them through external erotic sources. Stemming from that idea, much like the child pretending to be an adult, in this example the adult can pretend to be another fantastical character – a mage, a wizard, a dwarf, etc – through literary examples such as Lord of the Rings, and etc. Similarly, escapism can be linked to relinquishing one’s curiosity of what it would be like to live in an alternative reality. Escapism is commonly associated with that of those who are depressed and/or sad about the reality that they are living in and need to remedy their symptoms through escape. This is not so much the case here. When a person has the desire to live in an alternative reality, or fantasy, then they can temporarily remove themselves from their reality through fantasy stories. This is where the satisfaction comes in. The ability for fantasy to (almost naturally) answer the audience’s desire to experience how, where, and what if their fantasy came to life can logically be associated with its popular reception. It is easy to see why fantasy has received such warm receptions from a mass audience, since they can quench their thirst for their curiosities to live in their desirable and imaginative worlds. Indifferent to demographic, the human experiences curiosity on a subconscious and conscious level and thus is organically and logically attracted by the forces of fantasy – whatever their fantasy may be.

Unlike fantasy, horror has been able to satisfy a different psychological facet to the human curiosity: death. Horror has been able to withstand great success and popularity among a large audience, but why is...
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