This article contains graphic content and spoilers.
Reader discretion is advised.
The Dark Arts
Written by John Andreula
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
They say art imitates life.
Of course, in life, circumstances aren’t always rosy. There aren’t a lot of happy endings.
Consider how much art arises from the darker side of life. It would be a sad statement were it not for the quality of art darkness inspires. Compelling villains, dystopian futures, tragedies; all offer the best art available for consumption.
Humans use art as an escape, as well as a form of self-expression. It allows us to share in the world in ways words alone would never allow us.
Painter and sculptor H.R. Giger was born in Europe just after World War II began. There’s no question that Nazi Germany’s Eugenics shaped and influenced his creations. Just look at the photo of the sculpture above.
Nobel Prize winning author Albert Camus released The Plague in 1947, exactly two hundred years after the Black Death decimated upwards of sixty percent of the European population. Antibiotics for the plague weren’t developed until the decade of his book’s release.
The Plague provides a fictional account of an African port town that closes its gates and endures martial law in order to curb the spread of bubonic plague. There’s a surreal connection with our current societal experience that can also be found within the story today.
Some creators provide fairy tales with happy endings—think Walt Disney—or smiles, and laughter—like Jim Henson and Nickelodeon.
Others reach deep within the depths of madness, like writer Joe Hill, filmmaker and musician Rob Zombie, or video game creators id Software.
Thanks to internet and modern forms of media, consumers know what they’re getting when they purchase admission to a show or an exhibit, or when they buy a book, movie, or video game.
They are aware of what’s in store for them when they see the latest Hotel Transylvania. Just like they are when they sign up for the latest Jordan Peele flick. They buy a ticket and buckle up.
What is it about The Great Gatsby or Hunter Thompson’s works that keep us coming back? Is it that rainbows and ponies don’t excite us in the same way a near-death experience or the thought of dying do? Are we not inspired by happiness and goodness similarly to when Ozymandias emerges triumphant in the end of Watchmen?
Artists draw upon the pain found within their lives and their world. Writers do it. Standup comics as well. Vincent Van Gogh and Dante Alighieri created masterpieces from the darkest corners of their psyche centuries ago. They communicate and evoke passion still today.
Even the bible ends with suffering.
And we eat it up, and come back time after time, wanting more of it.
Jay Gatsby shot dead, floating in his pool, speaks to us in a way Cinderella getting her prince never will. Maddie falling into the crevice on the mountainside at the end of True Grit leaves way more of a lasting impact than seeing Smalls get his Babe Ruth baseball back at the end of The Sandlot.
In the same vein, Kurt Cobain, Tupac, and The Notorious BIG’s untimely and violent ends created worship in the masses. Similar can be said of the countless young musicians over the years whose lives ended too early due to drug overdose.
In life there’s struggle and more struggle. There are minor victories and moderate redemptions, but inevitably it all ends in death and darkness. So why do we seek more of it in the choices we make regarding what art we consume?
The brutality, depravity, and despair draw us in.
It is human to search for an escape. We seek refuge from the mundane. We bore quickly of the happy and nice.
Our eyes are wide open looking for others’ pain, darkness, and naughtiness. It’s like the car accident we gawk at, slowly driving past. It makes us feel more alive than just living.
We may never fully comprehend this strange nature within most of us. But if our Netflix queues and reading lists are any indication, we’ll keep coming back for more.
Written by John Andreula & edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
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