Ghosts, goblins, vampires, witches and zombies…and that’s just primetime. They’re taking over—hobbling creepily across your screen, casting dark spells over your Thursday night, and seeking vigilante justice episode by episode. The supernatural has become the norm in TV land. But why the current penchant toward the surreal?
At least a small part of it may have to do with us, the Disney generation. Millennials grew up in the heyday of Disney’s fairytale movies. Most, like The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty were based on classic fairy tales. After years of tales of princesses, evil queens and magic spells, maybe the now-adult Millennials just aren’t ready to give up on the magical tales of yesteryear.
First-season shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time support this theory, directly borrowing from the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Disney camps. ABC broadcasts Once Upon a Time, and Disney owns ABC, creating frequent links and references to characters in the Disney canon (Jiminy Cricket, anyone?). Grimm is undoubtedly (oh, please forgive me but I had to) more grim, creating a visual world that recreates the surprisingly dark spirit of Grimm’s fairy tales, whose plots often ended in bloodshed and darkness, even for the protagonists.
It could also be the idea of the fairytale itself. We’re living in tough times, with high unemployment, high divorce rates, and small chance of the fairytale ending. Prince Charmings are hard to come by, and evil lurks in high places. Perhaps spending an enchanted hour or two each week keeps our spirits up and allows us to believe that as unreal as all that may be, eventually things just might shake out the way we want them to.
On the side of the unreal meeting a harsh reality is the Brit-to-American crossover Being Human. Originally broadcast by the BBC (now in its fourth series), Being Human got a US retool in 2010, the first season of which is available on Netflix. In an ultimate hodgepodge of weird, Being Human describes the struggles of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost to pass for normal as nonhumans in a human world. While at first glance it appears the show’s creators couldn’t decide which type of supernatural to go with, seeing the separate struggles of each nonhuman entity tied together by proximity (the three protagonists are roommates) creates an interesting dynamic. The show’s ability to deal with addiction, aggression and loneliness through the lens of the supernatural allows for a certain suspension of disbelief…and at least none of them sparkle in the sun.
But perhaps it’s that we’re all just looking to be shocked. The OMG factor cannot be underestimated when it comes to gory winners like True Blood, American Horror Story or The Walking Dead. I’ve been over the reasons why the logistics of a zombiepocalypse are worth watching, but broken down to the purest form, adrenaline is fun, and we’re a desensitized society. All three of these shows have had critical successes for dealing with human issues beyond the supernatural, but they also play on a slightly perverse love of blood and guts. Death and destruction run rampant through the plotlines of all three shows, and thrills are not hard to come by, keeping the heart rate up and the viewers tuned in.
I haven’t covered all of the options—the CW has jumped on the TV bandwagon in a big way with Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, and the long-running Supernatural. There is also a bevy of films vying for box-office dollars and even commercials piggybacking on the success of the supernatural trend. For whatever reason, it looks like the fad is here to stay. Pick a few of your favorites and get watching!
What are your favorite supernatural shows to watch? How about the classics? Let us know in the comments!