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Everything I know I owe to Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Around Halloween last year Nickelodeon decided to do a 3-part revival of their 90’s horror anthology show Are You Afraid of the Dark. The reboot was kinda sorta different in that it was essentially a short movie, but in many ways it turned out to be a great spiritual successor to the original. I watched it with my kids to give them a taste of a show I was obsessed with growing up. I was also pleasantly surprised when they asked to watch the original episodes, too, which I happened to own the first two seasons of on DVD. (I bought them in college because…well…I’m a dork.)

Going from episode to episode was an unbelievable trip down memory lane. Some of the stories I had vivid memories of. Others were a little hazy. But my kids gobbled them up. Cheesy 90’s clothing and all. Obviously for me they weren’t as scary as I remembered, but my kids weren’t necessarily scared by them either. They were certainly entertained, though, which was about all I could hope for.

As a kid, it’s hard to appreciate the range a show can have, but now that I’m an adult with a vast resume of media I’ve consumed over the years, I’m able to pick up on the little things that made Are You Afraid of the Dark so appealing. There are episodes that range from sci-fi to fantasy to supernatural and more. Some even cross genres mid-episode, and the show’s dry, dark comedy practically engrained itself into my own sense of humor.

But even beyond that, as a writer now myself who bounces around from genre to genre as easily as the wind changes direction, it’s clear now more than ever just how much of an influence Are You Afraid of the Dark had on me. I feel comfortable writing in so many styles because of anthology shows (and movies) that tried to throw as much varied content as they could at their audience.

I hear creators I admire talk all the time about their sources of inspiration. They would retell stories about sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night to watch The Twilight Zone or going to midnight marathons of their favorite grindhouse films. I never really felt I had moments like that growing up…until I revisited Are You Afraid of the Dark with my kids and remembered staying up late on Saturday nights with my sister to watch Nickelodeon’s SNICK block (which was reserved for the older, cooler kids, of course). I sat patiently through shows like Roundhouse and Clarissa Explains It All for that final half hour at 9:30 when Are You Afraid of the Dark came on. Then the lights went out and that trademark creepy tune buzzed out from the TV. Those were the moments that molded my crazy mind and I’m grateful for the ability to pass them on to my own kids…you know. So they can be crazy, too.

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