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The Lure of the Dark

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

In an ironical twist of events, I now find myself looking forward to Mondays. 

What's the secret to this, you ask? Immersing myself in dark, morbid entertainment over the weekend. That's the path to enlightenment.

It started quite innocently. One crime mystery show, with a little blood and gore. Then a few suggestions from Netflix. And then a few more. Before I knew, I was too far down the rabbit hole, tumbling along the dark dark world of crime, forced to come gasping out for breathe on Mondays.

And just like in Alice in Wonderland, I got curiouser and curiouser because in mirrors that are black, I saw our dark future, I made wrong choices in the stupor of turning into a Bandersnatch, I was stunned into hearing hard core criminals speak their mind and share their deepest darkest secrets. 

I know what you are thinking. Why did I not stop? Because Netflix is like an Indian mother feeding her kid. She cannot take no for an answer. 

Doesn't matter if the "kid" is now a 45 year-old grown up with 3 kids of his own. Every time there's food, it must be had in quantities that can save multiple countries from starvation. But then, we know that action is out of pure love.

Just like we know that Netflix means well, when it says, "Hey, looks like you enjoyed Mindhunters. Why don't you watch this new show we have which takes the dark to a new level - it has murder, it has stranger things, it has aliens, it has blood, it has vampires, it has criminals sharing their fantasies, it has psychological gore, it's darker than you can ever imagine. You'll like it." And you cannot say no.

So, there you are, in a strange time warp of darkness, watching show after show, and asking yourself existential questions, hiding behind the pillow at times, but sneaking out just in time to see that severed head resting on the killer's desk. 

And suddenly, a question pops in the head - how did we become so dark? Long back, there used to be a one-off show that was shown after 11 pm, which could be qualified as dark, although, by today's standards, I would happily categorize those as family dramas or even comedies. Did our preferences change? Or did too much choice reveal our true nature?

study that correlates entertainment and personality types by Rentfrow, Goldberg and Zilca, shows that dark entertainment is preferred by those with low Conscientiousness, low Agreeableness, high Extraversion, and high Intellect. They go on to say that individuals with preferences for the Dark entertainment factor may generally see themselves as defiant, reckless, and immodest.

What does that mean? That we are all more defiant, more reckless and more immodest than before? And more importantly, does this work the other way around? Now that Netflix and the likes tell us what we should watch based on what we watched previously, if I saw one dark show, and now I am being bombarded with more and more darkness, will my extremely agreeable personality slowly change to defiant?

I don't know and I don't want to know. Which is why, I have been quite smart about my entertainment consumption. I watch all dark entertainment on my partner's login! 

On my login, it's only the happy stuff.

So, as per Netflix, I am a sunny personality, who loves comedies, is a hopeless romantic and has the most agreeable disposition you can imagine. Except. I hid my dark side from them. Guess who's one up on Netflix, huh?

As an aside though, I do think that in the interest of mental health, there will come a time when recommendation algorithms will be forced to do their bit to break us out of our stupor. After every episode of Black Mirror, they will be forced to make us watch an episode of Seinfeld or Friends. 

Even better, I think there's a business model here, waiting to explode. Pre-created preferences, which you can pick up and watch. 

Buy the "Sunny Disposition" login and get all your happiness needs met.

Till that happens, I am happy to give you my Netflix login. For Rs 1300 only. 

It's not too much of a cost to pay for the sake of your mental health. Think about it.

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