What is it about the human dark side that gives good stories?

Jun 02, 2020 by PD Alleva

What is it about the human dark side that gives good stories?


I love this question because there’s so many answers someone can write a full-length book chronicling the history of our obsession with the dark side of the human condition. From Dante’s Inferno to Shakespeare’s many tragedies (Hamlet and Macbeth just to name a few), to Poe, Lovecraft and Stephen King, our infatuation with the human dark side has always been prevalent. Even Nicholas Sparks uses some form of tragedy in his books.


There’s a dark side in each and every one of us, no matter how large or small it may be, that dark part of our hearts and souls creep out every so often. How many of us have had those moments when we just wanted to utterly destroy another human being for whatever reason? Someone cuts us off on the highway and we scream at the top of our lungs for that persons desecration, or we’re having a bad day and receive another telemarketing phone call that we know is just another rip off and we wish we could reach our hand through the phone and take hold of their conniving necks to pull out their throats for wasting our time. Ok, maybe that’s just me but I’m sure you get the point. 


We’ve had an almost fantasy relationship with the human dark side since the dawn of time. It’s a fantasy of how far we can go delving into the depths of madness and sadistic rituals that give rise to a fast beating heart and obsession to keep our eyes and ears open to just how far the dark reach can stretch. Most of us grow up being taught to not go too far into our own darkness, to be good and considerate people and treat others with kindness and compassion. But there is the intrigue towards our own darkness that we like to see in our villains, manifesting in this fantasy relationship with them. We want to experience the darkness through the eyes and actions of the villains and discover what brought them to such extremes. What was the breaking point that pushed them over the line into wretched retribution where they just didn’t care any more, enough to the point where they turn their backs on the light, seeking its utter destruction of goodness and impressing their insatiable desire to show the world just how angry and uncaring they are with their fellow human beings. Consumed by the darkness these characters only want is to be the absolute best at evil. Think of the Joker character in Batman, one of the most iconic anarchists in fiction lore. He doesn’t care about money, doesn’t care about his minions and fellow villains, all he desires is anarchy and destruction, stopping at nothing to impress his will over the people of Gotham. There’s no telling how far the Joker will go, and we sit at the edge of our seat or clinging to that comic book and loving what we’re witnessing because we know he will never stop and never give in, a character aspect that reflects our incessant desire to glimpse how far the dark side can reach. 



On the flip side there’s the redemption of the human dark side; the iconic evil turned on its head and brought into the light. The battle of the soul to balance the dark and the light no matter how far we’ve gone in the other direction, there is always that turn into the other. Through great suffering comes greater retribution. Even PinHead in Hellbound Hellraiser Two had that moment of clarity. Darth Vader found the light through the love of Luke. We enjoy a good redemption story, it provides us with a slither of hope for ourselves and the human race that no matter how far we go there is always a little light left inside our hearts that can deliver us from evil. 



Unless you’re someone who spends their days in darkness; a serial killer hacking up and devouring body parts, or a mafia hit man pulling the trigger of a .22 at the back of the head of your victim, you probably spend your days acting as good as you can and being a model citizen, working, raising kids, and trying your best to push through the rat race that is life. In our free time we delve into a good book or movie and lose ourselves for a period of time, intrigued by the plot and character development that scurries across the page or screen reflecting what is inside each one of us, the darkness and the light discovered within themes of contradiction, moral jest or immoral redemption. In turn we can fantasize over what we would do in such situations, what kind of evil depravity would we inflict on our victims, and would we seek retribution in the light? Would we wish to be delivered from evil or be the baddest bad guy the world has ever known without a care for conversion? How far would you take it to the extreme? Either way we can fantasize and play multiple parts, connecting with these characters on the dark side of the human heart as a reflection of ourselves. Either way it makes for great stories. If the world was all light or all dark life would be pretty boring, we need both just to be entertained.


~ PD Alleva