I have a natural inclination to darker stories and I can spend hours, without exaggeration, reading up on dark fan theories for cheery shows. From Spongebob and his pals being radioactive mutants, the Rugrats all being dead, to Peter from Family Guy being a depressed and highly imaginative worker in a dead-end job entertaining himself with his own adventures. There’s even fan theories that can improve already scary stories; one of my favourites is that in the movie Drag Me To Hell, the woman is suffering from an eating disorder and hallucinating all the demonic goings on.
Yes, I love dark stories.
I don’t think that stories should be dark for the sake of it, attempts to do this are really obvious and don’t work. Anne Rice is dark naturally, so is Clive Barker, their stories have that flavour and it fits. John Niven dips into dark stories and when he does it, he is amazing. Likewise, his more comedic stories are great.
So not everything has to be dark, not all your stories have to be dark, but if you go down that route, great! (I love these stories).
As in any matter of good law, I want to use some actual examples rather than speak in broad generalities.
Here we have Work is Hell by Matt Groening
This is a sinister, depressing and sometimes a bit funny comic strip. This atmosphere works here. It is unforgiving, it bluntly says that for most people work is an unending, painful struggle with no hope. I don’t agree with that- correction, on good days I don’t agree with that, if it has been a rough day…
The same creator is better known for The Simpsons. Although it looks similar, it couldn’t be more different.
The Simpsons is an overall quite warm hearted comedy and one of the most successful animated comedies of all time.
Would it really fit if we cranked up the darkness in The Simpsons? Homer hates his job as a “safety whatch-a-ma-call-it” but it is played more for laughs than bleakness. There is plenty of hope in the series as well. If we snuffed that out and made it really, really dark such as the later seasons of Family Guy, would it work? No, it wouldn’t really fit, it would lose what makes it funny and the unique flavour of it.
Dark stories work- but not everything has to be dark.