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Watch from behind the sofa
May 15, 2009 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Is Doctor Who too scary for kids? Parents surveyed by TheBabyWebsite seem to think so. But is being scared a good thing? (via io9)
posted by Artw (120 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
is being scared a good thing?

Yes.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:33 PM on May 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Too scary? No. Too stupid? Perhaps.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:36 PM on May 15, 2009


I'd much rather have had nightmares fueled by Dr. Who than by what they told us all to watch when I was an early teenager: The Day After.
posted by not_on_display at 1:37 PM on May 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Brought to you by Overprotective Parents for Hand Sanitizer and Ritalin.
posted by Malice at 1:39 PM on May 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


My favorite moment of NuWho so far? The various shots of statues and gargoyles at the end of Blink, seemingly put in just to scare the shit out of kids and leave them with a lasting fear of statuary of all kind. I can’t wait till my kid is old enough to watch that one with me (She’s made of tough stuff. She has tea with The Groke, she told me herself).
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd much rather have had nightmares fueled by Dr. Who than by what they told us all to watch when I was an early teenager: The Day After.

Don't make me bring out the Threads link.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Watching the Exorcist as a pre-teen was probably pretty bad. I can't imagine Dr. Who being any worse (most definitely not) and I wasn't warped or traumatized by it. I couldn't sleep well for a month, but I got over it.

Because kids get over things. They need to, to learn how to cope with living. Why protect them from a few 'scary' movies/shows/etc?
posted by Malice at 1:44 PM on May 15, 2009


If by scary you mean boring, then I say yes.

When I was a kid we had really scary things to be scared of. Big mean dogs, bullies, cops, older brothers, the odd black bear, falling through thin ice, etc. And let me tell you, there is nothing like mortal terror to make you feel alive, and to motivate you to run very very fast. So yeah, less Dr. Who, more big mean dogs is the thing.
posted by Mister_A at 1:48 PM on May 15, 2009


I loved Dr. Who (and the theme song) but I was terrified, TERRIFIED of Daleks (yet somehow wanted to be one.)
On the other hand, I was also scared of the mop-head aliens from Sesame Street.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:49 PM on May 15, 2009


Jaws. At age 7.

It took years for me to get over that.
posted by mikelieman at 1:51 PM on May 15, 2009


Cybermats scared the shit out of me.

And Sontarans.
posted by everichon at 1:51 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too scary? No. Too stupid? Perhaps.

WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?! DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT THE DOCTOR! I OUGHTA KICK YOUR FUCKING ASS, THAT SHOW IS THE BEST GOD DAMN THING IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION THE NERVE OF YOU MOTHERFUCKING SHIT FUCK!

ahem. sorry about that.
posted by shmegegge at 1:52 PM on May 15, 2009 [17 favorites]


I will confess though, Alien scared the crap out of me.
posted by Mister_A at 1:52 PM on May 15, 2009


Wondering whether Dr Who is too scary for small children is a British tradition. Seriously, people have been having this argument since I was a small child myself, and I'm old, people!

She’s made of tough stuff. She has tea with The Groke , she told me herself

The Groke is misunderstood. Moomintroll fell in love with the Groke, don't forget.
posted by Grangousier at 1:52 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ben 10 received criticism for inducing nightmares, being unpleasant and aggressive.

Ben 10? Really? If your kid is terrified of Ben 10, he would be scarred by The Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak. I usually think anyone who calls for toughening up kids is a jackass, but any kid who gets scared watching Ben 10 has been way too overprotected and ought to be subjected to a few scary movies now and again. Ben 10. jesus.
posted by stavrogin at 1:53 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know about the show itself, but for whatever reason, the opening credits of the Tom Baker-era Doctor Who creeped the hell out of me when I was eight. Seriously -- there was the eerie music, the moody weird light effects, then suddenly....Tom Baker's huge head! AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! And I'd switch the channel to something much safer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on May 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


Poltergeist at age six.
posted by furtive at 1:54 PM on May 15, 2009


What gets me are not the Daleks themselves--let's face it, they're pretty absurd-looking. It's the voices! That tinny, garbled shriek still puts knots in my stomach, and I'm 31.
posted by orrnyereg at 1:55 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos, that reminds me of something–my kids and I like to watch Gamera movies, but sometimes they get scared. If I turn the sound off, they aren't scared anymore. I wonder if anyone has ever done a "scary" movie without the "scary" sound design?
posted by Mister_A at 1:56 PM on May 15, 2009


Everyone, except for that censorious scold, the moral-media crusader Mary Whitehouse, knows that Doctor Who is best when watched from behind the sofa. No other science fiction show on TV at the time could inspire the same mix of fascination and fear, and I grew to crave this as a child. Even now, I blame Whitehouse for the lighter tone the show took on during the Tom Baker era. It's dismaying (if predictable) to see her heirs attack the new Who.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:56 PM on May 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ahh, actually I suppose Blair Witch Project sort of fulfills the criterion I described above...
posted by Mister_A at 1:58 PM on May 15, 2009


The theme song alone was too scary for me when I was 3-4 years old. I did indeed hide behind the sofa.
posted by zsazsa at 1:58 PM on May 15, 2009


Dr Who dubbed for Jamaica
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on May 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


Not so sure it's a sound thing, Mister_A. I also distinctly remember being thoroughly creeped out by the Horta in that one Star Trek episode as well, and another episode that featured monsters which I am imperfectly remembering as flying parasitic pizzas, one of which attached itself to Spock's back. I think it was a visual thing for me.

Or, I was just easily creeped out as a child.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:59 PM on May 15, 2009


Oh! And Blair Monster Project: Monsters Take Manhattan.
posted by Mister_A at 2:00 PM on May 15, 2009


scarred by The Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak

oh shit i had blocked that out oh god oh god
posted by FatherDagon at 2:00 PM on May 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Watership Down was bad enough, but The Plague Dogs should not be viewed at any age.
posted by Artw at 2:00 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Empress, do you remember the scene in Fantastic Voyage when the bald guy gets swallered up by the gooey thing? That scared me.
posted by Mister_A at 2:02 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, the original "V" series. Wow, that gave me some jeebies to think about.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:02 PM on May 15, 2009


Blink was, by far, the scariest piece of TV I've seen in a long time. I loved it. There should be more of that!
posted by DreamerFi at 2:02 PM on May 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I was a tyke I watched John Carpenter's The Thing late at night on the Disney Channel (!), and I don't recall being scared. All I remember is the image of Palmer flying to the ceiling and sticking there. That image really stayed with me.

Didn't see it again till I was in high school, but it's one of my favorite movies now.
posted by brundlefly at 2:03 PM on May 15, 2009


Parents also expressed fears that the programme Hannah Montana encourages children to grow up too quickly and prompts too many questions.

Oh no, not questions!
posted by Neofelis at 2:03 PM on May 15, 2009 [11 favorites]


Missed that one scene...I vaguely remember a scene or two from that. My "scary movie" viewing was mainly confined to bits and pieces of scenes that I saw when I walked through the room where Dad was watching the Saturday afternoon TV creepfest or whatever. And the Doctor Who was because it came on after Electric Company, I think, and sometimes I didn't turn the TV off fast enough to avoid that big creepy DoctorHead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:05 PM on May 15, 2009


Blink was, by far, the scariest piece of TV I've seen in a long time. I loved it. There should be more of that!

That and The Empty Child. ("...Are you my mummy?")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:05 PM on May 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, kids need a good scare. Right. Just like they need a good beating. Toughens 'em up. Probably does 'em good to spend a few weeks in a closet, or dark box every once in a while, too. We certainly don't want our children growing up innocent and enjoying their childhood without being exposed to the twisted fantasies of Hollywood losers. It's never too soon to take their clean little souls and paint them withou our own filthy adult fears, and lusts and hatreds. It's never too soon to scare the living shit out of an innocent child, and fill his or her head horrifying imagery that he or she will never forget. This may seem absolutely no different than child abuse, but really, shouldn't we prepare children early for the scenes of rape, dismemberment, demon possession, torture and vicious beatings that are the everyday stuff of every adult's life?
It's also important for children to be exposed to ugly and negative images of age and decrepitude (Doctor Who does a good job of this. So does "Pirates of the Caribbean".) Only when children learn that the natural processes of aging, sagging flesh, age spots and rheumy eyes are to be considered horrific and associated with monsters, demons, and flesh-eating zombies, will they be able to have proper contempt for the senior population who will soon be our most populous demographic.
posted by Faze at 2:06 PM on May 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


Thank you for bringing up "Plague Dogs". I had that one buried deep. Well, looks like years more therapy for me!
posted by the_royal_we at 2:08 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


dunkadunc, I too was terrified by the horrible mmmmmyup mmmmyup mmmyup yup yup aliens on Sesame Street! Those were the worst ever. Nearly as bad was Snuffy's theme music. Snuffalupagous himself was cool but his little intro tune sent me into spasms of terror. I used to vault from the couch to the closet whenever it came on.
posted by Neofelis at 2:08 PM on May 15, 2009


Thank you for bringing up "Plague Dogs". I had that one buried deep. Well, looks like years more therapy for me!

All part of the service!
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on May 15, 2009


What was that one Twilight Zone episode with the evil ventriloquist dummy? I cried myself to sleep for weeks after that one.

Also, Tim Curry as Pennywise in It. You'll never look at storm drains the same way again.
posted by orrnyereg at 2:11 PM on May 15, 2009


Screw that, Faze. Monsters and demons were scary (and awesome!) when I was a kid.

Don't be such a sour old killjoy.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:11 PM on May 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Age ten or so, my maniac parents decided it would be a good idea to let me watch Magic, with Anthony Hopkins as a nut-loaf ventriloquist who starts to think his horrifying little fucking marionette "Fats" is talking to him. My parents' godawful judgment was richly repaid with weeks of midnight screaming.
posted by Skot at 2:12 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only things I ever saw on television as a kid that scared me were Mr. Yuk commercials, and Jason leaping out of the lake at the very end of Friday the 13th (got me every time).
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:16 PM on May 15, 2009


Well, okay, I'll admit to being terrified in my youth by the Jabberwocky in the Sammy Davis Jr./Carol Channing version of Alice in Wonderland.

Also, whenever I played "Thriller" on the record player, as soon as Vincent Price started to cackle, I'd run shrieking.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:16 PM on May 15, 2009


What's Blink? I hit google but I'm getting lotsa noise...
posted by Mister_A at 2:21 PM on May 15, 2009


Blink
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on May 15, 2009


This may seem absolutely no different than child abuse, but really, shouldn't we prepare children early for the scenes of rape, dismemberment, demon possession, torture and vicious beatings that are the everyday stuff of every adult's life?

You're thinking of Torchwood. It's a totally different show.
posted by permafrost at 2:28 PM on May 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


There should always be some TV shows best viewed from behind the sofa. We need these. They are good for us. The alternative is too much reality show programming.
posted by asfuller at 2:30 PM on May 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


At around age 10, I was creeped out for weeks after watching that part on Trilogy of Terror with the possessed African fetish doll chasing Karen Black all over her house. Little noise... what was tha little noise? Aaah!
posted by Iosephus at 2:32 PM on May 15, 2009


Alien and The Shining at age 8-9 scared the crap out of me, and enriched my life more than I can ever express.

The books Pet Semetary and Carrie at age 10-11 scared the crap out of me, and turned me into a lifelong reader.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:34 PM on May 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


You're thinking of Torchwood. It's a totally different show.

Of course, it lacks the maturity and introspection of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on May 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Scary? Scary??

Leela in that leather outfit... mmmmm. The only thing scary was my budding sexuality.
posted by GuyZero at 2:35 PM on May 15, 2009


My wife saw Tommy when she was, like, five or six, in a theater with her dad. She came out fine.

But more to the point, scary isn't bad or good, it's necessary. Not unresolved violent bloody scary (I'm not advising people to show Saw to their toddlers here) but things that are scary in a slow and predictable way that leads to resolution of the fear, so that they can learn what fear feels like, learn how to cope with it, and learn that it is fleeting.

Just like pretty much every other "bad" thing, really; controlled exposure to help them flex those muscles so that they're prepared to use 'em when the world throws it at them for real. Unless you want to see your kid completely collapse under the weight of the real world.

Besides, who's to say what's scary? My kids love the movie Corpse Bride, but my son thinks the Stepmom from Cinderella is terrifying.
posted by davejay at 2:35 PM on May 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh my God. When Judge Doom ripped his face off at the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I had to hide under my seat. I absolutely refused to watch the rest of that movie - I have distinct memories of that theater's floor. I was scared for weeks that someone would rip off my face and that I'd be stuck as a cartoon for the rest of my life. I really wanted to grow up to be a robot, but for some reason, the idea of being stuck as a cartoon terrified me.

Anyway, the idea of censoring kids entertainment to make it less scary is silly because kids will be scared by just about anything. I've seen a seven year old freak out over an old 50's movies like the Blob - a movie where the special effects are really cheesy, and it's black and white so not realistic at all, where everything is really tame by today's standards. They wouldn't let him see "scary" movies at all, so he just got scared by the movies he did get to see. The only thing that makes a movie scary is the kid's imagination and the power they put into the visuals they see, and unfortunately, that can't be test-screened away or erased by a censor.

Also, in the long run, I think it's good for people. I've had a lot of conversations with my peers about stuff that really impacted us as a kid, and nothing makes you feel more like you've connected with someone than to find out that both of you were really, really freaked out by the Wheelers in Return to Oz (or whatever the monster in question is). It's pretty rare that people have the exact same very strong emotional experience - I mean, we might go through similar tragedies but we all process them differently, and joys are unique to individual experience - but every little kid's experience of being scared shitless - which is such a pure and overpowering emotion - is pretty similar.

Finding out what movies freaked us out as kids is as intensely personal but universal as stories about losing your virginity, but way, way more likely to be shared in public.
posted by Kiablokirk at 2:35 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Walking down alleys in the Loop after midnight is too scary for kids too. That is why I never let my children do it.
posted by nax at 2:35 PM on May 15, 2009


My ex-girlfriend watched Pink Flamingos at the tender age of six.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:36 PM on May 15, 2009


What's Blink? I hit google but I'm getting lotsa noise...

Series 3, episode 10 (I think). Beg/borrow/torrent a copy. Don't read about it first. Watch it. Watch it now. Don't read anything about it first. Watch it now. And whatever you do, don't look away. Don't even blink, or they'll get you.
posted by permafrost at 2:37 PM on May 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


Ok, two words: Large. Marge.
posted by brundlefly at 2:40 PM on May 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


shouldn't we prepare children early for the scenes of rape, dismemberment, demon possession, torture and vicious beatings that are the everyday stuff of every adult's life?

I'm pretty sure that's not Doctor Who you're watching. Personally, I think that kids will find things to be afraid of, whether the fear is rational or not. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder Wonka, thank you very much) scarred the bejesus out of me; that poor fat German kid didn't do anything other than what any kid would do when presented with a pure candy environment. My daughter invents new things to be afraid of every week; recently it's been "the cat on the fence," even though my daughter loves cats.


That said, can someone explain to me why Daleks are scary? I mean, I think they're pretty cool, but they never seem to really, y'know, do much. They're supposed to be these world-killing monsters but mostly they show up, zap a few redshirts, and get foiled by human emotions.
posted by lekvar at 2:41 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because each one is like a little ranting embodiment of Hitler in a tiny Tiger tank?
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on May 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


All I have to say is if its too scary for your kids, don't let them watch it. Duh.
posted by brookerussell at 2:43 PM on May 15, 2009


Children have to know that there are things that will come in the dark of night to rend their soul from their flesh. Otherwise they won't be earnest enough when saying their prayers.

And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take...
posted by XMLicious at 2:45 PM on May 15, 2009


That sticky thing from Rupert The Bear... jusrt googled it and it still gives the shivers. And thats just a picture... So Wrong So Wrong!

I loved as a kid, during the summer holidays, being allowed to stay up late and watch the Horror Double Bills on Saturday nights. Usually some creaky old Universal pic and an only slightly less creaky hammer one... half the time I was scared witless but it game a life long love of horror.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2009


I was also scared of the mop-head aliens from Sesame Street

Me too! Other things that scared me as a kid:

The hourglass scene in "The Wizard of Oz"
The Passover scene in "The 10 Commandments"
"The Red Balloon"
Land of the Lost
Hogans Heroes
playground safety films (to this day I have never been on a see-saw)

Kindertrauma is an awesome blog that catalogs these kinds of things.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:53 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I bet if i had seen them at the time the ski-masked clunky cybermen of The Tenth Planet would have shat me up way more than the modern shiny smooth ones.
posted by Artw at 2:56 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


THINGS THAT SCARED THE B'JEEZUS OUTA ME THROUGH LIFE, AND I'M OK (twitch twitch)

AGE 4: The title track to Martin Denny's album "Exotica," specifically the voice doing the weird jungle-bird imitations at the end, often made me cower behind the sofa

AGE 8: First sight of human skulls on display at New Mexico Anthropological museum, didn't bother me immediately... but for months I'd wake up from nightmares of skeletons comin' after me

AGE 12: A Jewish witness's description of Nazi tortures in a TV program dramatising the Nurenberg trials, though horrified I felt it was good to learn that it happened, to learn of what governments are capable of

AGE 13: Summer camp counselor left EC comic lying around about a man doomed to repeat his most painful life moments in Hell forever... and for no reason, as I recall; it was just "the infernal machine"

AGE 15: Found Wm S Burroughs's "Naked Lunch" on the Sci Fi shelf at the library and tried to read it -- after sweating through 10 pages (around the middle) finally realized I was waaaay too young

AGE 24: After US Army deliberately, repeatedly fucks up Iranian hostage-rescue effort, under orders, Ronald Reagan is elected president, and the next day hostages are released

Repugnacans still sometimes reduce me to jelly-kneed, pants-soiling fear (see age 12)
posted by watt_defalk at 3:01 PM on May 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I always thought Midnight was the scariest Doctor Who. Oddly enough, also a 10th episode.
posted by mek at 3:03 PM on May 15, 2009


Best scares:

"Blink" from Doctor Who (all of it)
Hannibal Lecter pulling off the skinned face of one of the policemen while in the ambulance. (Well, most of Silence of the Lambs, the first time through - we're so inured to it now, but that first time? AAAAAA!)
Samarra crawling out of the television in The Ring
Alan Arkin turns on the lights in Wait Until Dark
The mother of the Peacock family under the bed in "Home" from The X-Files (and the brilliant use of the Johnny Mathis song "Wonderful Wonderful" in that episode)
The Gentlemen in "Hush" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The velociraptor coming out of nowhere to jump up towards the catwalk the kids are on in Jurassic Park

I'm sure there are more -- anyone want to add to it?
posted by tzikeh at 3:04 PM on May 15, 2009


Oh God, ET. ET was so damned frightening. I had to be taken out of the room before it ended, at some point when the men in suits were keeping them in a giant isolation tent. I must have been about eight or nine, for God's sake, because it was just when I was reading about nuclear bombs and radiation was my number one fear. I still haven't watched the end of it.

Or The Little Mermaid. That was when I was seven. I think about those worm-mud people now and a little part of me just wants to lose it.

All you guys talking about The Exorcist and Poltergeist don't have a clue what real fear looks like.
posted by Acheman at 3:06 PM on May 15, 2009


My godmother, who was also one of the boarders we had living with us, was the assistant producer of Dr. Who way back when around 1967 or so. She proudly gathered us around the television for her first episode which (as they often did) scared me badly. Later on, another woman living with us came hysterically in poor English to my mother and it took Mum a while to catch on the fact that she felt my godmother had to be ejected from the house because of the horrors of this program, which my mother of course saw as a silly program with people in funny costumes.

People were much more relaxed about this stuff. Dr. Who terrified me, I know my parents found this very funny - heck, *I* find it funny now!

(On the other hand, things were much more abstract and stylized. I wouldn't show a kid a lot of TV today, it's really realistic and graphic...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:08 PM on May 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I did actually watch from behind the sofa. Or under it on at least one occasion.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:09 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh God, ET. [...] I still haven't watched the end of it.

You should; it's a real bloodbath.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:10 PM on May 15, 2009


I discovered (and fell in love with) Doctor Who, Vincent Price, and Channel 48 Monster Movie Matinees at a very young age. They never scared me. To this day, though, the animated Yellow Submarine can make me void my bowels in terror.
posted by crataegus at 3:13 PM on May 15, 2009


Parents also expressed fears that the programme Hannah Montana encourages children to grow up too quickly and prompts too many questions.

"Why is that girl dressed like a drag queen?"


I have seen a little bit of Primeval on BBC America and it is too scary for me, let alone my 6 year old. She thinks Dr. Who is boring. But she loves Red Dwarf.

I am really more concerned about children's shows promoting violence as a way of solving problems (yes, I'm one of those). I think kids are pretty good at filtering out things that are too scary.

I also question the connection between TV viewing and nightmares. I think it can contribute, but my daughter has described some Alien-quality nightmares and she sees nothing like that on television.
posted by jeoc at 3:16 PM on May 15, 2009


I may have said this before but it bears repeating. Some kids figure out early on that monsters, demons, zombies and so forth aren't real, and they're never going to meet them. Other kids get nightmares for weeks. If the parents of the latter are paying attention at all, they'll know not to show them the movies that feature supernatural baddies.
My kid watched Buffy with me regularly. The episode that actually made her leave the room sobbing and gave her bad dreams had nothing to do with monsters: it was one where at some point everyone felt betrayed and mistrustful, and nobody was friends with each other.
Although we both agreed the Gentlemen were creepy.
posted by pernoctalian at 3:27 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am really more concerned about children's shows promoting violence as a way of solving problems (yes, I'm one of those).

Well, violence not solving problems is pretty much a core Dr Who principle – which always kind of annoyed me as a kid (“why doesn’t he drop the pacifism and get a gun?”) but which I now recognize as one of things that makes it great, because since brute force isn’t an option then clever problem solving has to be.

(Of course the clever problem solving might indirectly lead to splosions and violence)

(If RTD is writing the clever problem solving might consist more of some coloured lights flying around and/or the problem solving stick being waved around.
posted by Artw at 3:30 PM on May 15, 2009


I just found out I would have been all of 5 when I saw the Tom Baker story 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang', which I remember as one of the scary ones, with giant rats in the sewers of victorian London.

A year or two after that I saw a thing about a cursed monkey's hand which brought disaster on any one who touched it, I had nightmares for years about that. At least 10 years later I found out it was a Michael Palin comedy.
posted by biffa at 3:31 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aliens have been a lifelong fear of mine. My parents took me to see E.T. when I was less than a year old. Afterward, they would turn me toward the moon while holding me and tell me that E.T. was going to fly by. That made me scared of the moon for a while. But then I saw Communion when I was eight. This peeking scene still scares me so much that I can't even watch the clip to confirm it's the one I remember the most.

Honorable mention goes to the banshee scenes in Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
posted by inconsequentialist at 3:37 PM on May 15, 2009


The very first episode of any Star Trek that I ever saw was, at the tender age of seven, TNG's "Conspiracy". Yeah, you heard me.
posted by Servo5678 at 3:41 PM on May 15, 2009


in truth, as others have pointed out, this argument is as old as the show.

but, as an american viewer who has successfully made his girlfriend into a huge fan of the current show (and is still working on getting her into the old episodes) the question these days about the older episodes is:

is old Dr. Who too shakesperian for kids?

honestly, I think it's beautifully written, but that shit dates like old mayo to people these days.
posted by shmegegge at 3:43 PM on May 15, 2009


Alien and The Shining at age 8-9 scared the crap out of me, and enriched my life more than I can ever express.

I don't remember exactly how old I was when my mom came running into my room to wake me up so she could drag me into the living room for the scene in The Shining when Jack breaks down the bathroom door and say "Wendy... I'm home!"

She found this hysterical and felt I needed to appreciate how brilliant it was. As a result, when I finally watched the whole thing, I approached it from the perspective of a weird film with some really funny scenes.

I still believe that to be true.

I wouldn't think that Doctor Who would be something that would scare children, but then I saw the gas mask kid asking "Are you my mummy?" and the statues in Blink, and realized that, fuck, Doctor Who can scare me.

Not that something like that should stop anyone from watching it. Scary can be good for kids.
posted by quin at 3:51 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Terror... your name is The Two Faces of Evil from Hammer House of Horror!

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:09 PM on May 15, 2009


You wanna see something really scary?
posted by orme at 4:29 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Want to know how I answered this AskMe so quickly? Because some genius father of a friend decided to show Harlequin at a birthday slumber party when I was nine years old. If I could get my foot to that guy's shins now, oooh, such a kick I'd give him...
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:34 PM on May 15, 2009


Is this a repeat from 1976? I thought Mary Whitehouse was dead?
posted by davros42 at 4:35 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The TV show I remember scaring the crap out of me as a ten year old is Ghostwatch, I saw mysterious figures in the curtains for weeks after that. Even looking at that website gives me the creeps, and it's 16 years since I first saw it.
posted by penguinliz at 4:41 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, I just remembered I can measure out my childhood in scary Dr Who episodes - Tomb of the Cybermen (aged just under three), staying at my grandparents, no sofa so I had to keep running to hide behind the kitchen door; Terror of the Autons - that doll! - I'd graduated to cowering behind furniture by that point; The Green Death - maggots! But at least I stayed on the furniture.

And Daleks, always Daleks...

The thing about the Daleks for me, was that they were straight out of nightmares - featureless, implacable pursuers. You know, those dreams where you're running and you can't see what's after you and then when you think you've got away... Zap! They've got you and you wake up with a start.
posted by Grangousier at 4:45 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who Framed Roger Rabbit

For what seemed like months after I saw that as a kid, I was afraid someone would drop a safe on my head.

I have a weird brain.
posted by flaterik at 4:45 PM on May 15, 2009


Tomb of the Cybermen

Great music on that one.
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on May 15, 2009


The only things I ever saw on television as a kid that scared me were Mr. Yuk commercials...


AAAAAAAHHHHH

Those were pretty much the scariest thing ever. Having been exposed to Mr. Yuk as a young child, I have a really hard time imagining that anything was scarier than him.

I was also scared of the Pink Elephants scene in Dumbo and Frank Zappa.

Dr. Who? Totally not scary. Loved Dr. Who. I hardly spent any time hiding behind the sofa with my fingers in my ears while watching Dr. Who.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:59 PM on May 15, 2009


Mister_A: EmpressCallipygos, that reminds me of something–my kids and I like to watch Gamera movies, but sometimes they get scared. If I turn the sound off, they aren't scared anymore.

With me, it's the opposite. Because then I can hear the robots make fun of it.

Neofelis: Nearly as bad was Snuffy's theme music.

If I had a cell phone, I'd totally want that as my ringtone, so people would always be thinking Snuffleupagus was just around the corner.

Kiablokirk: I've seen a seven year old freak out over an old 50's movies like the Blob - a movie where the special effects are really cheesy, and it's black and white so not realistic at all, where everything is really tame by today's standards.

Point of fact: current horror movies rely far to much on those effects. If they didn't have them, then I'd say The Blog would win out handily. One of the funniest of Bill Cosby's classic routines focuses on him as a kid and Old Weird Harold after the monster movies having to walk home at night, walk home across NINTH STREET BRIDGE.

How about the Viacom "V of Doom"?
posted by JHarris at 5:04 PM on May 15, 2009


I should have said the Blob. Although blogs, themselves, should not be discounted for fear-causing potential.
posted by JHarris at 5:06 PM on May 15, 2009


I saw Gremlins in a theater so I must have been... holy crap 4 or 5. I seem to remember spending most of it hiding under the seat.

And yup, TNG's "Conspiracy" at 7. No wonder I grew up to become a cereal killer.
posted by heathkit at 5:13 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jaws. At age 7.

When I was 5, Jaws 3 came on TV, and my parents were watching it. I got to see the part where the shark bites off a diver's arm, and as the diver is eaten, there is a shot of the severed arm sinking slowly away into the depths. I fled in terror. My parents had to promise me that no one would ever make me swim in the deep water in the ocean, and that I would never have to go scuba diving, ever. Naturally I did both of those things a few years afterward and have always enjoyed them, although never, not once, without repressing a thought of that bitten arm.

Then recently I saw Jaws 3 on TV, and oh my God is that a terrible excuse for a severed arm. It's the worst effect I've ever seen. But I suppose the idea was enough.

I am a little envious of kids today getting to experience Coraline at such a tender age. To me, it isn't an ancient story of a Bad Mother, so much as a story about being badly loved. To be treated, adored, spoiled, used up and cast aside. Kids know a lot more about that than we might suppose.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:51 PM on May 15, 2009


Data point: The Tholian Web (The only episode of Star Trek I can recall seeing when it was in first-run) scared the holy crap out of me when I was six. By the time I was twelve, I was the biggest trekkie at school.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:10 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


There should always be some TV shows best viewed from behind the sofa. The alternative is too much reality show programming.

Even at age 44, I would only watch Flavor of Love from behind the couch.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:16 PM on May 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a little kid (3 to about 7 or so), I was scared of anything that involved faces transforming from one thing to another. Pinocchio? Check. Those baby dolls with rotating faces? Check. Those morphing cartoon faces on Sesame Street? Check. Good thing DS9 wasn't on at the time, or Odo would have traumatized me permanently.

No, I haven't the slightest clue why this was.

(Also, I was terrified the only time I saw a Doctor Who episode, thanks to some cheesy special effects.)
posted by thomas j wise at 6:34 PM on May 15, 2009


My 8 and 5 year olds asked to watch The invisible Enemy again today. I was just telling my daughter how the sounds the TARDIS made used to scare me when I was little (a lot of the monsters too).
posted by stinkycheese at 7:28 PM on May 15, 2009


When my daughter was 4, she was terrified of The Wiggles puppets. And rightly so.
posted by mothershock at 7:56 PM on May 15, 2009


The last few years of Dr. Who are fine for my kids, but they scare me too much. The old Dr. Who show was so unreal that I could handle it, but some of the episodes from recent years force me to leave the room.
posted by Ery at 8:12 PM on May 15, 2009


Some friends of mine have a toddler, I think he's nearly three years old. The kid has apparently developed a love of horror movies -- watches Dead Alive like other kids watch Finding Nemo. (Which is to say, over and over and over until his parents have it memorized.)
posted by rifflesby at 8:52 PM on May 15, 2009


I sure do wish the world was full of sugarplums and gumdrops, but it's not.

If you shelter your children from everything scary, mean, or unfair, they are going to be eaten alive by it. Sorry, that's just the way the world works.
posted by Malice at 9:06 PM on May 15, 2009


If they're speaking about Russel T. Davies' utterly hideous, monstrous writing then scary it is indeed. All credit for getting the show going again but then turning it into worse than fan fiction has been a bloody nightmare of devastating disappointment.

Hopefully Moffat redeems. He must redeem it. It will be redeemed. Redeeeemed!

Nothing rivals Dogg the Bounty Hunter for full on horror however.
posted by juiceCake at 9:55 PM on May 15, 2009


I saw E.T. when I was five (maybe six). I had to hold my Mom's hand during the FBI (or was it CIA) chase scenes, with E.T. being operated on. That was some intense shit.

Also, I cried when Oscar the Grouch was flung against the wall in that Sesame Street (Christmas?) special in the early 80s. I was convinced he had died.

All of that pales in comparison to the time in fourth grade (or was it fifth grade? Damn, what the hell happened to my brain???) basketball, when I scored a basket for the other team (my only basket that year, and never even touched the rim). Talk about horror.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:08 PM on May 15, 2009


My kids love Doctor Who, and they loved Blink. We even joked about the statue montage postscript - "Remember kids, statues are everywhere, and they're out to get you!" Then we bundled them off to bed and they. did. not. sleep. all. night.
posted by gamera at 10:18 PM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I cried when Oscar the Grouch was flung against the wall in that Sesame Street (Christmas?) special in the early 80s. I was convinced he had died.

You are only the second or third person I've ever heard talk about Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. You're remembering the snap-the-whip scene at the ice skating rink. I love this movie, but I have no sympathy for Oscar's crash since he was another character that scared me to death when I was young.
posted by inconsequentialist at 11:04 PM on May 15, 2009


I watched Robocop when I was 7 years old. I didn't hide or look away, but I felt very strange.
posted by Jpfed at 11:23 PM on May 15, 2009


Yeah, I made it to ED-209 turning that guy into swiss cheese in the board room at the beginning, then ran out of the room. Didn't watch it again for 10 years. That scene is hilarious to me now.

"I am very disappointed."
posted by brundlefly at 11:32 PM on May 15, 2009


You know what scared the shit out of me as a kid? The aardvark from "The Ant and the Aardvark. Seriously, I use to imagine he'd crawl along my bedroom wall like a shadow, out to get me. I remember spending sleepless nights because of it. I remember being bothered by how weird he looked, like the style of animation. Now I watch it and all he is is an amusing old Yiddish man stereotype.

"Mars Attack" scared the shit out of (the movie, not the trading cards - I was 10 when the movie came out), particularly the Martians and their weird heads and how they'd zap people. It was kinda scary because I remember being scared shitless while people were laughing at it. I had nightmares about that for some time.

Doctor Who though I love because even the new episodes the monsters are kinda cheesy looking.
posted by champthom at 12:26 AM on May 16, 2009


Everyone's stories are very interesting, and what davejay says about flexing your emotional muscles is very plausible (generally compatible with the cognitive behaviour therapy approach), but does anyone actually have any decent empirical evidence either way?

It seems that some kids are dealing with it fine and others are getting traumatised, and it's likely this depends on exactly how the danger is presented in the fiction as well as the background personality of the child. But we don't know what these variables are exactly, and even if we did, that still wouldn't tell us whether fiction can help to train a child to deal with feelings of fear generally, or real life scary situations.

I'm not even sure how we could test this... "we showed some 7 year old children 'Blink' and monitored the urine levels in their bedsheets over the following 6 months. Then we put a stone angel in their rooms at night and monitored how loudly they screamed. Compared to controls...."
posted by leibniz at 2:09 AM on May 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fearfulsymmetry, damn you for posting that link. I'm 41 now, and have only just reached the point where I can see someone in a yellow raincoat without wanting to run away in terror.

Mind, I was amused by the related links in the sidebar. Bunch of other Hammer Horror clips...and Villa beating Liverpool 2-0. The horror, the horror.
posted by reynir at 2:26 AM on May 16, 2009


The mother of the Peacock family under the bed in "Home" from The X-Files

OH FUCK MAN THAT FUCKING EPISODE. Usually the "possessed/demonic/evil child" episodes creeped me out the most but that one freaked me the fuck out. To the point where I can't listen to Sheryl Crow's Home without a little shudder.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:35 AM on May 16, 2009


My sister took me to see An American Werewolf in London when I was 9 or 10. Wholesome stuff - dismemberment, zombie nazis, and a sex scene. Never could stop thinking about that movie when I was doing my paper-route at 5am in the dark with no-one around.

Most frightening Doctor Who episode? The giant maggots in The Green Death terrified me as a child.

Most frightening X-Files episode: Folie a Deux creeped me out as an adult.

My theory is that fear is the default state of human beings (well, actually, the default state of every feeling creature). That is, it's the emotion we return to most readily, and the easiest emotion to stimulate. Modern civilization can be thought of as a wall thousands of years in the building, designed to keep fear at bay. We're still building it, forcing fear further and further back. Where civilization breaks down, fear dominates nearly every waking moment. Nonetheless fear is our oldest friend, and we like it in controlled doses. A total lack of fear in one's life seems somehow unnatural in contrast.

So for children to be fearful is nothing unusual - indeed a child who was wholly insulated from fear would grow up to be an extremely warped and isolated person, in my opinion. Someone to be pitied.
posted by Ritchie at 4:45 AM on May 16, 2009


>Fearfulsymmetry, damn you for posting that link. I'm 41 now, and have only just reached the point where I can see someone in a yellow raincoat without wanting to run away in terror.

A top tip is never to ware a yellow raincoat whilst hitchhiking because people of a certain age will not pick you up (... and actually might just run you over in panic)

The werewolf episode had one childhood trauma moment that until this day makes me hesitant want to pull back curtains at night...

I watched the series on DVD a couple of years ago and whilst most of it is a load of old hokum, there one or two moments that a still pretty chilling.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:44 AM on May 16, 2009


Dr. Who used to air right after a bunch of kids' shows in my area, and the theme music really creeped me out as a child -- my sister and I would run and hide the minute it came on. I don't think we ever watched it.

What really gave me nightmares as a child was the ending to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
posted by emeiji at 8:11 PM on May 16, 2009


What was that episode of the Wonderful World of Disney where the kid looks in the barn and sees the ghost of the dead girl who fell down a well or something? Now _that_ was scary.

"I hid behind the lounge when the Daleks were on" seems to have become a common implanted memory. When I ask parents (including mine) whether their kids actually did this, the answer is almost always "no".
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:24 PM on May 17, 2009


This has actually been great fun to read.

The only fictional boogeymen I remember being thrown by were in the aforementioned Star Trek episodes and "Saturday Afternoon Creepshow" TV-viewing and such. I also remember being very, very thrown by the very brief glimpse I got of the film Reptilicus when my father was watching it one afternoon -- but now that I've read the Wikipedia page on the film I wonder what the hell I was thinking. I was probably more scared of my father telling me "watch out, it's Reptilicus!" in a spooky voice.

My parents were also one of probably a number of parents who made the mistake of thinking that since Fantasia was a Disney movie, it'd be 100% safe for kidlets. And so, they took me along to see it with them when I was only three years old. I don't remember this at all, but they tell me that during the Night On Bald Mountain sequence I sat, frozen, staring at the screen like a deer caught in headlights. They kept checking on me -- "Emmy, honey, are you okay?" And I'd just squeak back, ".....uh-huh." They haven't told me whether it gave me nightmares afterward, so it may have scared me past the ability for my mind to retain it.

Then when I was nine, all of those monsters and Dr. Who credit sequences and whatnot got overshadowed by what has been the A-1 King Of All My Boogeymen -- nuclear war. We were on a family vacation and all sharing a hotel room, and somehow my parents fell asleep before I did and left the TV on -- I was thrilled because I could stay up and watch Johnny Carson. But then there was a news broadcast afterward, a special feature looking at the SALT talks -- and I just remember they had chart after chart after chart demonstrating how many ICBMs were in the Soviet Arsenal, how strong the firepower was, how many times over we would obliterate the eastern seaboard...I was sitting there, frozen for a while watching this, and then after getting myself good 'n scared, I turned the TV off and scrambled into bed myself.

And for a good two years after that -- you know when you're a little kid and you're afraid of the dark, you have an idea in your mind of what the monster in the closet looks like? You know, you're afraid to open the closet door or go into a dark room because you KNOW what the monster waiting there for you looks like? In my case, I was afraid that an actual mushroom cloud would be lurking in the dark closet waiting to get me.

That fear matured as I did -- it stopped being a boogeyman and started being more situational. The last few years of the Cold War happened when I was in high school, and my friends and I all made an anti-war movie -- and we watched The Day After and Threads for "research". And for YEARS afterward, I would periodically have these vivid, intense, heavily detailed dreams about nuclear war that would wake me up and leave me too terrified to go back to sleep. The one and only time I've had to leave a movie theater because I was too scared was when I first saw Terminator 2, during that dream sequence Sarah Connor has about L.A. getting nuked -- because I essentially had had that very same dream. And I tell you, it is a serious mindfuck to see the contents of your own head projected on a 30-foot screen with THX sound.

I stopped having those dreams a couple years after the Berlin Wall came down, today I think the Horta looks like a shag carpet and I'm a Doctor Who fiend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on May 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


"All children suffer from nightmares at some point during childhood."

Nightmare. Singular. After my parents explained to me that it was all in my head, I determined never to have another nightmare again (and proceeded to teach myself to lucid dream). I was well into my 20s before I had my next full-on nightmare.

Yeah, I'm still trying to unfuck myself from that.
posted by Eideteker at 11:01 PM on May 18, 2009


can someone explain to me why Daleks are scary?

Because they are relentless. That, and the noise, being rough-edged and modulated, and always heightening. A dalek was, essentially, something that never stops chasing you and never stops screaming, which (for kids) is perfect nightmare fodder -- it will chase you and get scarier and scarier until they wake up.

and what davejay says about flexing your emotional muscles is very plausible (generally compatible with the cognitive behaviour therapy approach)

(makes note to find out what the cognitive behaviour therapy approach is, so he can pretend he meant to do that)
posted by davejay at 11:51 PM on May 18, 2009


Oh, and my (3-year-old) kids have occasional nightmares, but of all the things we've said to them after they wake up upset, only one has ever worked consistently to prevent a second nightmare: "Remember, dreams are just stories you tell yourself. Did you tell yourself a scary story?" "yeah..." "Well, this time, tell yourself a nice story about something you like."
posted by davejay at 11:54 PM on May 18, 2009


BBC America to show the Doctor Who specials.
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on May 29, 2009


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