In the middle of the woods, a group of teenagers sit around a campfire telling ghost stories. They start each tale with, “Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story…”
Recognize it? It’s the opening of my favorite 90s show, Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Nickelodeon.
Last Saturday, I realized that Are You Afraid of the Dark is streaming free on Amazon Prime. All six seasons. Free. And I was so excited I could barely contain it – like buying my 350Z excited!
Back in the Day
Are You Afraid came on Friday nights, and I watched in my grandparent’s room because we didn’t have cable at my house. I closed the door, turned out the lights to watch it in the dark, and shut out the world – much like I do now with Psych. That was my time.
It was never scary, especially considering I grew up watching horror movies, but it was just creepy enough to make you feel uneasy. Most of the characters are teens acting, thinking, and speaking like teenagers. It’s believable and sold the story.
Does it still hold up?
Absolutely. If you’re looking for gore, sex, and loud jump scenes, you’re out of luck. The show’s tales are pretty clean, but they address adolescent issues such as fitting in, family, and dating. However, it being the 90s, some of the costumes are pretty ridiculous; this was before the everything-must-be-CGI era.
Now that I’m more mature and somewhat grown up, there are a few things I found noteworthy:
- We were way more lax in the 90s. In one episode, there was real fire in a fun house hallway, and a kid gives someone a box of cigars he somehow bought. As a kid, I never questioned those things, which shows we’re way too nit-picky about stupid crap. Nowadays, parents would have rioted.
- The show promoted adolescent creativity. Are You Afraid of the Dark was better than shows like Goosebumps because the kids wrote the stories (that’s the premise, anyway). Each kid wrote a story and brought it to the group to share. It’s a wonderful example of imagination, comradery, and keeping an open mind. Similar shows were based off books or stories written by an adult – these tales are straight from the kids.
- We need a show like this now. I love some modern shows like iCarly and Victorious, but some, Pretty Little Liars, Secret Life, and Degrassi, are way too serious. Adolescents have it pretty tough, so why should we show more drama? The world has more than enough. A good scary tale helps us release tension when we scream or jump, and these episodes always taught a lesson. Reminding kids how to be kind and tolerant (in a fun way) never gets old.
- It doesn’t always end well. My favorites are the one with a twist. Everything doesn’t always end happily ever after, and some episodes are pretty disturbing.
With that said, here’s one of my favorites. I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society closed 🙂