Darker Stories: Better or Overused?

BatmanBy Ethan Harmon

It seems that some movies, TV shows, comic books and other forms of entertainment are going for a darker tone. For example, if you look back at The Dark Knight Trilogy, much of its success – besides its originality and recognition of source material – was due to its drastically darker tone for super-heroic films. Or, if you look toward television, watch an episode of Game of Thrones. The show, while having an outstanding cast, goes for a very dark, very sinister vibe to push its narrative forward. Darker tones, themes, vibes and moments are now becoming a driving force for narrative structure. But is that a good thing? Is it being overused?

It’s a little too early to tell, honestly. It has not been completely over-blown, yet. But it is somewhat alarming that more and more creative means are being pushed toward a “darker” or “sinister” feel. That is not to say that it doesn’t work. It completely does, within certain stories or contexts. As stated earlier, The Dark Knight Trilogy utilized a darker tone to convey the harshness of the world of Gotham and the struggles of Bruce Wayne/Batman. It worked very well, and we all loved it. But on the other end of the spectrum, Man of Steel failed in its attempts to make Superman feel darker. It was actually a distracting aspect of the movie, and it was part of its ultimate downfall.

In the world of comics, Daredevil was the darkest book on the shelves. It was infamously known for its dark, although incredible, storylines and twists. It fit well with a blind superhero who fought crime in Hell’s Kitchen. But, after other creators tried to keep the trend going, the book displayed one of its worst storylines. It only recovered (and became one of the best books on the shelves) after a drastic change in direction. Although not completely without its dark moments, the stories began to focus on a more fun, adventurous Daredevil. The spike in sales and interest easily shows how the change of tone helped the story.

Of course, this isn’t just a trend for superhero related media. Shows such as Dexter, Game of Thones, Spartacus and Doctor Who have all had their fair share of dark and sinister moments. The success and fandom all lies within context. Doctor Who may have dark and heart-wrenching moments, but it is also full of fun, adventurous and character-driven stories. Spartacus is full of character and triumph. Dexter and (in my opinion) Game of Thrones falter due to the constant amount of “messed up” and “twisted” moments. Yes, there is good writing and nice character build, but there is just an immense amount of twisted, dark themes, moments and atmosphere. Being beaten down by all of this really leads to a decline in interest and story.

I’m not saying that the “dark” stories are bad. Far from it. Some of the best stories that have been created have dark or twisted moments. What I am saying is the stories do not need to thrive off of this. The Dark Knight Trilogy displayed a hero as he triumphs over the evil in his city. The Daredevil comics show a character fighting for justice. Doctor Who conveys a Time Lord trying to save the universe. Having a dark vibe does not destroy a story, but it should fit within context of the narrative. And it should not be a story’s only defining factor.