The eldritch horrors have won.
When I first encountered the works of H. P. Lovecraft as a teen, they enthralled me. Here was writing as bleak as my worldview at the time. This fiction wasn’t pandering to me to get me to like it, and it wasn’t glossing over reality with a Disney Effect Pollyanna insistence that everything would always work out well in the end. The protagonists were typically professors or other intellectuals keen to understand things rather than macho shoot-first-while-making-quips types. Dense blocks of complex vocabulary and the stubborn efforts of hubristic humans being brought low by cosmic immensity spoke deeply to me.
Inevitably my reading interests expanded enormously. For all his inventiveness Lovecraft didn't exactly pen a broad range of literary styles, and being dead he wasn't about to provide new material at the rate I could consume it. When my mood returned to the dismal he was reliably there, humourlessly consistent in his conviction not only that there were limits to what we understand, but also to what we are mentally equipped to understand, and that there were mind shatteringly awful things we surely didn't want to understand.
Today, I have to admit he was on to something. Just as one of his protagonists might pull back the curtain of comforting assumptions to reveal cosmic horror, some of us have been shaken to our core in recent years by things we never imagined learning. Such as the fact that, despite a commonly held public sentiment that most people are at their root essentially moral, a large proportion of our neighbours would gleefully hasten our deaths in order to avoid even the tiniest personal inconvenience for themselves. We have to reasonably assume that this was always the case and that the primary difference today is that Trump and his ilk normalized admitting to this deplorable villainy out loud, although of course we also understand that common perceptions change over time. Like changing the flowing course of a river, every public policy and social media post that throws a dam in front of our compassion or digs the channel of hate deeper also incrementally reshapes the whole cumulatively over time.
I don’t watch a lot of horror movies any more the way that I used to because our reality does the same job so much better.