01st Jun2018

Superstition and Entertainment – Why do we Love it so Much?

by James Smith

Mystery and the unknown speak to us on a base level. We are, after all, creatures with undeniable curiosity. Combined with our intelligence, this is one of the key features which allowed us to become to become the dominant force on earth. The thing is, our capacity for imagination often overrides our ability to reason. We see patterns where none exist, and we make up stories for phenomena we have yet to explain scientifically, and this can be an incredibly powerful instinct to appeal to when it comes to mass media.

Our imagination, our fears and our desires, all facets of who we are can be reflected in our superstitions and our magical thinking. It’s because of this that television series based on the supernatural tickle us so – they appeal to a world we want to imagine on a fantastic level, not strictly the world in which we really live.

A great example of this, which you might have been able to guess from the title of this article, is the 2017 series Superstition. While we wait to see whether this series is picked up for another season, we’ve decided to take a closer look at what makes this series, and those like it, so special to us, and why this form of entertainment will always have a place in our cultural zeitgeist.

The Show

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Originally commissioned by the Syfy channel in late 2016, the television drama series Superstition ran twelve episodes from October 2017 to January 2018. The focal point of this series is the Hastings family. This family operates the only funeral home in the small Georgian town of La Rochelle. While you might expect their position as the only funeral home in a small area to create a situation where the Hastings family might struggle financially, the real trouble comes from the especially unhelpful interference of demonic entities. Fortunately, the Hastings family are not one to put all of their eggs in one basket, as a part of their job relies on diversifying into the arguably related field of demon hunting.

The premise alone here is enough to draw our attention, which was seemingly also the case for the Syfy channel. While obviously regarded by the scientific community as little more than folklore and fairy tales, there are a considerable amount of people all over the world who view concepts such as demons as more fact than fiction. A 2012 study by YouGov of a thousand people found that around 45% believed in ghosts, and while this does fluctuate based on areas and education, the numbers are still higher than we might think. According to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, this ties into our capacity for pattern recognition in psychology. While we excel at this like no other known creature, our abilities are far from perfect.

We can see this mirrored in many facets of our daily lives. It is common for professional athletes and spectators alike to engage in superstitious practices, believing on some level that minor details can somehow affect cosmic change. The same can be said in gambling – according to Betway Casino there are many different reasons as to why people hold certain numbers and actions in high superstitious regard, such as cultural beliefs and myths and legends. For example, the number seven is seen as lucky due to the presence of seven days in a week, seven deadly sins and the seven continents in the world.

While many of us write these beliefs off as simply nonsensical, it is important to note the very real effect which they can have on outcomes. An athlete wearing the same armband might not give any direct advantage, but the indirect comfort which it brings can very well influence an outcome of events. Likewise, specific numbers which we use in gambling might not have a greater chance than others, but they can bring us comfort and confidence which will, in turn, have a net positive effect on our performance.

The World and Characters

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Far from the average human, the Hastings family of Superstition boast many abilities which appeal to many of our inner desires to see beyond the world as it exists. The standard ability here which we all crave is vastly improved strength, a de facto power of modern superheroes, and one which many of us would jump at the chance to attain. Other than this, the family is set apart with their multiple forms of arcane weaponry, skills in alchemy, and a profound knowledge of the occult and evils which hide within the world.

Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and rarely is this more direct than when appealing to the supernatural. While we have to get by in our lives with what we can know, we like to think of there being something beneath the surface, something which has a greater overall pull on the world than the simple natural factors of which we are aware. These ideas, that there is a reason behind the disorder and unpredictability of our world, whether through the means of order or chaos, appeal to us because it makes us think there is a great level of reason in the universe. Whether through alchemy, or secret knowledge, the idea here is that we can take better charge of our own fate, and the fate of the world, through something much more exciting than the often mundane tasks of our daily lives.

A Future Unthreatened

We still don’t know whether Superstition will be renewed for another season (as their numbers over the first season dropped from 0.45 million viewers to 0.32), but those of us who are fans of supernatural media have nothing to worry about, at least in the grand scheme of things. Fantasy, supernatural, and horror stories, television series, and films have been a mainstay ever since the mediums have existed. This shows no signs of slowing, even as some predicted that better worldwide education and understanding of the material world would make true belief in these areas untenable. In fact, recent developments have seen some of these genres retaking their place in the limelight. Our imaginations are always going to be a fundamental part of who we are, and the direction of media which this inspires is not going anywhere.

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