How dark is too dark?

Oct 12, 2017

When writing scripts for Dark Histories, I’m always aware that at the end of the day, the podcast is made for entertainment. When dealing with victims or people who have met an unfortunate end, I always want to be as respectful as possible and to at least try and show their human side. That’s why I like to research names and backgrounds, even when those are details that are very difficult to find.On two occasions now, I’ve been preparing an episode, either in the middle of writing a script or in the middle of planning the episode arc, that I’ve had to stop and just scrap the whole thing and find a new subject. In both cases, I thought to myself “you know what? This is just unpleasant.” On one hand, I think people who listen to the podcast know what they’re going into, I mean, the show is called Dark Histories. They’re also adults. On the other hand, though, when does it stop being entertaining and just feel disturbing? I know those are two things which can co-exist, but there has to be a balance I guess.
As someone who has always loved horror, I feel like I have a relatively high threshold. I’ve never really been into gore porn, but disturbing psychological horrors are my bread and drink. I love it. This throws me for a loop though, is the audience of the podcast the same? To give a couple of anecdotes, I know one friend of mine who listens to the podcast and had I finished and released them, would have loved those episodes. He holds a morbid curiosity similar to myself. Another person I know that likes the show is rather embarrassingly, my mum. She calls me up every week to discuss the episodes subject with me and she’s clearly real into it. I know for a fact she would have hated those episodes and I doubt she would have made it through to the end without switching off. And I suppose that right there is the crux of it. How dark is too dark, where you just start turning off? I don’t want to be too vanilla but I don’t want someone to feel they can’t listen to the episode any longer. It’s a difficult question, so I try to think to myself, at the end of the day, this is supposed to be entertainment. If a script is feeling shitty to write, it will probably feel shitty to listen to. Then it’s for the bin.
In case you’re interested in the two subjects I scrapped, one was Gilles De Rais, a French Lord and Knight in the 15th Century who took to killing children. Look him up if you like, the story is bananas, but fair warning, the guy was depraved.The other I’m keeping under the hood for now, I still might finish and release it once I have a better feel for the audience because the story is frightening as hell and frankly, very fascinating from a psychological perspective. I’ll say that Norman Bates had nothing on this guy.If you have any thoughts on the matter, get in touch, I’d love to hear them.