18 How to Make Christmas Lights Creepy

Lillian Savage

Freud’s “The Uncanny” attempts to explain the feeling of something, or events that are disturbing, creepy or just odd in the human psyche. Freud uses examples from Ernst Jentsch’s “The Sandman” to help explain the feeling of uncanness. A quote that stuck with me was “[Jentsch]…‘doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not be in fact animate’; and he refers in this connection to the impression made by waxwork figures, ingeniously constructed dolls and automata” (421.) After reading that, one example popped into my head almost immediately: the lights from Stranger Things. If people haven’t seen Stranger Things, I’ll provide some explanation to what I’m referring to. The lights are often used as a warning that the big bad in season 1, the demogorgon, is coming to attack our heroes. As a result, there are lights everywhere around one of the main character’s houses since her son, Will, was taken by the demogorgon. This allows for the effect of the “uncanny” or the creepiness to take hold of the human psyche. An example of this scene is when Mike and Nancy’s little sister goes wandering around the Byers house.
Lights aren’t supposed to warn someone of danger, especially christmas lights. Christmas lights are normally tied to, well Christmas, and to be able to capture childlike wonder. Christmas lights, along with another house lamps aren’t tied to danger and suspense. In thinking about this scene more, I found another quote from “The Uncanny,” that seemed to resonate with me.  Freud also says that “children do not distinguish at all sharply between living and inanimate objects…” (425.) This can be directly tied to Mike and Nancy’s little sister stumbling into rooms when the lights come on. She can’t distinguish that the lights are inanimate objects and all of them leading away from the parents with Christmas lights isn’t normal, not to mention that all of the lights going off and on at once isn’t normal either! Luckily, Joyce is able to save her from the demogorgon and the scene cuts away. However, it does so not without practically petrifying viewers and making them view household lamps, and even Christmas lights with a new, creepy, perspective.


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The Student Theorist: An Open Handbook of Collective College Theory Copyright © 2018 by Lillian Savage is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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