I remember watching Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. with my younger siblings for the first time. While it had been a movie I loved when I was younger, I had actually worn out the DVD with how often I watched it, and it just never got replaced.
We had told my younger siblings about this, and they all settled in on the couch or the floor, excited to see what might follow.
Once we sat through the (INCREDIBLY LONG) (but there was a catchy song, so it was okay) opening credits, the screen lit up with a picture of an average child’s bedroom.
Mom said goodnight.
The lights went out.
That’s when the terror began.
A slimy tentacle draped over a chair. Curtains rustling in the wind. And a pair of slanted red eyes glaring from beneath the bed.
By this point—not even five minutes into the movie unless you count those opening credits—one of my elementary-aged brothers, who had struggled with night terrors for years when he was younger, was cowered behind the couch pillows, peeking across to the rest of us, probably trying to figure out what exactly he’d signed on for. (“Watch Monsters, Inc. they said. It will be fun, they said.”)
The enormous monster loomed over the bed. The child screamed.
And, uh, so did the monster.
And before we knew it, said monster was skidding across the floor into a pile of jacks. (Punctuated by said brother’s hysterical cackles in the background.) Then the wall lifted to reveal it was all a simulation.
It’s October. Some great things happen in October. Fall decorations start popping up everywhere. Pumpkin spice dominates each and every restaurant. I went to my first For King and Country concert.
But the majority of the month is dedicated to celebrating fear.
October is a month where storytellers go to great lengths to come up with the darkest and scariest stories they can. (Something I never saw much point in. Who wants to be scared all the time? We get enough of that in real life.)
October’s festivities aside, fear permeates our culture now, especially since the 2020 lockdown. (Should I capitalize lockdown? Is it that serious?) It reminded us that our world—and all the things we thought were untouchable—can change in an instant. And with that reminder came fear.
No need to wait until October. Fear is alive and well all year round.
Fear is power.
In the context of Monsters, Inc., the ones who harness fear’s power are a group of colorful and quirky monsters who really just need kids’ screams so they can start their car in the morning.
In real life, though? There’s nothing quirky or colorful about the one who wants to use our fear to power his empire.
Fear is powerful. It holds us back from the things we love the best. It shuts us down and keeps us in a dark place. It overwhelms us.
But as I watched Monsters, Inc. with a boy who used to refuse to go into any room of the house after dark without a light, who used to never spend the night in his own bed, who used to leave the room over visuals in even G-rated movies—as I watched him laugh his way through the film, I realized something alongside those quirky and colorful monsters.
Joy is more powerful than fear.
Why write stories of fear and despair when we can celebrate joy? When we can point to the pinprick of Light shattering the inky dark? When we can break free of the black prisons that we cower oh-so-comfortably in? When we run outside into the light and discover both new things and old things that truly don’t change when the whole world is flipped upside down?
It’s hard to uncurl from that ball and take a step outside. But maybe this October, we’ll find ourselves celebrating the power of joy—not fear.
(P.S. That boy I mentioned? He hasn’t scurried out of his room at night for years.)
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!