Depending on who you listen to, our greatest fears as humans are either: terrorists, spiders, and death; or loss of identity, rejection, and humiliation. There’s not much documentation to support a collective fear of Slovakian hostels, finger-knives, the undead, mechagodzillas, videocassettes, chainsaws, birds, or demonic possession. None of us are actually scouring the pre-flight cockpit for vipers, researching indian burial protocol before breaking ground on our swimming pool, or carrying a sharpened stake to visit grandma in the cemetery. These are temporary scares that instinct and generations of natural selection have told us are not to be internalized long-term. Tensing at the sight of a snake, failing our equilibrium on the roof – these are legit situations with potential dire consequences where biology overrides experience.
It’s odd that often what we fear most are things least likely to occur. You’d have to fly in an airplane every day for 19,000 years before a statistical crash caught up with you. Swim 11 million times in the ocean before a shark bit you (with zero percent chance of resulting death). These are what we lose sleep over, yet the three leading causes of death are: tobacco, poor diet/inactivity, and alcohol. Sounds like a lovely little Tuesday evening to me.
So look for my new screenplay next summer, The Scariest Movie Ever Made. Our hero has not saved enough for retirement in spite of looming layoffs. He discovers Evil Spider-Man stole his social security number, ruined his credit rating, and is alleging molestation of his kidnapped children. Root canal is scheduled for the afternoon, and it’s an Alaskan winter with no electricity. After giving him the clap, his wife leaves him for a man with a bigger penis, about which she’s told the entire neighborhood. It climaxes with him preparing a speech full of ethnic slurs in front of al Qaeda’s top brass. Now that’s terrifying!