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Accidental Nightmare Fuel
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Accidental Nightmare Fuel refers to things in media that scare people even though they were never meant to. Something that was meant to amuse or entertain to the audience would otherwise result in frightening people to the point of having nightmares. It's particularly common in media aimed at children and general audiences, as kids (usually) get scared more easily than adults, but can be seen pretty much anywhere by anyone, due to the extremely subjective nature of horror.

In short: It wasn't intended to be scary, but it turns out to be anyway.

The usual suspects of Accidental Nightmare Fuel include:

There is an excellent discussion about this phenomenon and its possible psychological origins in this blog post at The Onion A. V. Club. And check out the website Kinder Trauma if you dare.

Contrast with Nightmare Retardant, Narm, and Faux Horrific. If the offending material can make you sick, you've got Nausea Fuel. For deliberately scary (but not very scary) kids media, see Defanged Horrors. Vile Villain, Saccharine Show is when a villain causes this in a show far more light-hearted than one would expect that sort of character to appear in. If it becomes scary only in hindsight, it's Fridge Horror.

Related: Uncanny Valley

This is a Fan Speak definition. Please put examples in Nightmare Fuel.


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