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Nightmare Fuel or "How TVTropes is apparantly terrified by literally anything"

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Aug 6th 2017 at 10:08:30 PM

So, this came up a few times but I figure we might as well have a discussion on it. Since it's not a specific article, figured we'd discuss it here. This is inspired by an IP thread for a NF image for a movie that isn't even out and whose suggestion include "Lady in dark clothing with weird hat = scary". But I felt it was worth discussing Nightmare Fuel as a whole.

Is the lack of any standards for Nightmare Fuel any bit silly? Like, some of the nightmare fuel entry read like they were written by someone with the mental fortitude for a kitten. This is especially silly when you're dealing with works that are... frankly not scary.

Some examples I pick at random to illustrated my point

Super Mario Bros. (I wanna say that any NF for any of the mario game is a treasure trove of entries like this)

The Thwomps. Their faces, especially in 3D games like Galaxy, look extremely terrifying. Doesn't help that some of them are sentient in that they know you're coming and know when to drop down to try and crush you.
This is the scary face in question, a generic cartoony "angry face". Whoever wrote this must pee themselves at regular angry emoticons. Also that Mario's enemies are sentient and trying to stop him on purpose is somehow nightmare fuel?

From: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic - Season 2

Once again, the Mood Whiplash of the theme song following the episode recap is a bit disturbing.
That's not even what Nightmare fuel is.

From: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic - Season 1

Those horse-mice Twilight created in the beginning were kind of freaky looking.
Behold the stuff of nightmares.

From: Sonic Sat AM

Tails nearly getting trampled by a Terapod herd in "Sonic Past Cool."
This one is interesting, because a LOT of Nightmare Fuel consist of describing action scenes or scenes of tension. Does Tension = NF? Discuss!

From: Mega Man

Also in "The Beginning", Wily warned Light not to follow him after he kidnapped Rock and Roll. If he did, Ice Man would freeze him and Cut Man would slice him up.
The bad guy's henchmen threatening a hero is apparently nightmare fuel. Must be terrifying for someone playing actual Megaman games and realize that the robots sometimes shoot at Megaman!

Honestly, I can keep going, but if you want a laugh, go to one of the Nightmare Fuel indexes, pick works that are aimed at general audiences and made specifically to not be scary. You won't be disappointed.

edited 6th Aug '17 10:08:53 PM by Ghilz

Piterpicher from Poland, for real Relationship Status: Awaiting my mail-order bride
Aug 6th 2017 at 11:39:34 PM

These pages are YMMV, so it's obvious it's going to be subjective. Also, TV Tropes had High Octane Nightmare Fuel once, which, from what I know, was either Nightmare Fuel but scarier, or Nightmare Fuel but intended by the creators. And there were even many other scary pages, like Nightmare Fuel Unleaded, Intentional Nightmare Fuel, Crowning Moment Of Horror and Crowning Moment Of Creepy.

edited 6th Aug '17 11:43:36 PM by Piterpicher

AnotherDuck No, the other one. from Stockholm Relationship Status: In season
No, the other one.
Aug 7th 2017 at 12:44:23 AM

I find it more reasonable to use your average You Tube comments as factual sources for a STEM essay than to actually be scared of most Nightmare Fuel entries. A lot of it reads like a Just For Fun page where people WMG (usual WMG standards of logical sense) about what could potentially raise the eyebrow of at least one sentient being.

Check out my fanfiction!
Aug 7th 2017 at 8:58:41 AM

It comes with the territory of being a wiki. If anyone can edit it, and there's a page that's literally all about what scares you, you'd better believe people are going to use that to talk about what scares them no matter how irrational it may be.

Aug 7th 2017 at 9:36:12 AM

This is definitely one that's gotten outrageously out of hand and needs a dedicated cleanup effort. The question becomes, how do we establish criteria for what qualifies?

Aug 7th 2017 at 9:38:10 AM

The My Little Pony nightmare fuel page used to list a scene where Applejack hits her head on a branch. Apparently a 100% Played for Laughs Amusing Injury is actually a character suffering from a concussion with realistic symptoms.

It really feels like some people like to add every mildly unpleasant thing that happens to Nightmare Fuel in order to make their favorite show seem Darker and Edgier than it actually is.

IMO, the worst Nightmare Fuel page is Mortal Kombat X's, which consists of a list of every single fatality, brutality, faction kill, and X-ray attack in the game. Sorry, but if a plain old decapitation or dismemberment scares you, you're not supposed to even be playing that game. Also pretty hilarious is Injustice: Gods Among Us, which lists every single character's Limit Break, most of which are meant to be cool rather than scary. Again, if a person getting hurt during combat scares you, you're not meant to be playing fighting games.

EDIT: Here are some choice picks from We Bare Bears, a light-hearted Slice of Life comedy show:

A spider scares the bears as they walk down the street. Grizzly blows it away and then Panda blows it away, only for the spider to swing into Ice Bear's mouth. Later, the spider shows up again when the bears bump into a tree. Grizzly attempts to defuse the situation by kicking the tree...and a giant group of spiders falls out. Both the bears and the children are understandably startled.

During the montage of the animals spreading news of the bears' calzone truck, there was a deer about to get Eaten Alive by a wolf. Thankfully, both of them get informed before any slaughter happens.

The killer Roomba. It's a Super-Persistent Predator that manages to effortlessly mow through grass, tree bark, and other materials-all in a pursuit of Grizzly, as he's trapped in the tree.

The titular jacket bears the snarling face of a tiger, and brings good fortune upon those who possess/wear it. Unfortunately, this good fortune corrupts the bears, but their attempts to get rid of it fail. This especially pertains to the climax when, due to the heavy wind, it actually manages to fly around and attack them. And the episode ends on a disturbing scene implying it will bring misery to a new trio of friends.

In a way, Charlie's whole situation. Imagine being relentlessly harassed and followed by a large group of people constantly trying to take your picture, with some of them even setting traps for you. They follow you so much, you can't even have a permanent home without them finding you again and again. Even worse? Charlie genuinely has no idea why these people follow him around all the time, and there's no telling how long they've been doing this. No wonder the poor guy hates cameras and avoids windows and doors...

When cub Panda's cardboard box fort was falling apart towards cub Grizzly and cub Ice Bear, both cubs thought they were going to get hurt. Grizzly naturally reacted scared, but Ice Bear just closes his eyes, spreads his arms out, and just accepts being "crushed to death", which is horrifying. Think about it. A child trying to kill himself.

Chloe deciding that it's a good idea to climb into the pen of an alligator. Ice Bear's expression says it all.

edited 7th Aug '17 9:48:30 AM by Zuxtron

Aug 7th 2017 at 9:55:44 AM

These pages are YMMV, so it's obvious it's going to be subjective. Also, TV Tropes had High Octane Nightmare Fuel once, which, from what I know, was either Nightmare Fuel but scarier, or Nightmare Fuel but intended by the creators. And there were even many other scary pages, like Nightmare Fuel Unleaded, Intentional Nightmare Fuel, Crowning Moment Of Horror and Crowning Moment Of Creepy.

Being YMMV isn't a reason to have no standards. Complete Monster is YMMV, and has a rigid set of criterias specifically coz it used to be the same clusterfuck Nightmare Fuel is - people would list anyone who did anything bad or mildly unpleasant. So put standards:

  • The character is truly heinous by the standards of the story, which makes no attempt to present the character in any positive way.
  • The character's terribleness is played seriously at all times, evoking fear, revulsion and hatred from the other characters in the story.
  • They are completely devoid of altruistic qualities. They show no regret for their crimes.

I don't see how Nightmare Fuel being YMMV exempts it from having a bare minimum of standards.

As for standards, I'd say at the very least things that are Played for Laughs and Played For Awesome should be outright removed.

edited 7th Aug '17 9:58:12 AM by Ghilz

Aug 7th 2017 at 10:11:40 AM

OMG, fucking Arthur has a Nightmare Fuel page. Yes, the thing for kids about the aardvark so inoffensive the aardvark in question looks like a teddy bear less the kids be creeped out. THAT Arthur.

One episode has Arthur and friends trying to make a James Hound fan film. While brainstorming for plot ideas, Buster comes up with the idea to have the Bond villain shoot a fish hypnotic ray to hypnotize the fish of the ocean to EAT people!
It doesn't even happen! It's a pitch for a movie! For the villain's scheme in a James Bond ripoff!


Near the end of "Roxy Rumbles", a potential buyer decided to read the contract before buying a car. It was a wise decision as, while he was reading it, the car blew up.

edited 7th Aug '17 10:13:23 AM by Ghilz

Fighteer Lost in Space from The Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
Lost in Space
Aug 7th 2017 at 11:16:54 AM

Well, "cutting the entire bloody mess" doesn't seem to be on the table, so I have no thoughts to offer.

"It's Occam's Shuriken! If the answer is elusive, never rule out ninjas!"
Aug 7th 2017 at 12:37:44 PM

They might be hard to enforce, but here are a few possible rules:

  • Only add something to Nightmare Fuel if it scared YOU, personally. Don't add stuff that MIGHT scare someone else.

  • Don't add stuff just because it hits close to one of your personal phobias. Not every little fictional spider is Nightmare Fuel just because you're an arachnophobe.

  • If it's a work where Anyone Can Die, every single death does not automatically count as Nightmare Fuel. Only the most gruesome or unsettling death scenes should qualify.

  • Likewise, if it's an action-packed Fighting Series, do NOT list every single time someone gets injured.

  • A Cat Scare is not Nightmare Fuel. If something is presented as scary, but then revealed to be something harmless in a way that's Played for Laughs, it shouldn't count.

edited 7th Aug '17 12:38:08 PM by Zuxtron

TuefelHundenIV Watchman of the Apocalypse from Wandering Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Watchman of the Apocalypse
Aug 7th 2017 at 12:43:45 PM

This is not the first time someone has pointed out how ridiculous those entries have become. Some sort of mandatory guideline is definitely needed if we are going to clean it up and keep it cleaned up. That would be the first step otherwise sans guidelines trimming up that mess would be like trying to shovel runny jello. If those pages are an indication a lot of material is going to be getting the axe.

"Who watches the watchmen?"
Aug 7th 2017 at 3:52:36 PM

It's true of all the tabs beyond main, ymmv, trivia, characters and quotes. They were all originally conceived as exceptional examples of various topics, but they became just anything remotely related to it. Something is kind of sad, must be a tearjerker. That was kind of cool, must be a moment of awesome. etc. A line of dialogue is creepy, must be nightmare fuel. They were given tabs to keep it off even the ymmv pages, that's how useless the concepts are as tropes. But I will admit those tabs can be some of the most enjoyable reads on the wiki.

Aug 7th 2017 at 4:12:02 PM

To be fair, the majority of Nightmare Fuel, Awesome, Tearjerker, etc... pages are fine. Keyword is majority

Nightmare Fuel however IMHO is the one that often grasps at straws. Awesome would probably be a close second (Where if something happened that wasn't boring dialogue, must be a moment of awesome). But I figure I'd pick my battle and go for the one that declares mundane stuff as the stuff of nightmares.

@Zuxtron I think it's a good list to start. Though the first bullet gives me pause. For one thing, it's clearly one of the most needed, but at the same time I worry "Well it scared me" becomes a handwave to enter anything. Even if it didn't actually scare whoever wrote it.

edited 7th Aug '17 4:13:28 PM by Ghilz

Aug 7th 2017 at 4:19:10 PM

[up] x 4 — That's a decent beginning. I'd add:

  • This is a trope whose name is intended to be taken more literally than most. It's not enough for material to be scary; to truly qualify, it has to be frightening enough to legitimately unnerve/disturb the viewer, with actually being nightmare-inducing as the ultimate endpoint.
  • The chances of works geared toward children and pre-teens actually generating NF is very low.

edited 7th Aug '17 4:19:31 PM by Willbyr

Aug 7th 2017 at 4:26:50 PM

[up][up] I acknowledged that the list might be hard to enforce, and the first bullet is absolutely going to be the hardest one of them all. But putting it up as a guideline might make people think twice about adding every little unpleasant thing that might scare someone, somewhere.

Other possible rules:

  • Fridge Horror is not Nightmare Fuel unless it is officially acknowledged in some way.

  • Speculating about something scary that MIGHT happen in a future episode doesn't belong on Nightmare Fuel. It might not end up happening, so save it for when it does happen.

  • Similar to the above, unreleased works should be much more stringent on what is and isn't allowed on their Nightmare Fuel page. Since we don't know much about what happens yet, the mystery might make things seem scarier than they actually end up being.

edited 7th Aug '17 4:29:20 PM by Zuxtron

TuefelHundenIV Watchman of the Apocalypse from Wandering Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Watchman of the Apocalypse
Aug 7th 2017 at 4:29:02 PM

Willbyr: I have to agree there.

I would argue that a work has to deliberately attempt inflict that state on those that consume the media in question, like various horror flicks, or deliberately introduces material that on it's own would be considered disturbing or shocking like some of the darker parts of Llamas with Hats. Llamas with hats is dark humor and goes to at least some length to be disturbing.

edited 7th Aug '17 4:37:59 PM by TuefelHundenIV

"Who watches the watchmen?"
Aug 7th 2017 at 5:31:50 PM

Any implementation of "rules for editors" will not fix anything, it will just create a bigger burden of curating the various pages. I would say if someone desires to cut them down, it would have to be just being strict on the current "rules of editing" guideline: no repeat examples, no natter, using proper grammar and factual descriptions of the example in question (no speculation or selective interpretations). Especially in the cases of trailers before the movie comes out, editors list examples of how the trailer is cut together as though that is how it comes together in the movie. It's that kind of stuff that should either not be there or specified up front as a trailer moment.

Aug 7th 2017 at 5:37:16 PM

If we add extra rules, it would at least allow us to get rid of blatant overreactions and misuse. It won't instantly fix the problem, and people will keep adding bad examples, but at least we'll be able to do something about it.

Aug 7th 2017 at 6:04:19 PM

I would say if someone desires to cut them down, it would have to be just being strict on the current "rules of editing" guideline: no repeat examples, no natter, using proper grammar and factual descriptions of the example in question (no speculation or selective interpretations).

None of that will fix the overreaction and the non-example (so long as the overreaction is factual).

And again, having rules does work. It has limited overuse on Complete Monster. Is it flawless? No, but nothing is.

Aug 7th 2017 at 6:10:18 PM

Also, TV Tropes had High Octane Nightmare Fuel once, which, from what I know, was either Nightmare Fuel but scarier, or Nightmare Fuel but intended by the creators. And there were even many other scary pages, like Nightmare Fuel Unleaded,
Wasn't NFU renamed (and possibly redefined) to HONF?

To be actually on topic, I'm not sure putting criteria on the main page is going to do much of anything for the subpages, which people likely visit directly from the work pages.

Aug 7th 2017 at 6:12:47 PM

[up] If a subpage is seeing consistent misuse, we could always add a comment at the top explaining the rules. It still wouldn't be a 100% flawless solution, but it would help at least a little.

Aug 7th 2017 at 6:15:12 PM

Yeah, adding the same rules to the subpages (especially problematic ones) would be a simple, if repetitive, issue. Especially just doing it as we clean out misuse.

TuefelHundenIV Watchman of the Apocalypse from Wandering Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Watchman of the Apocalypse
Aug 7th 2017 at 6:31:37 PM

[nja]KJ: Enforcing rules we already have does not address the problem of people putting just about anything down and pretty much is doing the same thing that is already done now. The kind of runaway misuse we are seeing is a very clear indicator that the trope is not properly defined or its intended use has been left insufficiently stated. Adding said rules most definitely helps address that and helps make clean up and future maintenance easier. It helps clarify what fits with the trope and helps clarify the intent behind the trope both of which are clearly needed at this point.

As for the rules past experience suggests they do in fact help. Adding specific requirements and restrictions not only encourages proper use from the outset but helps any editor more clearly and easily define what fits and what needs to be cleaned up. I have seen several tropes which have specific requirements in place and they make it fairly easy to not only add material but to clean up and maintain pages.

For editor work load trying to keep going with it just as is and enforcing rules that clearly don't affect the source of the issue does nothing to halt or even slow the never-ending stream of bad entries for an item that has clearly become problematic. Adding rules most definitely helps that particular issue and helps editors maintaining pages more easily define what belongs and what needs to go. Providing a defined and reasonably clear requirement makes editing and clean up easier on everyone.

edited 7th Aug '17 8:36:11 PM by TuefelHundenIV

"Who watches the watchmen?"
Aug 8th 2017 at 1:04:52 AM

It's been my experience that adding bullet points saying "Don't do this" does little, because misuse stems from people not actually reading the original page very closely. It is better defining a trope (or in this case an entire reaction tab) and, most importantly, heavy curation to take out bad examples that actually makes a difference, because editors are more influenced by the standard of examples they see on the page. It sounds like this is not about redefining Nightmare Fuel but just a proposal for better curation. The standards of what nightmare fuel is supposed to be is already there, which is essentially the reason why this complaint is being brought up.

This generally sounds like a proposal for a massive clean-up of an otherwise well defined subpage. You could probably take it to short term projects and just reiterate the definition it already has. Of course it is an entire reaction subpage, and we've already mentioned most of the reaction subpages suffer from the problem, so it might be a big can of worms you're opening.

SeptimusHeap from Switzerland Relationship Status: Mu
Aug 8th 2017 at 1:22:36 AM

The existing style rules for Nightmare Fuel are:

  1. Contestations or natter will be zapped on sight
  2. Explain what is the Nightmare Fuel. Anything insufficient will go to discussion until it's improved.
  3. No first-person. Period. And no Troper Tales either - they will also go to discussion.
  4. No links on main pages, other than in descriptions.

There are two problems with a cleanup of the non-scary examples. One, it is a project to judge the relative worth of various opinions, whis is kind of thankless and also several steps removed from the stated mission of this website. Second, it involves editing over 10,000 links and who knows how many subpages. We already have problems with projects one hundreth of this size.

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." - Richard Feynman

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