by Andrew Rybarczyk
Yesterday, CoasterJunior expressed his opinion on the complaints surrounding Six Flags' Fright Fest event. I completely agree with all of what he says and I urge you to read his article first before reading this companion piece. Click here to read CoasterJunior's blog. My goal in this is not to reiterate what CoasterJunior has already stated, but rather provide my insights on the event after having spent the weekend there at the COASTER-net and Hauntoverse meet-up, Journey Into Fear 2013.
Problem #1: The decorations are too intense for younger viewers.
From the second one enters through the park gates, one immediately knows that Fright Fest is a Halloween event. The first sight entering the park is the iconic reflecting pool that has been transformed into a pool of blood. Other decorations litter the park ranging from themed simple skeletons to the more grotesque hanging severed heads. My issue, like CoasterJunior, is that this event is correctly billed as a Halloween event. As such, one MUST expect to be inundated with such decor that can be found at any Halloween store or department store carrying such goods. Can it be frightening for young children? Absolutely, if not given the proper context by a responsible parent. Two quick solutions to this come to mind. First, if a child is too young and you may believe that he will be frightened by such items, as CoasterJunior so eloquently stated "Don't Go." Another option might be to simply explain to your child what actually is happening and provide a proper context for he or she to properly understand it. Hmmm....that might require actual parenting though.
Problem #2: The scare actors are traumatizing and humiliating the innocent.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the complaint letter states, "Even movies depicting violence contain warnings to parents. At least, people have the option of totally avoiding inappropriate 'entertainment.'" Well this is interesting. According to the Six Flags website, it clearly states, "Many areas of the Park are not recommended for children or those with timid spirits after 4 p.m." I don't know, that sure sounds like a proper warning to me. I can also tell you that similar messages are provided on the park maps, so even if one doesn't have access to the internet, one should still come by the info fairly easily.
Furthermore, from my personal experiences on the weekend, most of the people being "traumatized" or "humiliated" in the midways were kids of middle to high school age. Mostly girls, who I would characterize as being delighted to be scared and able to be the center of attention. Caine Donis (from SHQ Podcast fame and Midwest Representative of the COASTER-net club) and I sat for 45 minutes and watched as the same group of ten girls ran around screaming as lumberjacks with un-bladed chainsaws chased them off and on. They seemed scared, but you know what? All they had to do was walk the opposite way or maybe just not react to the lumberjacks like the 90% of other people do. After 2 minutes, anyone with common sense would realize this, but they enjoyed putting on the spectacle. There is NO other explanation that makes any bit of sense.
In addition, every interaction I saw with a scare actor and a child younger than middle school age was one that is played out in so many children's movies where a "monster" tries to befriend someone. At first almost all of the children are reluctant but many eventually end up opening up to the monster. Oh, and I should mention that every time this happened, it was at the parent's urging. Never once did I see a scare actor approach a young child with the intent to terrorize. Any good parent would simply find a wide route around all of the action going on if they truly wanted to avoid such things. I should also say that it's pretty easy to identify where the scare actors are because large groups tend to form. Here's my advice, avoid the large groups.
Problem #3: Fright Fest is breeding violence and criminality
This one is the classic issue of overstating in order to make it seem like one's opinion is actually valid. Once again I quote from the letter received by the Chicago Tribune, "In an era when visitors to the park have to go through metal detectors because of concerns about crime and violence in our culture, it is ironic that part of the park's entertainment consists of staged acts of violence. Scary creatures should be confined to, perhaps, a haunted house, and the re-enactment of criminal acts should be eliminated altogether." On the surface it sounds like it could be a legitimate concern. Violence is one of the top problems facing America today. Chicago is obviously struggling with violent acts and murders on a daily basis. However, when one begins to truly use their brain, if we are indeed to eliminate such things from Fright Fest (I think we will also have to change the events name too), maybe it would be better to just eliminate all of Halloween considering that blood, gore, demons, and evil are the cornerstones of the holiday. I can understand that line of reasoning too. The part where it all falls apart though is you willing chose to engage in an event that celebrates such items. There is no secret in what Halloween is all about. What underlies this attitude is probably a bigger problem than violence in America: People blaming others because they don't teach their children right from wrong. Violence is a parenting issue not an issue caused by Fright Fest. Parents need to step up and take responsibility in teaching their children the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral. If your child doesn't recognize the fantasy characters and so called "criminal acts" being portrayed as something no person should ever actually do in life...guess what?...you've already failed as a parent. So instead of writing a letter to get your name in the newspaper, spend some time with your child and teach them...better yet...find a good parent and hopefully they can teach them better than you.