This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.
The Blog

Life Behind The Shadows

For some of us, all that we need to satisfy our shadowy side is a trip to Luna Park so we can scream from a little pink carriage on the Wild Mouse -- but for others, our life experiences have a dark, steamy side.

Welcome to life behind the shadows.

Australians have moved towards a culture that places a higher value on experiences versus 'stuff'. But to what lengths do we go and what desperation drives us to gaining those experiences?

We live in a world where TV series such as The Walking Dead, True Detective, Hannibal and Game of Thrones -- dark and often violent depictions of other-worldliness -- are increasing in popularity. Truth is, we've arrived at a place where we're willing to risk a 'safe danger' to achieve dark goals.

For some of us, all that we need to satisfy our shadowy side is a trip to Luna Park so we can scream from a little pink carriage on the Wild Mouse -- but for others, our life experiences have a dark, steamy side.

The explosion of Ashley Madison epitomises a hunger for safe adventure in culture. Who would have known we were such a shady bunch? But there are plenty of less life-damaging yet titillating cultural manifestations of this Behind the Shadows trend.

"It begins with the teens. Look at the success of The Hunger Games, where teens are trying not to be slaughtered. No hills are alive with the sound of music there," said Michelle Newton, director of cultural forecasting at GalKal Australia.

"Look at the new Suicide Squad. The Warner Brothers trailer on YouTube had over 50 million views in four weeks. The list goes on and it's beyond grim."

Shady and Moody

The trend expands to the humble music video. Older folk remember a time when George Michael only needed a cable knit jumper, fluoro paint and a handful of supermodels.

"Now we need epic drug and murder stories such as Rihanna's latest 'B**ch better have my money.' Over 40 million people have watched Rihanna as the extreme torturer of a rich white woman in an extortion case which ends with a woman being dragged home in a Louis Vuitton trunk so RiRi can chainsaw massacre her male partner. Shady and moody indeed," Newton said.

Closer to home, film director Warwick Thornton's The Darkside was developed from a national call out for Indigenous ghost stories. Submitted by black and white Australians, Thornton narrowed down more than 150 stories into 13 to make this film.

"Perhaps it is the very nature of Australian heritage. It is indeed a dark past we inherited as the convict nation. What dark effect does that convict heritage still hold within our DNA?" Newton said.

Dark Fashion

Fashion often shines a mirror as to what is happening in popular culture.

"I'm not talking about people wearing black. Don't worry, citizens of Melbourne, you still hold that claim to fame for the nation. Have you noticed the absence of bling? Where are the floral prints and frills? We've moved to a more gender neutrality that is represented by the Uniqlos and Mujis of this world," Newton said.

Fashion journalist Patty Huntington said it's a case of art imitating life. Black has never been out of fashion but there is a high profile trend at the moment that's been dubbed 'Health Goth.'

"Think all black sports apparel, or fashion for dystopian times, when you never know when you're going to need to flee the apocalypse," Huntington said.

"It's an extension of the already rampant sports luxe or 'athleisure' trend; athletic leggings and other apparel normally associated with sports, being adopted as regular outerwear (such as the best-selling compression leggings by Australian high tech sports brand 2XU) and fashion designers incorporating these sporty elements into their regular collections."

Huntington said it's difficult to predict where fashion trends come from.

"The military look has been bubbling along for over a decade now, coincidentally since the world has been at war in the Middle East and soldiers are commonplace in the news. And right now we're being bombarded with the darkest side of humanity via the 24-hour digital news cycle and the activities of ISIS, the now almost daily US shootings plus the migrant crisis. It is not good news."

Cinderella and Diana

British street artist Banksy recently launched Dismaland, a thoroughly depressing place where dreams become nightmares. Cinderella lies dead in her wrecked carriage, as the paparazzi shoot pictures of her corpse. The shades of Princess Diana are truly shadowy, to say the least.

Even our palates are restless for the dark side. Blk mineral-infused water is black in colour with a contradictory cleansing role. Sydney's Cruise Bar recently caused outrage by hiring young women to lie naked on dining tables, their bare bodies covered in fruit.

"Food and beverage experiences that have a dark side are on the rise as the fantasy escape it provides is transformative from the humdrum of the everyday. Our senses are sharpened, our breath quickens and our heart races as we contemplate eating insects as the new form of protein," Newton said.

"In bars, the piano man playing in the corner is boring us to tears. There's the Absolut Apocalypse Postponed Cyber Punk Bar in Hong Kong with wall-to-wall sandbags framing metal-framed windows where installation, feature images that included a woman rope-bound and hanging from the ceiling."

Like all trends, Newton said there is always a ying and a yang. In Australia, expenditure on cultural services, art and entertainment increased 25 percent (ABS 2012) as we spend more on experiences. Only time will tell what percentage of these experiences will be 'Behind the Shadows.'

"Humans need fantasy adventure to survive to escape the harsh realities of our everyday life. This Behind the Shadows trend is an example of one means for us to avoid reality," Newton said.

"The real world is truly dark for many, but for some these shadowy and shady experiences make that darkness disappear, ironically shining light, even if it's just for a fleeting moment."

Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact