Growing up a long time ago as I did, I watched television during a particular period in the 1970s during which immorality was paraded as a tease, only to be followed by the tromping heavy boots of morality. I refer specifically to the TV show Fantasy Island, which fits the trope perfectly for this post since it includes the word 'fantasy' and that's what I want to write about.
For those who may not know the show - I have no idea if it is in reruns, I don't subscribe to television - the episodes always began with the smooth and savvy Mr. Roarke explaining to the midget Tattoo the fantasies of two guests, both arriving on a plane to the Island as the credits ran. One of these fantasies would be quite innocent and benign, but the other would always have a dark element. Roarke's voice would deepen and leave the viewer with a suggestion that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
But when I say 'dark element,' I mean 1970s dark. These would be things such as a man wanting to cheat on his wife, or seeking revenge, or living the life of a 'vampire' - in the campy Hammer films sense, of course. And always, the shows would tease the villainy just so far, before things would go terribly wrong and force the fantasizer back onto the straight and narrow, as they realized their fantasies demonstrated a lack of character or some such. No one ever died, or was shot, no sex ever happened, no one ever did anything that was bad ... but the viewer was drawn in with the HOPE of seeing something bad, only to be bitchslapped by Roarke's moral intervention.
Even at the age of 14 when I saw this show I knew the principle was ridiculously wrong. I wanted people to wallow in these fantasies, since they sound very interesting ... much more interesting that the woman who only wanted to meet the father she had never known or the man who dreamed of being a star athelete. I recognize we have these fantasies, too, but since everyone in the real world thinks its okay to pursue them, it makes a very dull TV show. The creators knew the real pull was vice ... the vice they wouldn't give us because this was the 1970s.
It hasn't changed much. I catch pieces of television shows on the net, watching a season of this or that, and the rules are the same. Tempt the viewer with SOME vice, but don't let it run wild. the amount of vice we can show has increased and intensified (RE: True Blood), but it still has its element of 'this is bad vice' and 'this is good vice.' It's okay to bite the necks of your victims a little ... but don't lose control.
In the realm of television that makes sense, I suppose. There are all these innocent people who only want their fantasies served with meat and potatoes, who are little old grandmothers who still remember when films did not include swearing or blood, or who were scandalized by Fantasy Island 33 years ago. Frankly, however, I'm a little tired of having my fantasies regulated and restrained by grandmothers ... or by the Old Guard of RPG designers, for that matter, who seem to have similar tastes.
We are told that:
D&D must not appear to be about wallowing in the fantasies of evil because we would like our participation in this game to be accepted. We can't be accepted if you, a different participant, insist on slaughtering innocent townspeople or spending too much time enjoying the rewards for doing so. We would very much like it if you would stop. We would very much like it if you could continue to play the game as a group of 'Heroes' who rescue maidens and present a clean, pleasant image of yourselves as adventurers. Any other action on your part stains us all, and surely you recognize that if we are to continue enjoying the benefits of renting large convention centers for getting together, we depend on your cooperation.
More to the point, we are told:
Fantasy is not unrestrained violence. Fantasy is what we as an acceptable culture has defined it to be, that is, in the tradition of proper literary artists like Tolkein, Baum, Barrie, Howard, Lieber and Lewis. Lovecraft is all right as long as you keep the real nastiness behind closed doors, and of course Moorcock is okay as long as Jerry Cornelius isn't indulged too far. If you can be funny like Asprin or clever like Anthony or deep and thoughtful like Leguin that's even better. But let us have it clear: if it is too much like historical accuracy, we will wave our extended fingers, shake our heads slowly and cluck our tongues. That is NOT 'fantasy.' I hope that is clear.
What this leads to is thinking that Carcosa is an 'on the edge' influence on the hobby, as though no one alive has ever heard of H.R. Giger, or even Hieronymus Bosch for heaven's sake. As though there has been no long tradition extending back centuries describing the horrors and evils perpetrated by human beings on other human beings. As though we are all restricted in our play to approved sources, Appendix N and other limited compendiums of watered-down late twentieth century B-literature.
The sandbox is bigger, much bigger than that. And while Mr. Roarke disapproves and tries to intervene, a good half of us playing the game don't really give a shit what the other half thinks. We are going to go on being horrible awful people, however that stains the blessed robes of the frustrated elite that can't convince us that PR is more important that RP. They'll go on trying to spread the new, clean sand over the blood we've spilled, but the blood will always seep up and spoil their efforts.
Killing pretend, fictional creatures is fun.