Why am I still scared of Hot Topic as an adult?
I’m worried a group of Harry Potter stans are about to hop out and kill me for this one
by Una Dabiero
Call me local, but I love a good mall. There's nothing like rolling up at your local Southridge or Highpoint or Sunset Center or whatever on a mission for a little black dress and completely crushing it. Or going to the mall to waste hours floating between Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom and H&M. Actual paradise — especially if you've got a mom or S.O. willing to bankroll the entire operation and Auntie Annie's. THAT'S a mood.
i bought two fanny packs, a sun hat, and soft pretzels i love the mall
— danny devito but fake (@fakedannydevito) June 7, 2018
But I will say, there's one corner of my personal utopia that I refuse to step foot in. And that's probably because even as a grown woman, it scares the shit out of me: Hot Topic.
In my day, Hot Topic was shaped like a giant tire with spikes. It was dark and dreary and definitely operated at least two in-house fog machines. The lights were all red and dim and you could barely see inside. It looked like a bad Chucky ride at Universal Studios, but without the thrill and with lots of slightly-sexual embossed metal pins and skulls. Skulls… everywhere.
Remember when hot topic was the "scary store" that your mom wouldn't even let you look in?
— Brandon Bartling (@Brandonbartling) July 8, 2016
Like, it was NOT dark in a sexy, moody way like at Hollister. Hollister was the best thing that ever happened to my sexuality. Don't TELL me you didn't want to just make out all over the cabana changing rooms in that sexy-ass store. I know High School You.
Hot topic literally smells scary
— Dean Husted (@deannnhusteddd) January 11, 2017
Hot Topic was just scary. No sex involved. And beyond the theatrics, the People of Hot Topic made the experience 10x worse. Between the chains all over their pants and the lip rings and the anime-inspired ketchup and mustard hair colors, little-me had no idea what was going on was anything but EVIL. I mean, like, now I know it's kind of strange, but not sinister, to like cartoons as an adult. 12-year-old me didn't understand that. She was avoiding "baby shows" like it was the fucking plague.
“Let’s go into hot topic”
*walks into hot topic*
“Nevermind it’s kind of scary in here”
— carina (@carinaacarrigan) June 6, 2018
I will admit, the stores have changed a lot in the last few years. Now Hot Topic is more about catering to the Doctor Who stans of the world than providing a home to the twisted and misguided metal fans. There's a lot more Harry Potter merchandise and a lot less "I'm gonna hang myself" memorabilia. And physically, they've gotten an entire makeover. There's so many windows now. And regular-degular soft white lightbulbs.
But still, I've observed these changes from across the mall lobby, in the safe confines of Forever 21 or some similarly basic store. Because I'm scarred. I will never forget the Hot Topics of years past. And even if one day my fears of the store itself subside, the grown men in Rick and Morty Halloween costumes never will. Because after all, nerd culture is where the inconspicuously evil white men of the world hide. And you couldn't pay me to go near that.