Monsters & the aesthetic

A while back I was thinking about what makes a monster, so to speak. Not in the Frankenstein sense, but in terms of categorization. After all, there are lots of things we deem ‘monstrous’ and not all of them look very scary. It’s coming to the fore again in the media with trials and such; the term is usually conflated with the essence of evil. Although, in the same breath, we also call what are arguably quite cute things (such as the monsters from Monsters Inc) ‘monsters’. Stephen King deals with his concept of the monstrous in his book Danse Macabre. And last week, the term was thoroughly examined at a conference entitled ‘Monsters: subject, object, abject’ run by Hic Dragones. The conference itself was good fun – it was nice to hear such a range of disciplines offer their perspectives on different monsters. Whilst I was there, various papers continually came back to the notion of aesthetic monstrousness, rather than the idea of it manifesting in emotional, psychological or behavioural ways.

I’d asked a few friends who like drawing to draw me their concept of the word ‘monster’, and the following pictures were what I received:


Nichola Collins (@lefthookdesign)


Adam Patten (who can be found on facebook here)


Russ Hillier (

Each are different, and everyone’s concept of monster is different. What I’m interested in are the universal concepts of monstrous that we trot out in media and entertainment – because they’re often no longer used to scare, but as a scapegoat for what we don’t like about ourselves and a way to explore our most primitive instincts.


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