Where are all the bad monsters?

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Source: dribbble.com via David on Pinterest

Following on from my last post….I decided to go to Pinterest and see what happens when you type in ‘monster’. The same thought occurred to me last week when I was watching the Avengers; Black Widow listened to Loki spew some typically vile description of violence, turned away, and muttered ‘you’re a monster.’

So, we still have the separation between the aesthetic and the psychological – obviously, that’s never going to change. But our mainstream monsters (and superheroes are monsters in their own way if we take figures like vampires to be monsters – they’re all human 2.0, much like superheroes like Thor, Captain America and The Hulk) are so human that it’ll take a lot for them to look like monsters.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and there’s a summer of vampire related films coming up. With PhD research focusing on things other than just monsters, it’s hard to write a post that doesn’t bore readers with discussions of 9/11 and identity theory.

But….after discussing the split between the aesthetic/psychological and continuing to read Danse Macabre by Stephen King, I’m beginning to see a very strong attraction to figures like vampires and werewolves….(perhaps not zombies)

King brought up Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde which essentially is the basis for our modern monsters : outwardly, they have an appearance of normality, but at night, they change into something (or someone) else and run riot, breaking all the social, moral and physical taboos that their previous body had confined them within. Recently (ish), this side of the vampire in particular has had a bloody resurgence. From the Buffy series (1997-2003), we had vampires who looked normal until they were in ‘vamp mode’, that is:

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(apologies for the small picture…)

The only thing stopping all these monsters from being vamped out or hairy and vicious all the time was self control, something spoken of (a bit too) often in modern films, TV shows and books containing monsters. Instead of exploring the fun parts of being a monster, or even the bad parts, most shows focus on the (suffering) protagonist’s extremely strange coping mechanisms for maintaining self control.

Things like True Blood, Buffy, Twilight, Being Human, The Vampire Diaries….even non-human ‘monster’ series like Dexter centre on the need for self control.

The last series of the BBC’s Being Human gave us Hal, who played with dominoes in a bid to stop his thirst for blood:

And when the characters in these texts inevitably lose self control, what happens? Nothing momentous, just the enacting of the expected monstrous behaviour. Why can’t these texts about monsters be texts? Why are they playing at being human when secretly, all we want to do is play at being them?

The only way round it that has been shown is to make the monsters categorically non-human, like in Priest:

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Kinda gross, slightly ripping off Alien, but that’s not the point here….

Why are our human-looking monsters too human? They’re useful for metaphorical purposes, but ultimately, they’re escapism, and part of escapism is watching/reading about things that we can’t do, for whatever reason. The more they act the part of human in a mundane, boring existence, the more we’re going to have to look a bit further for the kind of entertainment we get from dreaming of unreality…

Maybe that’s just me. We love superheroes (as evidenced by the box office stats), and they fulfil any latent desires we have to be special and be able to save the world….so why can’t we do the same with our monsters (arguably, our cultural heritage)? Why can’t we watch as they destroy and devour what we’ve created? There are too many ‘good’, and ‘human’ monsters out there now. I’m not saying I want them all to look like him, above ^^ but it would be nice to see some evil out of something deemed ‘monstrous.’