Loving the Monster

There used to be a time when the appearance of a monster was a reason to run away screaming or at the very least hide behind the sofa. Daleks trundled around with their half-throttled calls of  'exterminate'. Werewolves ripped off their own skin then the throats of their victims. Vampires just wouldn't take no for an answer. They gave us nightmares and made cellars the worse place to be. The darkness became peopled with demons and graveyards were rife with zombies.

But somewhere over the last decade or so, our attitude to monsters has changed. We want to understand them. We want to explain their bad behaviour. Ultimately, we want to love them.

Of course this 'relating' to the monster started much earlier than this century in the novel 'Frankenstein' written by Mary Shelley. If you read this book within a book within a book, you will come to the conclusion that the true monster is Frankenstein himself. His creation simply tries to survive and through the rejection of his 'father' turns into a murderous atrocity of nature. We truly do understand the monster in this novel but that understanding was lost in the subsequent movies that took up the Frankenstein myth. The movie-going public of the last century were not ready to sympathise with the monster.

Bookshelves, cinema screens and our television sets have seen an invasion of romantic vampire stories. The Twilight Saga, the Vampire Diaries and True Blood have all taken up the flag for romancing dark, brooding, blood-sucking strangers. In True Blood, a little blood-letting and sharing has simply turned into a sexual act. In the Vampire Diaries and the Twilight Saga, toying with vampires is an almost normal part of growing up.

The latest novel (and now a film) to sympathise with the monster is 'The Warm Bodies' by Isaac Marion. In a world over-run by zombies, one zombie called R, who has no memory of his life before zombification, tries to make sense of his existence. He rescues and falls in love with a living girl, Julie.

Why is it that we need to understand the monster? Do we think we can reason with them? Does understanding their motives remove the horror? Personally, I prefer my monsters to be terrifying and mysterious. I don't want to psychoanalyse them. I just want a reason to hide behind the couch.


  1. I think it has to do with our need to understand ourselves. We analyze everything. A lot of books today make the monsters the main characters and our need to understand ourselves is carried over to them. Just my opinion though. :)

  2. And a very valid opinion. We do analyse everything but I'm beginning to wonder if this is also to do with the move from black and white attitudes to shades of grey.

  3. I also think it's because our dark side can inform the light brilliantly -- and we are always seeking the light. Sometimes, to see it, we must look into the dark that is blocking it.... :) Great question/post Fi.

  4. Thanks, Louise. Great comment.


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