Thursday, August 11, 2011


Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before
 ~"The Raven," by Edgar Allen Poe
Elsa Lanchester as the Bride of Frankenstein

 I woke this morning thinking of monsters. I had a dream that I had gotten two tattoos - one on each shoulder. The first was of the Bride of Frankenstein, and the second was Lily Munster. (And yes, I think I just may have to get these tattoos when I can afford them.)

Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster
  I think it's easy to see that I identify with these two characters at least on an aesthetic level.

   But that got me thinking. What is it about monsters that resonates with us?

  I took a class in college about monsters it was taught by Jeffery Jerome Cohen, who often appears on the Discovery Channel as a subject matter expert on topics involving the middle ages and/or monsters.

Archetypically, there are really three kinds of monsters: the ones who are grotesque on the outside, shunned and feared, they can't help what happened to them; the ones who look like the guy next door but is so twisted and rotted on the inside; and the unknown closet monster, we don't know what it looks like or even is, but it is scary as hell.

I find monsters intriguing in several ways, which are best illustrated by Frankenstein's monster and Dracula.
Frankenstein's monster makes a friend

Frankenstein's monster wasn't inherently evil, and had the mind of a child; but its grotesque appearance and inability to articulate its thoughts made it frightening. But the story really speaks to society's intolerance of that which is different. The frightened villagers form an angry mob to hunt down and destroy the creature, rather than try to understand him.

The lynch mob comes for the Creature
Fear of the unknown and different is such a visceral reaction. For many it often takes a conscious effort to get past that fear to try to accept. But for others, like me, the different is intriguing. Our curiosity takes hold and we strive to know and understand this new thing. Then the monster becomes a friend. I think this attraction to the unusual and unknown, and, well, somewhat creepy is part of what drew me into the goth subculture.

Then there are vampires.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula
They are dark, animalistic, terrifying, mysterious and very sexual. What isn't to love about vampires? The vampire haters see only the savage animal side of these creatures. Yes, they are darkly savage and dangerous. But they were once human and still have that echo of humanity about them, and the memories of human emotions, needs and urges. That dark mysteriousness, and the seduction of the victim ultimately ending with the very intimate exchange of bodily fluid when a vampire drinks the victim's blood makes them incredibly sexual.

Gary Oldman as Dracula
They represent all our hiden desires and urges and our darkest, and most violent fantasies. Yes, I've thought of torture scenes involving hiddeous exes and former bosses. Would I ever act on these fantasies - no. But were I an immortal and conscious-free creature of the night, I most certainly would. I like the idea of being a dark avenger, like Selene in Underworld.

Kate Beckinsale as Selene in Underworld
Then there is the seduction of victims. I'm not sure if the draw to this aspect of the vampie is more toward being the predator or the prey. I find both roles exciting. Vampires aren't hampered by our conventions of sexual orientation, promiscuity or monogamy and since they're dead, they don't have to worry about pregnancy or disease. All the fun and none of the bad consequences. Seducing attractive men one night, and lucious women the next.

But the prey side doesn't sound that bad either when looking at it from the seduction point of view. Having the dark, mysterious immortal wanting you is a bit of a turn on. And think of the years of experience they have... This mysterious and seductive aspect of  the darker side is another reason I gravitate to the goth lifestyle.

Lastly, there is the unknown thing. While I don't find myself drawn to the unknown horror like I do with the other two types, I don't avoid it either. And honestly, I find that movies with the unknown evil are much more terrifying than those with a clearly defined villain, and therefore the far superior film. However, in real life, I'm not so much a fan of being terrorized by something I can't see.

Monsters are really a big part of who we all are. They hold up a mirror and show us the darkest recesses of our souls. And for that, I love monsters.

No comments:

Post a Comment