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Where Have All the Monsters Gone?

Once again I delve into pop culture and philosophy, a dangerous combination I’m sure.  I’m still willing to brave these depths!

Thanks to Netflix Streaming, I’ve been able to watch movies and programs that previously would have required a lot of bother.  Lately, I’ve taken to watching “Dark Shadows”, perhaps interest piqued by the movie’s recent release.  The first season, though a bit slow and clunky to start along with having a few foibles of live television, provides entertainment and i…

  1. Terry Mott

    Well put.  I agree.

  2. Sisyphus

    John Gardner wrote a brilliant book in the heart of the counter-revolution called Grendel, it was a portrait of an outsider’s doomed struggle with a resumé padding king wannabe. Kind of a Holden Caulfield meets Odysseus thingy except Grendel actually brings some game. 

    The irony was lost on the current lot of monster rehabilitators with their unintentionally hilarious misappropriation of civil rights memes to produce a preposterous if wholly unintentional mockery of modern identity politics. When our time is studied, assuming there are future historians, these things will be an amusing coda on the Fall of the West.

  3. EJHill

    And Charles Manson and Ted Bundy were just… different.

  4. Douglas

    But Dark Shadows is what started the whole sympathetic vampire meme in the first place. Anne Rice just refined it, and Stephanie Meyer made it teenaged-girl friendly.

    Stoker had it right all along: the vampire as a Satanic monster out to steal your soul as well as your blood. THAT’s a vampire, not this sparkly crap.

  5. Douglas
    Sisyphus: John Gardner wrote a brilliant book in the heart of the counter-revolution calledGrendel, it was a portrait of an outsider’s doomed struggle with a resumé padding king wannabe. Kind of a Holden Caulfield meets Odysseus thingy except Grendel actually brings some game. 

    Remember The Thing, the John Carpenter movie? Some guy wrote a story called The Things, written from the viewpoint of the monster, who saw itself as an innocent victim and couldn’t understand why “the things”… people… were rejecting the “gift” it wanted to give and were trying to kill it.

  6. Amy Schley
    sawatdeeka: 

    Notice how black and white Tolkien was. His bad guys were always evil through and through.  This was not true of Lewis. · 25 minutes ago

    Edited 24 minutes ago

    I don’t think this is fair to Tolkien.  Sure, Sauron was all evil, all the time.  But frankly, the compelling conflicts of the story aren’t the Fellowship v. Sauron.  It’s the characters v. their own struggles (Aragorn’s responsibility as king, Boromir’s and Faramir’s duties to their father, Gollum v. Smeagol) and the characters v. each other (Legolas v. Gimli, Gimli v. Eomer, Sam v. Gollum, etc.). Sauron is just kind of a backdrop against which they struggle, and to say each villain is black and white is to completely ignore the character arcs of Gollum/Smeagol and Saruman.

  7. Foxfier

    The problem with monsters is that the antagonist is frequently written to deal with what the author views as Big Problems for right now.

    If “Intolerance” is that Big Problem?  You get Really A Good Person monsters.

  8. sawatdeeka

    I guess I wasn’t thinking about those, Amy. I was thinking more about the legions of orcs and hordes of goblins, none of whom showed any inclination to defect to the good side.

  9. C. U. Douglas

    If anything, the strongest representation of evil in Lord of the Rings is The Ring itself.  It lures people, draws them towards it.  It promises the power to solve their problems.  It traps them, makes them want it, desire it, be jealous of it — and knowing all this, even the greatest cannot set it aside.

  10. Valiuth

    I have always wondered about the drive to have complex villains. In a way the most complex villains are those that are hard for the audience to name as villains. Because we sympathies with them or because we can not quite be sure they are wrong. But, what I think it is is that the complex villain is the villain we believe can be redeemed. 

    Suaron is beyond all redemption and remorse, having committed his very existence to his evil craft and purpose, Golum though is almost redeemed. So I agree with everyone that Tolkien has both complex and simple villians. 

    I think though without the irredimable evil how can one appreciate the struggle we see by protagonists and antagonists. Without knowing what Sauron is how can we really appreciate Suroman’s fall? There is little reason to focus on irredeemable evil, but if it is not there one looses perspective. 

  11. Aaron Miller
    C. U. Douglas:

    There is no longer any danger.  Go ahead!  Hug that vampire!  Make the dragon your best friend!  It’s okay!

    I know it seems like a minor point, but I sense we lose something when we no longer declare a monster to be monstrous. 

    Agreed.

    I’m a little disturbed whenever my nephew and I are playing with his dinosaur toys and he corrects me to say, “No, he’s a nice dinosaur” or “No, they’re friends.” Nice dinosaurs? The word “dinosaur” means “terrible lizard”! I blame Dinosaur Train.

    At least he loves monster and ghost stories. Too soon for The Dark Crystal? ;)

    The Joker as envisioned by Heath Ledger is perhaps my favorite villain. He doesn’t want to completely defeat Batman. “Kill you? [giggles] I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you?” He’s not evil because he’s compelled to be. He’s evil because it’s fun for him.

  12. Arahant

    So much here.  I vaguely recall a study that looked at monsters in the twentieth century and compared it with the politics of the times.  So, there were plenty of monster movies in the 50′s as we were in the Cold War.  The monsters changed in the 60′s, both because of Democrat leadership and Vietnam, etc.  In the 80′s, Zombie movies came into vogue because Republicans were in charge.  I wish I could remember more and find it.

    In some ways, I think the old monsters are no longer as relevant.  Many of them were both explanations and cautionary tales from old agricultural societies.  By this I refer to monsters like dragons and shapeshifters, redcaps and kobolds.  They warned people away from dangerous places and activities.

    More modern monsters were spurred by more modern events and sensibilities.  Frankenstein was the “modern Prometheus” making monsters through science, taking God’s power into his hands.  The novel was partially spurred by demonstrations of the effect of electrical current in dead frogs.  Dracula was written during the Victorian era where sexual repression was rampant.

    And then there are zombies, also known as Democrats, who project their mindless state onto others.

  13. Amy Schley

    This may be what you were thinking of, Ara.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_19402_6-mind-blowing-ways-zombies-vampires-explain-america.html

    Short version: The right fears vampires because they’re immoral sexual deviants, foreigners, and parasites, while the left fears zombies because they’re mindless consumers, they’re here to stamp out all non-conformists,  and they can’t think for themselves.  (Warning: written from left-wing perspective and CoC violation language)

  14. Diane Ellis
    C

    Great post.

    I was thinking about this topic as I watched Let the Right One In recently.  It’s an entertaining film and I recommend it, but I was very disturbed by the elimination of evil and the blurry redefinition of the concept of good in the plot.  The film is full of gory violence, but as the story progresses, you stop thinking of the brutal killing of innocents as a bad thing.  After all, the sympathetic little vampire girl needs to eat. 

    Like you, I prefer my monster movies to have a clear demarcation between good and evil. 

  15. Arahant
    Amy Schley: This may be what you were thinking of, Ara.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_19402_6-mind-blowing-ways-zombies-vampires-explain-america.html

    Short version: The right fears vampires because they’re immoral sexual deviants, foreigners, and parasites, while the left fears zombies because they’re mindless consumers, they’re here to stamp out all non-conformists,  and they can’t think for themselves.  (Warning: written from left-wing perspective and CoC violation language) · 14 hours ago

    Okay, Amy, linking to Cracked.com is just plain evil.  (Must resist the link…)  In fact, those that link there are just MONSTERS!  (There goes the rest of my weekend sucked into the Cracked.com vortex.  Aaaaaauuuuugh!)

    Yes, that might have been it.  Interesting graph at the beginning, no?

  16. Fake John Galt

    I think the modern day point is that there is no good or evil. It is all relative, there are just differences of opinions, perceptions and needs. Thus the only true evil is being principaled and judgmental enough to call something evil or monstrous. This is total tripe, but it is what is being portrayed and taught.

  17. Valiuth
    Diane Ellis, Ed.: Great post.

    I was thinking about this topic as I watched Let the Right One In recently.  It’s an entertaining film and I recommend it, but I was very disturbed by the elimination of evil and the blurry redefinition of the concept of good in the plot.  The film is full of gory violence, but as the story progresses, you stop thinking of the brutal killing of innocents as a bad thing.  After all, the sympathetic little vampire girl needs to eat. 

    Like you, I prefer my monster movies to have a clear demarcation between good and evil.  · 19 minutes ago

    No I think you are miss interpreting the movie, or at least I took something totally different out of it. The little girl is very manipulative and devoid of all humanity. She really is a sociopath, who is luring this little kid into being her sad and devoted servant. That little boy will grow up killing people for her, and then in the end letting her eat him. She is a great monster, and I find the more I think about it the more evil she is, but she is a very cunning evil. 

  18. Grimaud

    Fake John summarizes my thoughts well. Great topic CU.

    I do enjoy this thread as it reminds me of literature classes , but with mature adults, not trying to get an”A”. I enjoy these conversations so immensely and pine for more though I am daily swallowed by the necessities of work, raising children and maintaining a household.

    “Youth is wasted on the young.”

  19. Aaron Miller
    Diane Ellis, Ed.: … but I was very disturbed by the elimination of evil and the blurry redefinition of the concept of good in the plot.

    This is a common feature among many of the films my liberal friends get very excited about, like Kick-Ass and Watchmen. Colorful violence and grey morality.

  20. Plano Housewife
    sawatdeeka:

    Notice how black and white Tolkien was. His bad guys were always evil through and through. 

    Some situations are black and white! 

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