I’m interested in examining a few monsters that appear in horror films (ie zombies, ghosts) and how these monsters reflect racist ideologies of marginalized bodies. For example, the zombie emerged in Haiti as a result of the transatlantic slave trade and a reflection of the feeling of enslavement. I want to closer analyze how these monstrous figures are embedded in racist histories (maybe examining 2-3 films).
This is a really great topic I'm actually exploring now. For suggestions, I would look at how Frankenstein's monster often represents the Other, especially women. Dracula was full of Eastern European stereotypes and a fear of London being imperialized--like they did to much of the world. The xenophobia and racism I'm exploring are tied to Lovecraft--the "fear of the unknown," which may be helpful to explore. I'd also add, since the topic is films, I'd look at Peel's US (the underprivileged and economically disadvantaged are quite literally in the underground) and The Shape of Water, where a disabled woman, a gay man, and a black woman all connect to the "monster" in some empathetic way because they're underestimated or communicate differently. – Emily Deibler2 years ago
It might also be worth it to bring up Candyman, which explores both racism and classim in complicated and sometimes problematic ways. – Emily Deibler2 years ago
I would also consider addressing the sympathetic monster in The Shape of Water. Most monsters are rooted in racism, but even the simple concept of the other, racist, sexist or otherwise. Even going back to older monsters like Grendel's mother in the Beowulf, and the other to the normative Anglo-Saxon woman implied there. Not really a modern horror film I know but there are several adaptations that stray considerably from the source material to reflect the "horrors" the modern audience would understand. – TabathaCass2 years ago
With the recent release of The Shape of Water, we have been reminded of our love of monsters. But when it comes to them, they are so often male. While female monsters exist, they tend to be either human-coded (think recent vampires) or sexy (think mermaids). But where are the truly terrifying females? The closest I can personally come up with is the Other Mother from Coraline. You may explore the significance of what a female monster would bring to the table.
An interesting topic full of potential! I've always personally been fascinated by the idea of monstrosity and subversion, and more often than not, monsters, descended from myths and stories, reflect the fears and concerns of the age. Female monsters in general tend toward either the young and seductive (think Sirens, Medusa) or the old, haggard and mystical (Witches, Hags, Baba Yaga). I think these inclinations are worthy of exploration. Crash Course has an excellent overview of the latter in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OCPQG4bMFs. But most of all I do think its pertinent that there aren't too many contemporary versions of female monsters, and maybe the current social and political climate might play some part in that as well. But i like it! – Matchbox3 years ago
Have you considered perhaps widening the definition of 'monster' to include the monstrous? I've often felt that the most convincing monsters are found within the Far Eastern horror genre, i.e. Korean, Japanese, Pinoy etc. It's surprising how often these monsters are female, insofar as they assume a female human form, possess a human female or give the appearance of being female. The morality issue also seems to differ from western monsters and their actions, whilst often driven by the need for revenge or to avenge some perceived wrong doing, tend to orientated towards the ultimate redemption of the 'monster'. I'd recommend 'Audition' (1999), directed by Takashi Miike, 'The Doll Master' (2004), directed by Jeong Yong-ki and the infamous 'Ring' cycle of films, directed by Hideo Nakata. – Amyus3 years ago
I love this idea! I would also add that female(-coded) monsters are not only sexy, but that their monstrousness generally seems to arise precisely from the extent to which they are sexually attractive and the uninhibited, aggressive way in which they are able to display and pursue their sexual appetites. Female vampires, werewolves, demons, women with vagina dentata and so on seem to be so terrifying because they threaten dominant ideas of acceptable female existence and sexual conduct, namely that of submissiveness, deference and docility. – HangedMaiden3 years ago
Great topic. The egg-laying mama alien in the Alien films is pretty monstrous! – JamesBKelley3 years ago
Interesting topic, especially since I would argue we are conditioned to think of monsters as male from childhood. For example, Sesame Street played host to exclusively male-coded monsters for decades. The rationale was that they couldn't show a female-coded monster with extreme personality traits (e.g., Cookie Monster's obsession with cookies) without drawing the ire of feminist advocates. But I say that's baloney. Female monsters, such as Rosita and Zoe, were eventually added to the cast, but you'll notice they tend to act more human and far less neurotic than their male counterparts. While horror on Sesame is not kosher, male monsters are allowed to be a little scary or strange at times. Females are not. I've noticed some of the same trends in adult media as well. For instance, the "monster" behind the Hound of the Baskervilles was a male, and the hound itself was always referred to with male pronouns. Frankenstein and Dracula? Male again (more human-coded, but still). Werewolves? Overwhelmingly male (the one exception I can think of is Once Upon a Time's Ruby/Red). Aragog? Sauron? Gollum? Basilisks? Male, male, male...ugh, somebody get me some estrogen! And as you mention, if you do see a female monster of any kind, she's often motivated primarily by revenge, or is in a subservient role (see Voldemort's serpent Nagini). I'm with you--give me a female monster who poisons victims or rips their throat out just because hey, it's her idea of a good time! – Stephanie M.3 years ago
It would be really awesome if you all had a section specifically for music. – tylerbrown133 years ago
the book "Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke" has a few chapters on women's roles (in anime in particular, obviously) as the monster/Other/abject. that could be an interesting source for whoever takes this topic! – ees3 years ago
Elsa Lancaster in Bride of Frankenstein is probably the best known. – Joseph Cernik3 years ago
In Stephen King's IT, Pennywise is actually female. Jaws is female. In the Godzilla with Matthew Broderick, Godzilla is female. There are female Titans in Attack on Titan. Their female energy is often ignored, though. It'd be interesting to explore why feminity is ignored in female monsters (or how it isn't. are the creators of these monsters misogynistic, etc.). And, there's the whole trope of Momsters (mother monsters) that could be explored. Most recently, I'm thinking, hereditary? – M K Keane3 years ago
Monsters have greatly evolved in popularity throughout time. From the vampires of Dracula’s era to the witches of the 1990s to the zombies of the 2010s, we have seen certain monsters grow in popularity to reflect the social and political anxieties of their time. Create an outline of the recent history of monsters, and predict what types of monsters the current era will rely on for social critique and escapism.
I agree that there is an identifiable connection between the popularity of a particular monster and the society it is presented in. This topic will get a little tricky because of the diversity of our popular culture now so I would recommend picking a specific genre: tv, film, comic, or literature. Otherwise it will be hugely inaccurate. Part of what needs to be discussed here also is the particular representation of the type of monster, for instance vampires are presented in numerous ways that tend to be related to both a context and a social reflection, we seem to be slowly moving off the "sexy vampire" and back towards the "vicious monster" but it depends on where you are looking.
A lot to talk about in this topic! – SaraiMW3 years ago
Would cyborgs fit in there, maybe around the 1980s to 1990s, with The Terminator and with Star Trek's The Borg? I agree with SaraiMW that focusing on one particular type of monster might make for a more focused and successful essay. – JamesBKelley3 years ago
Horror movies (and monster movies by extension) often carry the seeds of social commentary Reference the movies "Get Out". "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", the plethora of films that came out using the trope of cell phones turning people into zombies/crazed killers/possessed by ghosts. How do horror stories reflect the real fears of the society they arise out of? – Kidcanuck3 years ago
Many 1950s era monsters came as a result of nuclear testing, some as a result of the fear of Communist subversion. I don't see a dominant influence in monster create today. Will a clear influence emerge that is reflected in monster creation? – Joseph Cernik3 years ago
This is a fascinating and diverse subject area. In addition to the above monsters, there seems to be a continued portrayal of most ghosts as female. Aside from the obvious problem with their having any gender, why would society be so comfortable with vicious ghosts like the one in The Grudge, yet so uncomfortable with portraying living women in this way. Do women have to be supernatural to let out anger or violence? Also, I think older, supernatural monsters have been edged out by actual human ones, such as serial killers or even abusive husbands. One of the most frightening is often a neighbor or even the guy who used to own your house, as in Cold Creek Manor, or Bates Motel! – SharonGenet3 years ago
We all know that Dracula is evil, Frankenstein’s monster is a brute and the hidden gods of Lovecraft drive humanity insane but could we be misinterpreting this? Harker gets a posse together to brutally slay Dracula while he is helpless, Victor Frankenstein creates his monster and abandons him and Humanity has forgotten about the Lovecraftian gods in favour of newer kinder ones. Could it be that each of these stories (and many others) can be read in an alternate way such that the "monsters" are actually mistaken, misinterpreted and working from a "good" motivation? This can transcend the canon literature and even look at modern day monsters
"Beauty and the Beast" anyone? – smartstooge6 years ago
I don't think that we should create "monsters" like Frankenstein, or wipe them out without knowing whether or not the "monster" in question as actually a monster. A monster is something intrinsically evil...it works for evil, and doesn't repent and turn back to good. Many people would call Hitler a "monster", but the truth is, Hitler was a human, and that means he was fully capable of making moral decisions, and even loving every single person he had control over. "Monstership", I believe, is something that pertains to nature, not choice. You can't become a monster unless you ARE a monster.
I'm not sure how helpful this note was, but it's some food for thought! – Hedekira166 years ago
This is a great opportunity to talk about how subjective morality is. For example - if a vampire has to drink blood to survive, and do so, are they truly evil just because humans have decided it is an evil act to drink blood? Why are vampires in fiction considered 'good' if they drink animal blood instead of human blood, when it makes no difference to them because they are a different species anyway? It would be interesting to discuss humans imposing their moral system on other creatures. – Grace Maich6 years ago
Uh, I thought Frankenstein's monster was a victim? The author of the novel made his plight entirely sympathetic, and despite all his faults and flaws, Frankenstein's monster was pretty remorseful and set out to kill himself after his creator die. I'm also currently reading Dracula, so I'll get back to you on that, but from my understanding, Dracula really is just plain ol' evil. And from my understanding, Lovecraftian gods have a sort of bizarre morality, where our concepts of good/evil don't really... work with them. This isn't the first time this topic's been explored, but I welcome you to take a stab at it. – Helmet6 years ago
I think one of the issues in Frankenstein was also that of education. Or maybe the more accurate term to use is cultivation? When the creature was born, he was a blank slate. He had equal potential to be either a blessing or a curse to mankind--what settled it was the treatment he received. The creature himself says, "I am malicious because I am miserable." – chemis34 years ago