The Sissification of Monsters (and why everyone needs to chill out about it)
So, in case you missed it, horror monsters have gone gay. I mean, they’ve all gone gay. Really gay. Facebook said it, so it must be true. Or at least, this little gem popped up not so long ago, which prompted numerous users to comment as such.
So, besides committing the cardinal meme sin of misspelling the joke, this little piece goes a step beyond the standard Twilight-bashing to hold both Harry Potter and Avatar to account for their crimes in apparently turning a generation of fantasy loving young filmgoers into gigantic wusses. Or at least, offering up monsters that just aren’t scary anymore.
But can we keep perspective on this for just a second? What did happen? Simply put, scary horror films with monsters as their villains became less popular, while the popularity of fantasy films with misunderstood monsters as their heroes grew. That is it. The speculative genre evolved and diversified as it always has. There is no cause for alarm here. Publishers reacted for several brief years by releasing a slew of teen paranormal books (which has since dried up). The only thing left in their wake is a wider range of choices – including the teen paranormal genre – alongside the same bloodthirsty, terrifying monsters we knew and loved before. And that’s not a terrible thing.
I sometimes get people asking me what I think of Twilight and the truth is I’m not in a position to think anything. I haven’t read the books, nor seen any of the films. They’ve never really grabbed my attention, mostly because I feel they’re not really written for me. They’re YA Fiction, which is pitched at a very different audience. This doesn’t stop others – including men my age – from enjoying them and I know some who do, but still, the primary market is 12-18yo women.
No matter who’s reading them, they’re another take on a very long-lived, very established genre and they’ve made Stephanie Meyer very, very rich. It just confounds me that some believe the horror genre is in danger of losing its punch, just because a massively popular work now exists, whose monsters come served with extra teen-friendly cuddles. While I accept it has for many years been fashionable to reflexively bash anything with a significant teen-girl fanbase, that is simply not the case.
Let’s revisit (for example) a little Vampire 101. For anyone wanting an overview of this creature’s literary evolution, there are several key books to read. Stoker’s Dracula, Matheson’s I Am Legend, Rice’s Interview With the Vampire and the first novel in any good urban fantasy series (let’s say, Laurel K Hamilton or Charlaine Harris). These basically cover the four main archetypes of vampire fiction (before you say it, Salem’s Lot – though a landmark book – falls firmly within the Dracula archetype). They also demonstrate how the vampire myth has changed and diversified over time – from a debonair but monstrous outsider (Dracula) to a legion of nameless, bloodthirsty entities/zombies (Legend), to a sophisticated, morally tortured antihero (Interview) to a romantic object of lust and frustration for a strong, usually female lead character (most UF/PR).
But to anyone claiming this represents the vampire weakening or growing softer over time, I say this. Read Polidori’s The Vampyre. Published in 1819, it is widely regarded as the first known vampire story published in the English language, and combines many of the aspects described above. Its monster, Lord Ruthven is at various times mysterious, suave, terrifying, romantic... and incidentally, often quite gay. In fact, the character is commonly believed to be based on Lord Byron, who was known to have both male and female lovers throughout his life. So certainly this idea of the vampire as a romantic, sexual figure is nothing new.
Read widely. Read what you want. Read the kind of fiction that interests you, including vampire fiction, and disregard the kinds that don’t. But don’t for a moment come wailing about the decline of civilisation, or how ‘gay’ monsters have become just because Bella can’t choose between a sparkly teenage boy with fangs and a cuddly oversized puppy – with abs. Because if that’s not your thing, there are dozens of authors out there producing work that probably is. And isn’t having that choice a wonderful thing?
What type of monsters feature in The Beast Without? Hey, if you want to see what happens when you call a snarling, nine-foot, fully changed werewolf ‘faggot’, be my guest.
As for that other werewolf... well, they’re very nice abs.