Society is a Fictional Monster

The other day, I was scrolling through iwastesomuchtime as I do, indeed, waste so much time, when I stumbled upon a picture. I had seen this picture several times before, but I typically ignored it and continued on with my day. This time, however, I was in a particularly thoughtful mood so I saved it to my computer and thought I would revisit it. This is the picture in question:

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Well, I guess it’s more of meme. Whatever. It’s not that it was really weird. I mean, people complain about this crap all the time. It’s that it really says a lot about what’s going on in society.

Way back when, people used to be scared by and comforted with the lie that all the monsters, all the bad guys in the world are easy to spot. They are as ugly and frightening on the outside as they are on the inside. This is the way people have thought since the dark ages and an idea repeated frequently in pop culture today (primarily in children’s movies). Form a young age, we are taught that the monsters are out there, but we are also taught that they don’t look like everyone else. And that’s a sort of comfort. Imagine how frightening it would be for a child to look out into the world and know that anybody they see, any random normal Joe on the street, could be the sort of villain they see in the movies.

It’s worth noting, of course, that the pictures in the first column are of bad guys and the pictures in the second column are of good guys. At some point, the monsters started becoming the heroes. Of course, they made the monsters pretty so we would be comfortable dealing with them, even romanticizing about them. But they still aren’t human. Humans have always had a tendency to look down on things that aren’t human, so why the sudden glamour? Or, if you will, wtf happened?

Here’s what happened.

We stopped being comforted by the monsters. As a society where the monsters are obvious and we don’t do a thing about them, where the media tells us every ugly thing going on in the world, we need to feel pretty. We need to believe that there aren’t as many monsters as we thought. That some of these so called monsters can actually become, well, human. In the pictures of the left column, we see clear, smiling faces. And in most of the given examples, the majority of the bad guys look just like the good guys. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth, oddly perfect skin. The works. but even though they look just like everyone else, even though their evil isn’t on display, our heroes still know who to fight. In a world where many people may be losing grasp of who to fight and who to trust, this is something that is very comforting.

Now, you may be shaking your head at this. I’ve read too far into it, haven’t I? You will not be convinced that there is any sense to my ramblings! You want the horror!

Well. Allow me to convince you.

Image this: You are standing on a crowded street. You have been informed that someone on the street is a monster. You have a gun. The monster appears. It is this ugly mangled thing. Your heart is pounding. People are screaming. You pull the trigger. The beast is dead. End of story. Restart. You are standing on a crowded street. You have been informed that someone on the street is a monster. You have a gun. Nothing changes. The monster is there. You feel it, but you can’t see it. It looks just like everyone else, You don’t know who to shoot. You can’t see the monster. Now you have a monster who looks like everyone else in the middle of a big city. Now we have a story.

Yes. My argument is flawed. Sue me.

The point I am trying to make is in the real world, monsters look like people. The creepy-looking guy isn’t always the killer and the princely figure isn’t always the hero. Whatever their original (usually fetish related) intent, movies and books these days are beginning to reflect that. And that is in no way a bad thing.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Have a lovely day.

That is all.

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4 comments

  1. This really made me think about things a bit more. And I really see your point. I also think that in having the monsters look just like humans does take away that comfort you mentioned, but in today’s world, I think it’s a good thing. Children are being fed these tales of monsters, of villains who are out to get them, who are ugly, and easy to spot. But that’s not the case.

    But then there’s the downside the those examples in the picture. They are monsters, indeed. At least, they should be. But rather we see them as ‘people.’ But not only that, we see them as good. And maybe in the story they’re in, they are. But it’s giving an impression that monsters aren’t always monsters, and that’s both a good thing and bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

    Anyway, sorry for this ramble of a comment. I’d like to share this post with my sociology class, if you don’t mind. I think it’d be a good topic to discuss. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I really like your thoughts on this. I’ve always been a bit more interested in monsters not being monsters than in ‘people’ turning out to be monsters. For me it sort of speaks to stereotypes and preconceived notions and the idea that it’d actually difficult to say whether or not you really know a person. Like with something I occasionally refer to as the empathy issue. People with empathy often assume that people without empathy are monsters. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it isn’t. So to have this idea that monsters aren’t always monsters can be good in giving these people a chance. But it can be bad if you happen to meet someone in the minority of cases who has no empathy AND is a monster. I like to see these things as red flags rather than definitions. But in the examples in the picture, all of those characters are in the minority. They’re the exception. Which is also something to think about.

      Don’t apologize! I like this comment. I am totally okay with you sharing this with your sociology class. That would be awesome. I’m glad you liked this. =)

  2. I think changing the “monsters” to look more realistic and like regular people adds depth to the monster stories. A lot more intrigue, mistakes, misunderstandings, crazy quirky twists, etc. With the old monsters it was pretty straight forward. See monster and run from it screaming or attack it.

    1. I agree. I was always fond of Dracula because he could just walk down the street in the middle of the day like he was no one. There can be some depth to ‘monster’ stories when they are misunderstood. Like Frankenstein’s monster or Shrek. And it can add depth when interacting with other characters and internal development. Especially when the bad guy looks like a normal person. The depth in more obvious ‘monster’ stories would come when it is the hero who is the monstrous looking one, rather than the villain. For me, if you have a fantasy story of something of the sort it is most interesting when the villain looks like a normal person for the reasons you’ve listed. When the protagonist and antagonist both look normal it’s easier to draw parallels between them and it may add a sense of realism to ground the story. Which is fabulous.

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