by Lisa Harmon
Once upon a time they hid under our beds. They lurked in the darkest recesses of our subconscious. They frightened us and taught us to handle our fears. They were our monsters and we loved them for that frisson of fear and adrenalin. Vampires spoke to our fears of mortality and our repressed sexuality. Werewolves howled with the chaos of our animal natures. Zombies shuffled through our mortal coil with hungered insistence. The Undead and the preternatural were once the evil “other” that took the storms of our ids and played them out for us through stories and exorcised them from our subconscious.
Then we frightened ourselves with our own monstrosity in the first half of the 20th century and those monsters weren’t so bad after all. Our ghosts became friendly. Vampires weren’t just evil sexuality; they became hip seducers. Weres of all stripes became protectors. Now, the monsters are our friends, family, spouses, business partners with lives that echo the natural living. Fear is the latest victim in the PC utopia of the modern story. The Goth, the spooky, the different have been made into our image.
I blame Casper. He’s just a little boy, after all. His entrance into our society heralded a new approach to the scary- the likable good monster. Postwar America had seen enough human monsters and were uncovering more all the time. Casper, though a ghost, is hardly scary, except by intention or accident. He was followed by The Addams Family with their unconventional approach to healthy living. Morticia and Gomez has recently been cited as an example of a healthy marriage. The Munsters were more popular at the time and are the Undead embodiment of the sitcom formula. Humor is the new element in horror and it became a mainstay in popular movies like Tremors, Tales from the Crypt, Frighteners … Wikipedia has a full list showing the explosion after 1981. Horror and humor are not a bad coupling. Humor is based on pain, after all. Laughing at the frustrations of two guys trying to leave town but these giant “graboids” just won’t let them is a good emotional release. The full horror of the monsters of perfection is alleviated with laughter.
In a society that has increasingly become more and more politically correct, our monsters have followed suit. What once scared us now entices us to the dark side by demonstrating that the “monster” is not always evil. In fact, in some ‘verses, labeling a monster as “bad” is considered derogatory.
Men and women swoon over the seductive monster. Children laugh at “evil”. Because some people think horror stories are bad for a person and to increase the bottom line, our monsters have undergone a politically correct make-over to render them less offensive to our delicate sensibilities. While the amusement factor of watching a character like Buffy or Snookie agonize which monster they should date or the thrill moment of the bad boy Klaus when he shows his tender side to his daughter, the PC-fication of monsters may actually be a disservice. Horror stories help us learn to process and handle our fears. The psychological good monsters render us has been tainted with bleach to hide the good blood. Monsters are the new crime-stoppers with TV episodes of vampire detectives, zombie medical students and Wesen policemen. The pure emotion of fear has been watered down and what is left to help us emotionally with the very real human monsters?
Re-runs of Touched by an Angel?
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