The Modern Monster
The West is doomed, my friends. The first sign of a dying culture is the dismantlement of its monster archetypes, and by this standard, America is definitely on the decline. Our movies constantly mutate and redefine our classical monsters until theyíre virtually unrecognizable; the monsters of the Twentieth Century are all but dead, killed off by greedy Hollywood producers looking for bigger scares at the cost of monster verisimilitude. I propose a fresh start: we must scrap our old monster archetypes and create new monsters which better reflect the fears and insecurities of a new millennium.
Anxieties Addressed: Loneliness, alienation, addiction
No class of monster has been more abused and devalued than the poor old vampire. Once, the vampire was a noble creature. Much like the gentleman poets of the Romantic period, the vampire was a sensitive and intelligent man who enjoyed solitude, brooding, occasionally biting people, and hanging out in castles. The vampire yearned for the love of a woman, but his horrifying condition prevented him from participating in the dating scene; he couldnít go out during the day or cook most traditional Italian meals, and the pink necks of women always wound up piquing his ravenous bloodlust, making second dates awkward and apologetic.
However, the modern vampire is a handsome and flamboyant dandy. No longer is he ensconced in his castle; he hangs out at ultra-exclusive vampire nightclubs where svelte vampire ladies hiss at him and lick his navel while he smirks and acts like heís totally over it. He doesnít hide from the world, but instead goes out on the town and impresses teenagers with his leather pants and ruffled shirts. He has human ďgroupiesĒ who paw at him and beg him to turn them into vampires too, so that they might share in his hedonistic lifestyle of blood cocktails and dorky industrial music. Nowadays, the scariest thing about vampires is that if they bite you, you might turn into a fruity gothic loser.
21st Century Update: The Obire.
Anxieties addressed: Loneliness, obesity, addiction
By making the vampire sexy and alluring, the elements of loneliness and alienation are removed. Therefore, the new monster must be repugnant and totally non-alluring. The problems of the classical vampire can be transferred to the new millennium in the form of the obire, the obese supernatural loser who feeds on the flesh of other fat people. While vampires thirst for blood and transfer their disease via a sexy bite to the neck, the obire thirsts for human fat. He must harvest it from the guts of fat men by inserting his long, spiked proboscis into their belly buttons, which is the least sexy thing I can think of.
While vampires remain mysterious because they can only go out at night, the obire can only go out during the day. In the afternoon, he stalks the aisles of Wal-Mart, looking for fat men in sweatpants to drain of their slick yellow lifeblood. In the evening, he sits at home watching Veronica Mars, surfing the internet, and weeping softly. Due to the plague of obesity in America, the obire is a monster that the common man can truly fear: any obese man can be kidnapped by the obire, who will drain him of his gooey belt of fat, turning him into another obire and paradoxically making him fatter than before.
Anxieties Addressed: Madness, harming loved ones, disease
An ordinary man goes on a walk in the woods under the lovely moonlight and is bitten by a shadowy beast-monster. Ultimately, he suffers painful shape-shifting sequences wherein he turns into a hideous half-man half-beast and ultimately hurts the ones he loves most, sort of like Michael Jackson in the Thriller video, or like Michael Jackson not in the Thriller video. The werewolf is a tragic and cursed figure; he is generally a good man driven to violence by a disease which unleashes his hidden bestial nature.
Born to bite faces!
This is a good scenario, but recent tales of werewolves like Underworld and An American Werewolf in Paris undercut the urgency of the werewolf lifestyle by introducing the element of lycanthropy-controlling drugs. Modern medicine has most diseases under control, and since werewolfism is nothing more than a rare blood condition, itís not quite so scary anymore. Sure, it would suck to have to take drugs all the time to keep from killing everyone around you, but itís not the end of the world or anything. Itís a bit like having genital herpes: you have to take medications to avoid painful flare-ups, you have to be careful and conscientious about spreading your disease, and you might even want to join a support group, like in The Howling. Back in the old days, the only cure for a werewolf was suicide or a silver bullet; now itís nothing more than a debilitating but controllable sickness.
21st Century Update: The Warent
Anxieties addressed: Freudian insecurity, disease, madness
Crafting a fitting replacement for the werewolf in the world of monster archetypes is difficult. Although the werewolf is now obsolete, he had the advantage of having two ways to scare: he was scary to meet, because he would rip your face out, and he was scary to turn into, because being a werewolf would suck.
The monster of the 21st century must have an element of angst and insecurity added to address the fact that weíre a bunch of neurotic sissies. Therefore, the warent is the ultimate psychosexual nightmare beast. Warenthood, like lycanthropy, is a communicable disease. However, this disease shall be sexually transmitted and totally incurable. Those inflicted with the disease will have an intense and unshakeable addiction to sex and will stop at nothing to get it, but the consequences of copulation will be grim: at the moment of the warentís climax, its body will be transformed so that it looks exactly like his partnerís father or mother, emotionally scarring its partner for life. Its partner, of course, will then turn into a warent, doomed to a lifetime of being thoroughly disgusted and disturbed by sex but driven by an intense need to spread the disease to others.
Anxieties Addressed: Archeological hubris, superstition, curses
To be perfectly honest, Iím not entirely sure whatís so scary about mummies. Sure, they come back to life and shamble around strangling and cursing people and possessing girlfriends, but they really only affect Egyptologists and friends of Egyptologists. How many Egyptologists do you know? You could probably count them on one hand. Most of us arenít in the habit of disturbing tombs, and even the tombs that we inevitably do disturb in the course of our everyday lives are generally non-Egyptian and contain inanimate and non-cursed corpses. While anyone who walks in a forest or visits a castle could reasonably be scared of werewolves or vampires, the odds of mummy attacks seem negligible. Furthermore, unlike vampirism and werewolfery, mummyness canít even be spread, so unless your will contains provisions that you be mummified and cursed, you donít really have to worry about catching it.
Lucky thing I'm not an Egyptologist!
Most monsters were poignant and scary until Hollywood ruined them, but mummies have pretty much always sucked. How many of us have lain awake at night, worried that we may have somehow resurrected and offended Imhotep? Probably only those of us who are archeologists or complete fairies.
21st Century Update: Do we really need one?
Thinking up a new monster thatís indicative of our societyís fear of archeological hubris seems like sort of a waste of time.
Anxieties Addressed: Death, the afterlife
Man has suffered a complicated and troubled relationship with ghosts for centuries. Some ghosts are good: Hamlet was alerted of foul murder by his fatherís ghost, Bill Cosby learned a valuable lesson about posthumous parenting by becoming a Ghost Dad, and Patrick Swayze overthrew a sleazy criminal conspiracy and ether-humped Demi Moore by becoming the titular ghost in Ghost. On the other hand, ghosts can be real assholes. They might bug you incessantly until you fix their problems, they might suck your daughter into the astral plane through the television, or they might just bang around the house and make a general nuisance of themselves.
Patrick Swayze's finest role.
The major problem with ghosts nowadays is that weíve lost sight of what they can and canít do. Some of them seem to be nearly omnipotent; was that little girl in The Ring a ghost, or what? She could do all sorts of crazy things, like strangle teenagers make water run upwards (although water running upwards isnít so crazy, Iíve seen that happen at a tourist trap called Confusion Hill on Highway 101). Some of them, like that dork Sam Wheat in Ghost, can only interact with uncooked pottery and talk to Whoopie Goldberg. Not only do ghosts need limits and boundaries, they also need challenges and responsibilities. We donít want any more overzealous ghosts like the girl in The Ring popping out of televisions and mutilating people, but we donít want lackadaisical underachievers like Swayze falling through walls like losers, either.
21st Century Update: The Everelative
Anxieties addressed: Death, the afterlife, poverty
Ghosts can haunt you, but they can be exorcised or appeased. They are a powerful cultural image, but they are no longer effective representations of our fear of death. Death is inevitable, and the afterlife is intangible: the 21st Century demands a monster that can destroy our lives in a prolonged and devious manner by foiling our perceptions of mortality.
You donít know this monster personally, but you are well aware of his existence. You know him only as Great Uncle Charlie or Cousin Clarence or Grandmaís Rich Half-Brother. He is the stuff of family legend: he is an extremely rich and extremely elderly relative with no immediate family or close friends. He sends loving cards every Christmas with subtle hints that you will not be forgotten in his will. However, he will never die; this monster lingers in the plane between life and death, forever taunting you with the promise of a seven-figure inheritance which shall never come to be. His age is a nebulous and incalculable thing; year after year, he seems just old enough to finally kick the bucket, and yet as the years turn to decades, his age mysteriously never passes the threshold of the unreasonably old. You live your life as a shiftless and lazy slob, forever waiting to hear the news of your aged relativeís demise so you can board the gravy train that you feel is your entitlement. You die penniless and alone, cursing the vaguely-remembered name of the old man who never died.
Anxieties Addressed: Mindlessness, being overrun and eaten, death
Judging by the wealth of zombie movies lately, zombies have held on to a mainstream relevance far beyond most monsters. The zombie speaks not only to our fear of death, but to our fear of mindless conformity, making it a powerful symbol in an era of globalization and mass marketing: the preceding is what I would have written if I were a mediocre high school student writing a paper about zombies.
We all know what zombies are and what they mean, but we canít seem to agree on how they behave. Some of us want our zombies fast, while some of us want our zombies to waddle with their arms outstretched. Some of us want them dumb, but some of us want them to form societies and stuff like in The Omega Man. Some of us want our zombies dead, and some of us want them diseased. Some of us write novelty paperbacks about surviving zombie attacks, and some of us buy novelty paperbacks because we are semi-illiterate. Some of them want to use you, some of them want to be used by you.
Wherever you may fit into this spectrum, we can all agree that the zombie thing is getting old fast. Those of you who donít agree are probably either George Romero-worshipping horror movie idiots, hilarious comedy rebels who think ninjas and monkeys are totally ďrandom,Ē or possibly George Romero himself. Zombies have become oversaturated, and have thus lost their power. Maybe itís just because thereís so goddamn
many of them all the time.
21st Century Update: The Slightly Faster Zombie
Anxieties addressed: Mindlessness, being overrun and eaten slightly faster, death
Come on, wouldnít it be radical if there was a zombie who could run instead of shambling and stuff? That would be awesome! Also maybe he can use simple tools like a gun or a helicopter or something! Why scrap the zombie genre in favor of something infinitely more interesting when itís still so goddamn ripe for reinvention?
The Mystery Primate
Anxieties Addressed: The wilderness, the primitive, the unknown
This category can apply to any number of synonyms for a wilderness-based ape monster: the yeti, Bigfoot, Andre the Giant, the wendigo, the abominable snowman, the sasquatch, that thing from The Empire Strikes Back that hung up Luke in a cave, the skunk ape, the Apeman, Old Yellow-Top, The Jolly Rancher, or the devil monkey. Although these are not ďmovie monstersĒ like many of the others mentioned in this update, they have historically held the attention of the populace just as firmly as any big-budget monster.
I see you!
Unfortunately, Bigfoot sightings are few and far between these days. Now that flashy movies can dream up any monster imaginable, Americaís heart just isnít in the hunt for Bigfoot anymore. As science and technology strips the magic from our world, and the trees from our lands, we have little time or space in our lives for our hairy traditional folk-monster. The fear of the unknown is vanishing from our lives, and with it vanishes the noble skunk ape, suburbanized out of popular consciousness and into the dark forest of hirsute monster obsolescence.
21st Century Update: The Racquatch
Anxieties addressed: The wilderness, the unknown
Since Bigfoot is an obsolete product of a densely forested America of yesteryear, a suburban folk-monster must be created to fill his gigantic shoes. The racquatch is a suburban monster who can safely terrorize all of America without the fear of his habitat being destroyed. He is a man-sized raccoon who walks erect. He stalks the yards and gutters of America, feeding on garbage and cats, digging up rose bushes, setting off car alarms at 3 AM, and showing up only in the blurriest of photographs. Children camping in their tree houses go missing, and hushed voices blame the racquatch. Nobody knows for sure whether the racquatch is a gentle creature or a ferocious menace, because he is skittish around humans. If he is spotted, he flashes his nocturnal eyes at you for a brief, unphotographable instant, and then scurries into the deep wilderness of fences, telephone poles, minivans and hedges.
Stay outta my trash!
With any luck, these new and improved monsters will provide more socially relevant thrills, which will translate to big money at the box office! Producers who are interested in making movies based on these monsters will have to pay me a hefty sum, but since Iím supposedly saving our civilization somehow, itís a small price to pay. Sleep tight, Something Awful readers! Beware the all-new creatures of the night!