Monday, October 09, 2006
Monster Theory Seven Theses
In Cohen’s essay, monsters are defined by seven different aspects pertaining to their appearance, character, or representation.
First, monsters are always symbols and representations of a culture. They are brought into being because of certain places or feelings of a time period. Monsters are “an embodiment of a certain cultural moment.”
Second, monsters always get away. They can never be caught or if they can, they will return. It may change form or dress, but it will come back. When a monster is killed there is always some remnant, some talisman, of it left behind. If there is no physical element left behind, there is at least a small glimpse of the monster or footprints, something that makes people uncertain of its death and ultimate destruction.
Third, monsters cannot be assigned to a specific classification of animals or people. Their physical, psychological, or social characteristics cross the lines of classification. Monsters can be half human, half animal, not fitting them into either category, or they may have some sort of other deformity or social characteristic that prevents them from being defined as a specific species.
Fourth, monsters are comprised of the things that are perceived as different. They are different culturally, sexually, racially, economically, or politically. They have aspects outside “the norm” of general thought. When the majority of people believes one idea or holds something to be true, the monster always believes the opposite.
Fifth, monsters are warnings of the unknown. They embody the ideas that scare us so that we won’t look deeper into them. When the ocean was being explored, serpents were created to live at the ends of the earth, so that people would be warned and not want to explore further what may be beyond their understanding of the ocean.
Monsters keep us away from the unknown.
Sixth, monsters exhibit our hidden desires. We create monsters so that we can explore what would otherwise be taboo. They embody strange ideas about gender roles, sex, aggression, location, or domination. They can freely destruct and harm, and not feel repercussions or guilt from authority. Monsters enable us to play the role of things we would normally not claim as our identity, like small children dressing up in costumes of demons and witches for Halloween.
Finally, monsters invoke us to examine our culture and the assumptions we make about other peoples and ask us to ponder why we create them. They invite people to explore their minds and find our true beliefs.