Monster Theory

  1. Thesis I. The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body (4)
  2. Thesis II. The Monster Always Escapes (4)
  3. Thesis III. The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis (6)
  4. Thesis IV. The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference (7)
  5. Thesis V. The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible (12)
  6. Thesis VI. Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire (16)
  7. Thesis VII. The Monster Stands at the Threshold . . . of Becoming (20)

Thesis I. The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body

  • Each culture will produce their own monsters and their own versions of monsters. “The monstrous body is pure culture” (4).

Thesis II. The Monster Always Escapes

  • “The anxiety that condenses like green vapor into the form of the vampire can be dispersed temporarily, but the revenant by definition returns” This is the unsettling feeling you get when your mind starts to wander and the feeling of insecurity when thinking about your monster
  • “Monsters must be examined within the intricate matrix of relations (social, cultural, and literary-historical) that generate them” This explains that monsters tie into the persona that we assign them
  • “the undead returns in slightly different clothing, each time to be read against contemporary social movements or a specific, determining event”
  • Over time ideals change, adapting to our different interpretations of this monster
  • “Monster Theory must therefore concern itself with strings of cultural moments, connected by a logic that always threatens to shift; invigorated by change and escape, by the impossibility of achieving what Susan Stewart calls the desired ‘fall or death, the stopping’ of its gigantic subject monstrous interpretations is as much process as epiphany, a work that must content itself with fragments”
  • monster theory is the concern of culture an cultural moments connected by logic that is always changing. Monsters are always changing in culture, therefore, are always escaping.

Thesis III. The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis

  • “they demand a radical rethinking of boundary and normality. The too precise laws of nature as set forth by science are gleefully violated.”  Monsters are externally incoherent bodies that resist attempts to include them in any systematic structure. They refuse easy categorization and defy the natural laws of evolution. The power to evade and undermine are coursed through the monsters blood.
  • “the monstrous offers an escape from its hermetic path, an invitation to explore new spirals, new and interconnected methods of perceiving the world.” The monster always escapes and returns to its habitation at the margins of the world.
  • “rebuke to boundary and enclosure” The demand radical rethinking of boundary and normality.

Thesis III. The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis

  • Monster described as systematic phenomenon rather than object or idea of how it is perceived.
  • Monster escapes because it is hard to categorize.
  • Disturbing hybrid
  • Externally incoherent
  • Resist systematic structuration.
  • Resists classification built on hierarchy or merely binary opposition.
  • Demands a system allowing polyphony, mixed response (Difference in sameness, repulsion in attraction).

Thesis IV. The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference

  • People who are different are viewed as monsters.
  • Differences tend to be political, cultural, racial economic, sexual, not fitting into the norm.
  • People make up stories that will form the different people into monsters.
  • The “monsters” are a threat.
  • Used to justify treating them differently.

Thesis IV. The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference

  • Going against what was considered the norm of the culture was considered monstrous. This included sexual orientation, , race, economic status, and political preference.; this allowed  actions against these “monsters”, or “not  normal” individuals to be justified.
  • “Representing an anterior culture as monstrous justifies its displacement or extermination by rendering the act heroic” (Cohen).

Thesis V. The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible

  • Keeping people in a bubble and keeping them from exploring the world in order to keep order.
  • “To step outside this official geography is to risk attack by some monstrous border patrol or (worse)to become monstrous oneself” (Cohen).

Thesis V. The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible

  • The Monster represents consequences of curiosity, desire, or rebellion. (As dictated by the Monster’s creator).
  • The tale of a Monster discourages certain actions and behaviors as dictated by the Monster’s creator.
  • The Monster can serve as an intimidation tactic to deter individuals from going to certain places.
  • Monster’s may serve as an example for what is to come if one does/doesn’t do a particular thing.
  • Monster’s can be a crude template for vilifying or humiliating certain individuals or groups so as to discourage intermingling.
  • A Monster can also be depicted as the enemy; anything or anyone the Monster’s creator views as lesser, grotesque, or deemed worthy of destruction.

Thesis VI. Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire

  • The fear of the Monster could be translated to desire because humans are inherently curious creatures and are often attracted to the taboo.
  • The Monster can be a method of escapism, to ponder subjects and situations they would normally not encounter due to either outside, or self-made restrictions.
  • The Monster may symbolize what we see in ourselves, the simultaneous admiration and disgust being a common struggle for some. (This simultaneous admiration and disgust may also be the attractive combination to sensationalize a Monster.)
  • Monsters may also stand for the anxieties we face and our inner turmoils over existential issues and morality.

Thesis VI. Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire

  • monsters practice forbidden concepts
  • offer a way to escape via fantasy
  • people have a simultaneous reaction of repulsion and attraction
  • represents a projection of “other”
  • awakens the joy of being frightened
  • uses the rush-/excitement of dressing up as a demon on Halloween. it’s something we don’t get to take on often, at least socially
  • people are able to relate/live vicariously an entity that takes various forms and one that expresses different identities
  • the exploration via these monsters was exciting in contrast to the imposing environment the Church was creating(a few centuries ago)
  • made the taboo more accessible
  • overall, monsters are something different and it sparks the dark/curious side in us.

Thesis VII. The Monster Stands at the Threshold . . . of Becoming

  • represents the repressed memories of our childhood
  • ultimately, they challenge our perspective, what we find acceptable
  • monsters require us to question our tolerance towards different expressions
  • Our own fears never fully go away just go for a little then come back stronger than before.
  • Monsters bring context with their existence
  • They reside in the deepest, darkest parts of our minds
  • monsters can be within
  • They are our fears
  • can be our own minds

Thesis VI. Fear of the Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire

  • Monster is linked to forbidden practices in order to normalize
  • Monster attracts
  • Evokes escapist fantasies, the linking of the monster with the forbidden makes it more appealing
  • Monster can serve as an alter ego
  • We know when we see horror films, that the jolts of horror are temporary, so we use it as a temporary escape
  • The lands monsters live in are realms of happy fantasy, horizons of liberation
  • Monsters serve as secondary bodies through which the possibilities of other genders, other sexual practices, and other social customs can be explored
  • Making a monster desirable is accomplished by the neutralization of potentially threatening aspects with a liberal dose of comedy

Thesis VII. The Monster Stands at the Threshold . . . of Becoming

  • Monsters are our children
  • We can hide our monsters deep in our mind, but they always return
  • Monsters come back knowing more
  • They ask us to reevaluate our cultural assumptions about race, gender, sexuality, our perception of difference, our tolerance toward its expression