From Hannah: When we came to the end of recording our second monster episode on Halloween, I jokingly claimed that the 1999 version of The Mummy was the “greatest love story of all time,” to which our guest Michael Chemers declared, “All monster stories are love stories.” And we named (and have since named) a ton of examples from Warm Bodies to Creature from the Black Lagoon and Shape of Water to the Swamp Thing and Abby Holland and King Kong and all the different versions of Beauty and the Beast, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth suggested by listener Connie Deighan Eaton. (And, obviously, vampires, but please can we stop talking about Twilight?) And now we’re recording our first threequel episode with guests Michael Chemers and Heather Duda on monster love stories just in time for Valentine’s Day.
(And as an aside, Cupid has his own kinda-sorta monster love story but no one will want to talk about that, probably. Then again, I didn’t expect my declaration about the Mummy to spark an episode but here we are.)
In our initial planning conversation with Michael and Heather about this episode, Heather asked how are we defining both the terms “monster” and “love.” The question of how we define what a monster is may be particularly relevant to the theme of this show because some of the most well-known love stories like Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast take up exactly this question (as does Shape of Water) by juxtaposing handsome, toxic abusers with kind “monsters.” Love is also a tricky term. Is it merely attraction or sentimental feeling? That certainly is the case in some of these stories. I think that sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s definition of love (see his book Love as Passion) as a form of intimate understanding between two people could help us think about the relationships in the monster genre. The ability to communicate across difference plays a large role in my examples of Beauty and the Beast and Shape of Water and the failure to communicate certainly creates tragic love stories in this genre.
So are all monster stories secretly stories about love? We’ve also talked a lot about eroticism and sexuality in relation to monsters, so is love a different but related category or is it the same? What are the best examples of the monster love story across popular culture (besides The Mummy, of course)?
We’re excited to welcome Michael and Heather back for another great discussion and we’d appreciate listener input for this one.