Call For Comments: The Return of Monster X

From Wayne: (Deep resonant voiceover): ‟In a world where podcasts have virally assimilated human consciousness, an intrepid band of scholars attempt to dissect the Monster that we have all become.”

In August we recorded an episode of VoxPopcast on the topic of “The Monster and The Monster Hunter” with our guests Michael Chemers and Heather Duda. The show was a tremendous amount of fun and Michael and Heather were fantastic, and we didn’t come anywhere close to covering everything on the topic we wanted to. At the the time, in the tradition of Horror movies, we decided to do a sequel. It seems appropriate that we are recording this episode on Halloween.

We ended last time with the idea of the vampire and were just starting to get into Twilight and the sexy vampire trope. We plan on picking up there and wandering into the heart of darkness. We’re not sure where the path will lead, but you can help by offering comments and questions for our guests.

From Mav: I’m really looking forward to this show. The last time Heather and Michael were on I learned a lot about the history of the monster and how they are used in media and I’m really looking forward to seeing where we go from here. In particular because now we’re getting more towards more modern media and things that I may know a little about.

In particular I was rather fascinated by both of them rather sheepishly admitting to having read the Twilight books at the behest of their students — something that I have not yet done, though I have seen the films. I’m also interested in exploring the connection between Twilight, and where we were really leaving off last time with the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles books. I find it pretty fascinating that the vampire is a hypersexualized literary character (and long has been as Michael and Heather explained about the early Dracula texts last time they were on). But somewhere between Dracula and Lestat, the vampire’s sexuality seems to have become a little less sinister and turned into something more traditionally (albeit perhaps deviantly) erotic. I’m thinking of here of  everything from Twilight to True Blood (which I personally ADORE and really need to read the books sometime soon) to Vampire Diaries and how that transfers BACK into the eroticization of the more monstrous as in Shape of Water last year or things like the Hellboy comic books.

And then what other similar transformations of the monster have happened. Looking back at our slasher show from a couple weeks ago, we briefly talked about identifying with the final girl rather than the killer. But there’s certainly a thing that happens in those films. Since the one constant is the killer/monster, in a way, at least to me, it feels like you grow to see Freddy, Jason, Michael, etc. as the protagonist of their franchises. I want to know what the ramifications of that are.

So yeah, really looking forward to this show. But, like Wayne above, I’m super open as to what the agenda should be and really want listener input here. What do you want us to talk about?

Hannah: The Twilight saga rose to popularity when I was in high school, and I was bullied into reading them by my friends. I’ve always been uncomfortable with Twilight — and perhaps feeling this way at seventeen is why I ended up going to graduate school to analyze literature for a living — because of the romantic relationships it models. On the one hand, you have stalker/over-controlling Edward. On the other hand, you have Jacob Black who doesn’t understand the importance of consent (and also falls in love with a baby). To be fair, Twilight isn’t any worse than most romance novels in its politics.

The issue of consent, in fact, is a common in theme in monster fiction. Dracula‘s most striking scene, for instance, may be when when Stoker describes Dracula forcing Mina to drink his blood. Shape of Water, to turn away from vampires, was inspired by Creature from the Black Lagoon. In that film, the creature takes interest in Kay and abducts her. King Kong abducts Ann Darrow. Both the 1932 and 1999 versions of The Mummy deal with the tropes of love interest abducted by monster and female sacrifice. More recent films like Jennifer’s Body, which a VICE article wrote about in consideration with the #MeToo era, think about consent in more complicated ways than just “monster attacks the good girl.”

Sex has been a huge concern in monster fiction since at least the nineteenth century. A lot of traditional texts and their readings consider this in terms of purity. Frankenstein destroys the female companion for the Creature because he fears this couple will produce a new race to take over the world and will wipe out humanity. As was discussed in the last monster episode a lot, Dracula is a threat to England as an infector from the inside that will change the population. But what monster/supernatural media seems to be really interested in now is how to use the genre to think about consent and sex in relation to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements through the supernatural characters. In particular, I’m thinking about the reboot of Charmed on the CW. Its pilot is littered with responses to #MeToo, including the line that bringing sexual predators to justice is “not a witch hunt but a reckoning.” So I’m interested in this shift and how it works with the legacy of both the feminist texts that came before it but also the problematic side of monster fiction.

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