I’ve always loved monsters. As far back as I can remember, I loved the aesthetic of Jareth the Goblin King, found myself oddly fascinated by Darkness from Legend, and couldn’t pinpoint why I was so obsessed with vampires.
I was always drawn to the odd, the repugnant, the weird. At the same time, I was a socially-awkward, nerdy child. Somehow, it took me a couple decades to put two and two together.
Monsters in fiction are the strange, the scary, the unfamiliar. But I was a neurodiverse kid with weird hyperfixations no one else understood. When the world feared the monstrous, I saw myself in it. I was the thing others didn’t understand, the thing they shied away from and mocked.
Between the ages of about eight and ten, I had a small wart on the edge of one nostril that lingered. Other kids mocked me for my “petrified booger” and for being a weirdo. I liked things that were deeply uncool in the late eighties and early 90s. I was obsessed with fantasy novels, with Jim Henson films, with the X-Men.
When people hoisted their pitchforks at Frankenstein’s Monster, is it any wonder I saw myself more in the monster than in the villagers?
This feeling of not-belonging only grew stronger as I got older. I spent a lot of years repressing my own bisexuality due to a conservative religious upbringing (I was the Jesus Freak kid for a while). I think that, deep down, I sympathized with the monstrous because I felt there was something dark and monstrous within my own soul.
Now, I’ve come to accept and embrace that part of me. But I still have a deep sympathy for characters who are othered, including monsters. They live on the edges of society, never able to fully integrate into it. Feared. Hated. Ostracized.
It doesn’t help that queer identities are a part of that ostracization, and that villains in media are often deeply queer-coded. Even as a child, I thought Ursula was more fascinating than Ariel, Scar more intriguing and complex than Mufasa.
We joke now about the “monster-fuckers”, about Del Toro’s love of the monstrous. But we were herded toward that love. We were told that we, too, were weird and ugly and unloveable. That our differences made us “other”.
I think the rise in positive fiction regarding monsters has a direct correlation to those of us who were mocked and bullied and told we were “wrong” by society. The more we accept ourselves, the more we love the monstrous in fiction. Because in those monsters, we see ourselves more truly than we ever did in the too-perfect heroes. Monsters are the ugly parts that society hates, and if we love them, we can learn to love our own weirdness, too.