Thinking About Classic Monsters

It’s October, and that means that everyone’s preparing for Halloween, which for some people is the last holiday before Christmas hits the radar. (Waiting until the day after Thanksgiving? That’s so gauche.) Luckily, Halloween’s a lot more fun than Christmas — though I do love the Rankin-Bass specials, and there aren’t nearly as many for Halloween as there are for Christmas; Rankin-Bass has Christmas locked up. But Christmas doesn’t have lots of monsters, so that’s what Halloween’s got going for it.


It’s around this time that a lot of sites and magazines and TV shows and whathaveyou start bringing out their spooky one-offs. A lot of them have to do with the so-called Classic Monsters — often the set known as the Universal Monsters, from the old ’30s Boris Karloff-type movies; of course, for the most part they didn’t originate with Universal, but they certainly have the most famous renditions, and, well, let’s be honest; they’re the ones you think of. When you read Frankenstein, damned if you didn’t think of the square-headed green fellow with the bolts in his neck and a flattop.

Don’t worry — this isn’t going to turn into some bizarre tirade about letting movies form your imagination; culture’s culture and that’s fine. When you’re reading this article, feel free to think of those classic images. I know I am. But the great thing about culture is its plasticity. I’d bet Bram Stoker didn’t think vampires’d sparkle later on. (Seriously, really? Sparkling?) Still, though — there’re a few recurring themes with monsters, and I’d like to talk about ’em.

First off, vampires. I’m weird, but, honestly, I’ve never seen why being a vampire would be such a bad thing. Living forever is pretty rad — I wouldn’t mind it. In fact, probably the worst thing about living forever would be watching all your friends die. And wait — as a vampire, you get to SHARE that immortality. So, yeah. You’ve got to avoid the sun, sure, but hey, I worked graveyard shift; it’s not really that bad. And it’s kinda fun going to rock concerts at the equivalent of 10 in the morning. I’ve often thought there must be SOMETHING I’m missing about vampirehood, something’s gotta make it so awful you need to be saved from it. But, really — with blood banks, you don’t even need to really inflict vampirism on anyone that didn’t want it. In fact, this could be the solution to our health-care issues; you never hear about vampires getting cancer. Anyway, what’s it gonna do? Kill them? Oh, wait, immortal, never mind. I guess worse they’d get is some wicked tumors, but then they could always get on TV. (Hm; assuming cameras can pick ’em up; I know mirrors are a no-go, but I don’t think digital cameras USE mirrors, so…)

So, yeah — I wouldn’t mind being a vampire. I’m willing to hear the other side, but if you happen to know any vampires, feel free to send ’em my way. (I guess they need to be invited in, so I’m not quite going THAT far. But I will be willing to discuss converting on my doorstep.)

Right now, the other big monster is the zombie. This one has much clearer downsides. You get the whole immortality thing like a vampire, but its at the expense of your brain, so I’d have to pass. You’re basically a walking vegetable. Though, at least according to Shaun of the Deadalt, you can still play video games, so that’s not awful, I suppose. But, still — I’d have to pass. That and, unlike becoming a vampire — I assume they work basically like mosquitoes, so a bit of itching at the worst — becoming a zombie hurts. Forget that. Well, unless you’re already dead, I suppose, and are part of that first wave. But still — I’m gonna have to pass. I suppose there might be a whole complex zombie culture that I’m overlooking, and I feel bad if that is indeed the case, but I have yet to find the great zombie author, so I’m still thinking they’re just into the whole “Murrrr….. BRAINS” scene at the expense of other literary or artistic pursuits. Which is cool, I guess, just not for me.

I’m not sure if we’re really gonna get a werewolf renaissance pretty soon — I guess they’ve got a sidebar in the Twilightalt series, where, from what I’ve read about it, I guess Indians are werewolves? Or something? I don’t know. Regardless, I’m thinking that Twilight doesn’t count as Monster Canon, since I think we’re all agreed that vampires don’t go around in the daytime and sparkle and be kinda creepily misogynistic. Anyway: I have to say that being a werewolf would be more of an annoyance than anything else. You don’t get to live forever, or really get anything else cool — you just black out a bit, and when you come to, your clothes are in shreds. And there’s probably blood around. That’s not yours. Or at least mostly. Sure, when you ARE a werewolf, you get super strength, and you get to be furry, but that’s about it — and you’re not even really around to enjoy it. No wonder they call it lycanthropy — it sounds more like a disease that way.

I guess I could talk about being a Frankenstein’s Monster, except that’s not really something you become. I guess unless you’re dead and they happen to use your brain. But then it’s kinda up in the air as to how much of that is you and how much of it is just using your old grey matter for another self. It’s implied that when the monster wakes up, he’s got to build his consciousness all over again — so, again, doesn’t look like you’d really be involved for that. So, yeah — to the extent that one can become a Frankenstein’s Monster, doesn’t seem like something to strive for. But, hey, since you’re already dead, there’s worse things to happen to your body, I suppose, than being defiled in a madman’s attempt to play God. If the vampire thing doesn’t pan out, I think I might put that in my will.

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