I've always loved monsters, for nearly as long as I can remember.
Actually, I should qualify that: I'm not fond, at all, of the "Hollywood monsters," such as zombies, or "The Thing from the Black Lagoon" or "The Blob" -- which are, imnsho, blatant representations of abject fear-without-thought, and show up in stories to justify unjustifiable bigotry. But I've always loved the heraldic
(Note Well: they are not
just sparkly ponies with a horn. And they do not poop rainbows
, &hearts Gryphons
, and of course, the monster of my Astrological Sun-sign: Sea-goats
For most of that time, I just thought they were nifty because they were -- "fancy" (?), and they represent the "magical impossible," and are manifestations of the imagination, and creativity... All good stuff. But I never gave them much more thought beyond: "Nifty, Neat-O! Keen!"
Then, a few years ago, for naarmamo
, I was overcome with a desire to draw new monsters of my own invention, several days in a row... like some sort of biological urge, or something.
And the geeky part of my brain thought: "WTF is up?! What is
a monster, anyway? What, after all, is the basic definition?" And that's when I found the etymology, of "monster" being a "creature, human or livestock, with birth defects, and seen as a bad omen, and sign that the gods were angry."
And from that point on, monsters became a political statement for me, representing Disability Pride, Culture, and History, and the fight against Ableism/Disablism -- on top
of being a manifestation of creativity and imagination. ... And here, I could mount an argument that creativity and the use of the imagination is an essential part of Disability Culture, because when Society makes a concerted effort to deny you access (because it views you as a monster) you have
to be creative, to make a way of living for yourself where none is given to you.
(but really, that's for another post).
Then, the other day, when I posted the newest image of my newest monster,* pebblerocker
commented that she loved the "joins" -- where feather meets fur and fur meets scales. And there was the "ding-ding-ding!" of realization, and third leg in the three-legged stool of my monster-love popped into place.
Back in my first years of my college education, I took a literary survey course called "Comedy, Wit, and Humor" (it was awesome; it was once a week, three hours long, and we got to watch Richard Pryor videos and tell dirty jokes in class). And the one thing from that class which has stuck with me over the last 30 years is this:
The punchlines of jokes work because the human mind can only follow one line of logic at a time. The main "body" of the joke tells a story along a certain line of logic, and in standard narrative fashion, the emotional tension builds to a climax. Then, the "punch" line comes in, from a completely different logical direction
and knocks that emotional tension "ass-over-teakettle," revealing all our fears and worries to be nonsensical. And in that release of tension, we laugh. (And that may be why so many people say a compatible sense of humor is the most important trait in life partners -- your sense of humor reveals how you are likely to respond to life's ambiguities. Personally, I will never trust anyone whose humor tends toward causing pain or belittling another's intelligence).( The joke that was given as a model of this formula (as I remember it), was this: )
's comment flicked on the light bulb that monsters
do this, too. The point where the goat's front half grows from the fish's back half, or the Green Man's beard grows as foliage instead of hair, is like the punchline of a joke: the moment when the logic of the world-as-we-know-it gets turned on its head.
This can be the moment of terror (especially if you are the Archbishop of Seville, and all the comfort and power in your life is built on the world-as-we-know-it), but it can also be the moment of laughter (which Jim Henson, in his genius, understood instinctively, if not intellectually).
And that's why I Heart Monsters: In one package, they represent:
1) The sublime reaches of Human Creativity
2) Righteous Anger against human cruelty
3) The ultimate life-saving power of the Absurd
*( it's here, behind the cut )