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Tristan Walde

Monster Prompt Essay


While on Facebook the other day I stumbled upon a video of a terrifying eel-like creature
struggling for life on the deck of a ship. While it was squirming to try and somehow get itself
back into the water, the men on board, rather than help it, proceeded to poke it repeatedly with a
stick. I only watched the video for a couple of seconds, but the image stuck with me and it
wasn’t hard for me to relate it to this class’ theme of monstrosity. My initial reaction to the
creature was one of disdain and vile because, quite frankly, it was a pretty gnarly looking dude.
However, that feeling was soon replaced by a gut wrenching sadness for the creature because it
was apparent it was suffering and the men weren’t going to let it free. Scrolling down to the
comments they were, as you would expect, not very compassionate towards the creature and the
people that did show compassion quickly received the label of being overly sensitive. To most of
the people the creature wasn’t an animal, but a monster.
When thinking about American monsters (or really just monstrosity in general) the notion
of “the other” is what predominantly popped into my head. From our national fear of Muslims to
creepy looking eels in the ocean intense fear festers in the unknown. Looking at animals, for me,
seems to be a good starting point for examining monstrosity because there is already a very clear
separation between man and animal in America’s human centric society. Not only that, but many
ways in which fictitious monsters are characterized have animal like imagery attributed to them.
There’s also a really interesting dichotomy present since there are certain animals that are
beloved and treated nearly equal to humans while others are seen as being hardly worth anything
at all. People often times attempt to rationalize these differences as a way to make their emotions
and bias’s seem logical, but, while there are certain arguments you can make, most of the time
these attempts don’t seem to be very genuine. The point being is that most of the time how we
construct our ideas and opinions about things say more about us than they do about the thing we
are judging. This is what makes monsters so interesting because they offer a relatively direct
means to access certain neurosis and fears that humans have about themselves.
The distinct way we view different animals shows what societal values we have about
ourselves. Animals like kittens and puppies are hardly seen as monstrous because they evoke
ideas of innocence and love rather than fear. This doesn’t necessarily make their being any more
meaningful than, for example, a shark, but because of what the animals connote to us as a society
we condemn one and not the other. The fact that sharks are carnivorous and have the ability to
kill humans makes it easy for them to be portrayed as monstrous as seen with countless Jaws-
esque stories of sharks wreaking havoc on innocent people. In reality, sharks aren’t anymore
inherently evil than a little kitty or puppy. It’s easier to demonize things we perceive to be
threatening to our livelihood than to try and understand and empathize with their point of view.
The distinctness we perceive between man and animal can also be recognized with a mythical
figure like the Sasquatch which is seen as human-like animal that blurs the line between man and
beast. Appropriately the Sasquatch is known for having an ambiguous existence with a startling
number of people actually believing it to exist even though it doesn’t. This is symbolic of our
own uncertainty as to what exactly it means to be a human in relation to other animals.