Unravelling monsters

By Kenia Cris

Image by Danielle Tunstall

My beloved monster and me / we go everywhere together / wearing a raincoat that has four sleeves / gets us through all kinds of weather” – That’s how My beloved monster, by Eels, goes sharing a warm and welcoming point of view on these frightening creatures of past and present.

Monsters were often associated to misfortunes and tragedies in Ancient times, but they found their place in the universe with a little help from Saint Augustine in the Middle Ages. Their existence was explained by the necessity of ugliness to the natural harmony of things, following the definition of harmony in a painting expressed by the observance of the proportional use of both light and shadow.

Ugliness has never been the only ‘thing’ about monsters, though. Their instrinsic tendency to evil bothered the natural order of the universe established by a pancalistic view (the world being essentially beautiful and good), and was often sentenced to some kind of punishment (as far as monsters are concerned, such punishment could be loneliness, exile or death).

At some point, ugliness was seen as a flaw in human perception, because any eye can be deceived when looking at someone under adverse conditions of light or under the presence of fog. It was only in Renaissance that monsters started to be seen and accepted as they really are, to be looked at in a friendlier way and then organized in catalogues called “Beastiaries“, where they lived side by side with the beautiful creatures of God.

Going past books, movies and cartoons like DraculaMr. Hyde, King KongQuasimodo, Monsters Inc.ShrekFoster’s home for imaginary friends and Where the wild things are it’s possible to notice a growing effort to make monsters at least more sensitive. Some are still prevented from happy endings, but their fortune seems to be close to a significant change. Monsters of today’s message is that of beauty being plural instead of singular, and therefore a subjective concept. Ugliness is definitely also in the eye of the beholder.

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