Monsters are the Real Victims

by EDWARD CLINE May 25, 2017

Some of you may have observed over the years – perhaps over the decades – that when Hollywood releases a new monster movie that features rampaging “cage –free” dinosaurs or other monsters, it is the reptiles and other hostile beasts that get any sympathetic treatment. It rarely fails, whether it’s Godzilla or talking simians, man is usually the offender and sinner. This has been going on for decades, ever since the first King Kong film debuted in 1933 (actually, in literature, since at least the 19th century). It doesn’t seem to matter how horrible (or implausible) the monster is portrayed –the number of its human victims who are crushed into two dimensions or torn to pieces or chomped on is immaterial.

Kong escapes and climbs the Empire State Building, only to fall from the skyscraper after being attacked by airplanes with guns. Denham [the explorer character who brings Kong to New York City] comments, "It was beauty killed the beast," for he climbs the building in the first place only in an attempt to protect Ann Darrow, an actress originally offered up to Kong on Skull Island as a sacrifice.

But the very first time I saw the film, in an old movie revival house in New York City years ago (in the 1960s), someone in the audience retorted, angrily and loudly, “No! You killed him!” Obviously, that audience member was fascinated by Kong, perhaps even in love with the idea that Kong was “larger than life” – that is, larger than man. He had somewhere, somehow, been taught to hold contempt for man and for himself.

That retort has always stuck in my mind. It was a clue to something larger than a film about an oversized ape going berserk.

The theme has almost consistently been that when man encounters a monster, it is man who is responsible for whatever evil or wrong-doing occurs (such as violently inclement weather, global cooling or warming). It’s that, or he is responsible for a monster’s existence.  Whether it’s Mary Shelley’s monster, Frankenstein (“the Creature”), or Godzilla or the Alien or the Predator, or Jurassic Park’s raptors, the moral motif is that if man is terrorized or defeated by a monster, he deserves it because he’s “so full of himself.” Man, the theme goes, must be punished for simply existing and perhaps for just being curious. There is nothing special about man. He deserves to be reduced from a sentient, rational being in charge of his actions, his future and his happiness to a shivering gelatin of protoplasm, or put to death, preferably painfully.

The ostensible monster at large today is Islam. Islam is a man-created monster. Who or what set it loose to prey indiscriminately on man? Men created Islam, using the lethal weapon of altruism; the moral philosophy that it is one’s duty and moral worth, measured by the extent that one is willing to sacrifice oneself and one’s values, and not only for the “public good” (unless that includes the Islamic Ummah) but also because an all-powerful, malicious ghost, Allah, said so. It’s your duty to become some monster’s meal. That’s why you were created by Allah, to do his bidding, at his vile whim and pleasure.

The character of King Kong has become one of the world's most famous movie icons, having inspired countless sequels, remakes, spin-offs, imitators, parodies, cartoons, books, comics, video games, theme park rides, and a stage play. His role in the different narratives varies, ranging from a rampaging monster to a tragic antihero.

The antihero archetype can be traced back as far as Homer's Thersites. The concept has also been identified in classical Greek drama, Roman satire, and Renaissance literature such as Don Quixote and the picaresque rogue. Although antiheroes may sometimes do the "right thing", it is often because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions.

What accounts for the fascination with monsters?

It can’t just be that we have become so enervated by a culture that offers few positive, soul-strengthening values that we welcome being scared out of our wits, or cringing at blood-splattered gore, or seeing the irrational run amok and triumph. Mary Shelley created the Frankenstein Creature as a literary challenge, in 1818, in a time and era, in terms of a cultural spirit, as far away from our time as earth is from Pluto. The Creature became the subject of a 15-minute film in 1910, not long after the successful debut of Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac in 1897. Shelley even later penned a novel about a pandemic that wipes out man, The Last Man, set in 2073, surely a pioneer in a the literary and cinematic genres.

Who are the real life monsters? Why do they get a sympathetic pass, and not man?

Aside from Islam, the monster, the predator, the man-hating and man-eating creature, is any man who says or thinks that man must sacrifice himself, for the “public good,” or for no reason at all. Ellsworth Toohey in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is a monster. The collectivist, the career altruist, the jihadist Muslim, is a dedicated antihero. If you are not willing to sacrifice yourself or your values, the monster will sacrifice you and them for you. Today, the monster is a Postmodern nihilist. He is also a member of Antifa, a consummate and violent movement dedicated to nihilistic chaos for the sake of permanently disruptive chaos.

But not all monsters look like monsters. Many of them look like the neighbor downstairs or the Muslim next door. They could look like Norman Bates of Psycho or as nondescript as any one of the 9/11 hijackers. All human monsters are nihilists simpatico in motive with their celluloid brethren. If they can’t have what you have, or are unable to achieve a value of their own, they are perfectly willing to destroy what you have. They are the nihilists who wish to inherit the earth, but they are neither meek nor humble, as neither Max Cady of Cape Fear and Preacher Harry Powell of The Night of the Hunter were not. They can be shy, retiring, and unassuming, or they can be as brash, brutal, boastful and glibly talkative as Negan, the chief nihilist of The Walking Dead, the popular TV horror series, and Richard Burton’s O’Brien, or as deceptively humble and soft-spoken as Cyril Cusack’s Mr. Charrington in the Michael Radford remake of 1984.

Monsters needn’t be physically grotesque. They can come in all manner of disguises, as widely divergent as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, not to mention the average, anonymous Social Justice Warrior or ISIS jihadist, who wears a mask, not so much to hide his identity from the authorities and avoid arrest, as to express his non-identity as an interchangeable cipher. If you are assaulted, mutilated, eaten, beheaded, chopped into tiny parts, and killed, they want you the victim to know that you were terminated by literally nothing.

Nothingness is the goal and state of existence sought by all current monsters. And they often achieve those goals, but want to take you with them.

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Edward Cline is the author of the Sparrowhawk novels set in England and Virginia in the pre-Revolutionary period, of several detective and suspense novels, and three collections of his commentaries and columns, all available on Amazon Books. His essays, book reviews, and other articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Journal of Information Ethics and other publications. He is a frequent contributor to Rule of Reason, Family Security Matters, Capitalism Magazine and other Web publications.     

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