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When Monsters Go Soft (and Sparkly)

What young adult fiction, film, and tv is doing to the bestiary of our nightmares....turning them into pubescent wet dreams.

    

Gone are the days of films like Night of the Living Dead, The Howling, and Bram Stoker's Dracula. The fearsome creatures in those films, campy though they may have been, are replaced by a kinder, gentler, more pubescent and sexually-confused canon of the supernatural. The Twilight films, TV shows like Vampire Diaries and Buffy, and a library full of supernatural young adult fiction have whittled away the terror and replaced it with hormonal yearning or juvenile ideas of identity crisis. Why has this happened? Where are all of our horrifying creatures of the supernatural, the primal surge of night-fright, and the simple joy of paying to be scared? They've all been castrated by lonely "emo" young-adult authors and fan fiction.

     Gone are the primeval animals of The Howling. Werewolves are now shirtless Native American youths with playground notions of "us against them", not the blood-thirsty shapeshifters stalking unsuspecting Aussies in the night. Even the 90's cult hit American Werewolf in Paris turned the acceptable premise of it's predecessor, American Werewolf in London, into a twenty-something boner ballad set to the vocal stylings of the perpetually impotent Gavin Rossdale. It's a pretty-boy pie.

     Vampires are no longer the ancient evil that pulls the strings of society, or even just blood-crazed animals. They've been recast as androgynous emo love-interests for the mass consumption of young girls. They feed the idea that simply because one is teenaged, one is misunderstood and needs to be coddled. They pine for and are vindicated by the characters of middle-aged women suffering from emotional arrested development. Vampires are sexy, yes. Since the very first literary adventures of vampires, Camilla with her lesbian vampirism, and Dracula, with his hyper-masculine "hostile takeover" of English ladies-in-waiting, they've been penetrating (they're teeth!), but they never felt bad about it! There was no moral crisis, no tragically hip feelings of "I hate what I am because it's so badass." Are you kidding me? And they never fell in love with vapid, useless mortals that had nothing more to offer than blank stares (Bella) or telepathy (Sookie). Even True Blood, which albeit plays heavily into the sexualized nature of vampires (my wife dismissively refers to it as vampire porn...and it is) still humanizes the creatures to the point where we understand that we're really just watching the vampiric equivalent of The Hills

     Finally, zombies. How can you screw up zombies?! They rot, they eat brains, they're the walking dead and they have no redeemable qualities whatsoever. Yet zombie movies now are a far cry from the flesh-eating head-suckers of yore. I will say that this genre put up the greatest fight against the sissification of the American monster with great films by George A. Romero, Zack Snyder, and others. However, Zombieland made the walking dead a convenient platform to launch  Jessie Eisenberg into Emma Stone's pants...an inconvenience, nothing more. With AMC's show The Walking Dead (which, admittedly, I love) the zombies have a much more humanized character. They're victims with a bad side...like drug addicts or postal workers. The promotional clip constantly used to advertise the show, that of the protagonist mercifully ending a half-a-zombie lady's unlife in a cemetery to a heart-wrenching melody fit for a Lifetime Original, shows just how much the directors want us to feel sorry for the undead.

     I think all of this grows out of a social movement that promotes humanization and individuationor the mental mode of seeing everything as a product of the individual's situation. Look, I have no problem with being understanding to real people that have real issues; drug addicts, alcoholics, even hardcore criminals from tragic backgrounds. Don't humanize my monsters. Keep your damn velvet-gloved hands off my blood-suckers, my shape-shifters, and my walking dead. While we're at it, let's not make ghosts into party-favors for the short-necked knuckle-draggers that try to turn them into reality-TV. Go ahead and let aliens blow up the planet as much as you like, let sorcerers and wizards enlist the help of as many primary schoolchildren as you want, and if Greek Mythology is going to turn into a prepubescent pantheon of Justin Bieber look-alikes, so be it.

     I hereby announce the start to my campaign, "Monsters are NOT people too!" Stop humanizing the inhuman and let me have my non-politically-correct, feelings-be-damned, gore-splattered horror movies; populate them with ancient city-toppling vampires, Cheetah-quick zombie flesh-eaters, and werewolves that don't wear clothes because they're way too busy eating people. Please and Thank You.