Battle of the MonstersPosted by on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 at 11:00 pm
We’ve been discussing in class what makes a something (or a ourselves, for that matter) monstrous. However, recently I’ve started to wonder what happens when a “classic monster,” such as Frankenstein’s creation or Dracula, is faced with a “monster” of the modern age–digital or technological. I’m curious, does Frankenstein’s creature appear as monstrous if he faced with a robot? Or does he somehow seem less infused with alterity and more “human” by comparison?
I’ve always had a particular love for Dracula and the gentleman vampire. While I was doing some research, I came across a mention of “psychic vampires.” They are not entirely a new idea; in fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame wrote a tale about one in Dracula’s Brood. His female vampire slowly preys on a young man, stripping him of all he holds dear: love, respectability, and livelihood. She drains his life without ever touching his blood. However, what interests me now is what they have come to represent: our fears of hackers.
There is little difference between a psychic vampire and a modern hacker intent on identity theft. Psychic vampires don’t need any connection with their victim, they need not even know their victim’s name or face. The psychic vampire impersonally drains them of life, just as a hacker might drain one’s bank account. In the end, the psychic vampires has consumed the host’s life, just as identity theft can destroy all that one has worked to create: reputation, credit, stability, and one’s happiness. Worst of all, the psychic vampire can undermine one’s sense of self, slowly stripping away from one and altering all that was once “I.” We become nothing and they become us.
Compared to these, the classic vampire and his descendants don’t look nearly as bad. They must forge a personal relationship with their victims. They conduct their business face to face. And if they cannot survive without their host, at least the host is offered something in return (in the case of Dracula, Lucy the flirt and Mina the clever one are enhanced through their relationship with Dracula). There is a very good reason why the hideous Dracula becomes the idealized lover and hero: he offers intimacy. The traditional blood sucking vampire, like Byron, is “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” but he exists through connections, as intimate as they are social.
At least compared to the psychic vampire, I feel as though the traditional blood-sucking vampire doesn’t come out too badly. If the psychic vampire represents our fears of technology, the threats it opens us up to, and the distancing effect technology has on people (replacing human interaction with digital alternatives); then the traditional vampire comes to represent a return to intimacy and human interaction. Even if he’s a threat, the traditional vampire is at least one that must stand before us to attack rather than draining us from the shadows, unknown and unseen.
I wonder, if Frankenstein created two creatures–one his traditional creature made, ultimately, of flesh and blood and the other of wires and springs–which would we find more desirable? Would it be easier for us to feel for the creature because his emotions are inherently human rather than the result of programming instilled in him like the memories of the Replicants? Is it therefore easier to see the basic humanity of something when it is opposed to technology? Do we still want to create a dichotomy between human and technological even though we are all “cyborgs?” A sort of monstrous nostalgia?
It seems silly, but I keep thinking of Godzilla. He started out a monster, but with the introduction of new threats he became the hero. (Sure, a few cities are destroyed along the way, but accidents happen, right?) At one point Godzilla is pitted Hedorah, the embodiment of pollution from factories. In another film, he is faced with the threat of a mechanical version of himself: Mechagodzilla.
It may seem rather silly, but it shows how what once is monstrous can become a hero and even an ally in the face of technological changes. Monsters are our ways of examining our fears, but a changing world means changing fears. Our monsters can’t always be the same and rather than becoming more frightening, they become our champions against new monsters as we learn to accept them and ourselves.