A while back I wrote an article where I argued that most monster movies actually show the true monsters are normal people.
I expanded that idea in a recent presentation to talk about any stories that create a “monster dynamic” — stories which describe a community and contrast them against a person they all reject. In most cases, even when this “monster” is clearly evil, those stories end up actually criticizing the community more than anyone else.
I used science fiction and fantasy examples in my paper, but this dynamic actually appears in all kinds of genres.
To give you an idea, here are ten movies I’ve seen that play along with this dynamic in some form:
1. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Not only is this a great tale about the evil of racism, a subplot investigates a lonely person who seeks friendship from anyone who will accept him.
2. The Two Towers (2002)
Primarily a fantasy adventure, Frodo’s travels with Sam and Gollum give an interesting look at the conflict between mercy and judgment.
3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Quasimodo spends his life yearning yet fearing other people, and must choose between the advice of a respected clergyman who adopted him and a socially outcast woman who treats him like a human being.
4. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
While the title character may be strange, it’s hard to say how much we can really blame him for his predicament.
5. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Both of James Whale’s Frankenstein films contrast how innocent the creature is against how foolish or malicious his creator and the villagers are.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
When a young woman’s friends start dying in bizarre ways, she’s forced to investigate events that her parents would rather keep hidden.
7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
When medical experiments with apes go wrong, it turns out the worst threats humans face are the ones they create themselves.
8. King Kong (2005)
Some may say it was “Beauty that killed the Beast,” but perhaps someone else is more responsible for the Beast’s death.
9. Manhunter (1986)
A little-known adaptation of the first Hannibal Lecter novel, this book provides an interesting look into a killer’s psyche and how empathy may change him.
10. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
The most obvious example of the “insider-outsider” dynamic, this story takes a poetic and romantic look at who the true monsters are.