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It is a truth universally recognized that queer people love monsters. Who knows exactly why — maybe we identify with them, maybe we’re jealous of them, maybe we have a crush on them or maybe a little of all three. Whatever the case, the LGBT community definitely has a soft spot for spooky creatures. I recently took to Twitter to ask my friends for recommendations of TV shows and movies where the monsters, demons and ghosts are actually good guys who win in the end — and I got marvelous suggestions of some truly heroic monsters.
Most recommended was The Addams Family, possibly the purest representation of the idea. The heroes of these films are social outcasts, and they don’t care. They’re living the life they love, enjoying a lifestyle of monstrousness, and anyone who crosses their path with disapproval is sure to meet an unpleasant end. It’s probably no coincidence that the second of the films was written by openly gay man Paul Rudnick.
Crimson Peak, recommended by one friend, is the 2015 film set in a gothic horror mansion. And on the lighter side, there are also TV series like The Munsters. Slated to be revived a few years ago by Bryan Fuller, the reboot was sadly shelved.
Godzilla, Gamera and other kaiju movies have a habit of flipping the script and making the monster sympathetic. Once again, maybe it’s out of a strange feeling of sympathy: These often heroic monsters are misunderstood, put upon, victims of ignorance. It kind of feels soothing to identify with that experience along with a gigantic lizard.
One friend, the delightful comedian Cody Melcher, recommended Beetleborgs, a kids show from the ’90s that featured a beguiling character named Flabber. “It’s basically just a weirder Power Rangers,” he says, while also suggesting Harry and the Hendersons and the Disney Channel movie Don’t Look Under the Bed.
Then there’s Princess Mononoke, a gorgeous film in which good and evil are arbitrary ideas, and the monsters of the forest may turn out to save it. Many of Miyazaki’s films feature creatures that seem terrible and destructive before it’s revealed they are simply natural forces at work — such as the Ohm in Nausicaa.
Tim Burton popped up several times. Edward Scissorhands is regarded as a baddie, as is Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas, though both films feature clearly heroic monsters. And there are even more Disney films with that trope, including Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Monsters, Inc.
Continuing with family films, there’s also Boxtrolls, featuring wonderfully weird creatures who live under the city streets. And also ParaNorman, which only has a moment of explicit same-sex content but is still awfully queer about its creatures.
Aside from The Addams Family, I think my favorite might actually be A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens may have accidentally originated the genre with his classic tale of helpful ghosts and otherworldly creatures who are dedicated to good.
It seems a bit strange to look to centuries past for heroic monsters — and yet we probably wouldn’t have contemporary antiheroes without them.