In recent popular culture, the monster within has become a source of power. For example, the lyrics of “The Monster” (2013) by Eminem suggest that inner darkness can be a creative force:
“I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed
Get along with the voices inside of my head
You’re trying to save me, stop holding your breath
And you think I’m crazy, yeah, you think I’m crazy
Well, that’s nothing . . .”
Even more explicit is Kanye West’s “Monster” (2010):
“Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong, Lochness,
goblin, ghoul, a zombie with no conscience,
question, what do these things all have in common?
Everybody knows I’m a motherfucking monster,
conquer, stomp ya, stop your silly nonsense . . .”
However, this is not exactly new. Ancient Greeks believed creativity was divinely inspired by nine gods known collectively as The Muses that each focused on an art such as poetry or dance (Cotterell 64-65). In the Romantic era of Great Britain, an excess of black bile in the body would produce a melancholic disposition that facilitated creativity (Baker 27-28). Hence the trope of the depressed poet. In the first case, you were literally possessed and then inspired to create. In the second case, a physiological and potentially disastrous anomaly changed who you were.
What is new is the simultaneous personification of “inner demons” and the willingness to embrace them as a means of power through a sacrifice of the conscious self. We both recognize that there are monsters inside our head, and that there is no such thing because we are them. This liminal relationship is murky at best, and unnavigable at worst. As a Teratologist, my research frequently takes me down dark roads. While researching the Boogeyman, I combed through cases of missing children, pedophilia, and gruesome child murder. Between bouts of weeping (yes, even us “objective” academics can feel subjectively), I become lost in a seemingly bottomless pit of rage and vengeful misanthropy. While trying to understand a certain kind of monstrosity, I was confronted with my own. Additionally, I had to question whether it’s possible to be unbiased on such a topic, especially when the “monster” within me was demanding to be let loose. Is it possible for us as individuals and a society come to terms with our own monstrosity, using it as a guide and source of power, without falling prey to it? While many artists, such as Lady Gaga who released the album “The Fame Monster” (2009), are jumping on the “monster” bandwagon, the jury is still out.
Cotterell, Arthur and Rachel Storm, eds. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. London: Hermes House, 2006. Print.
Ingram, Allan and et al. Melancholy Experience in Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century: Before Depression, 1660-1800. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.