Vampires, zombies, aliens, oh my! Why we love our classic monsters

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Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 23 2012

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

Mythology, folklore, and campfire stories have fuelled some of humanity’s most frightening monsters, but few of them have made an impact on pop culture the way vampires, zombies, and aliens have. Television, cinema, literature, and even public events are dedicated to these popular monsters. There is no killing our love for them. They will haunt us forever.

Monsters, like technology or any other form of entertainment, bridge the gap between generations. People live, age, and die, but our fears are immortal. Take a look at the vampire; is there a reason why contemporary culture still finds these castle-dwelling bloodsuckers relevant? Well, since the early 1800s, vampires have evolved from the caped Count who “vanted to suck your blood” to the Twilight series’ heartthrob we all know today. The vampires’ versatility is the reason they are so popular in entertainment. The fact that they not only transform into bats, but also take on human attributes makes them so dauntingly endearing.

While vampires are always different, zombies are always the same. So why do we have these undead obsessions? Hidden deep in our primal brain is the knowledge that one day, all will end. The plethora of apocalyptic possibilities is a rainstorm in our heads. We can shield ourselves from it, but we can’t stop it. Plagues and epidemics might seem like a concern for the dark ages, but even with our wealthy medical care we are not immune to diseases. With popular shows like The Walking Dead enforcing people’s fears and adding to the realism of such trying situations, there is no wonder that zombies are so frighteningly infamous.

We are not so different from the monsters we create—especially those that really make us cringe and shiver. Those that force their way into our lives are the ones that stem from a strong possibility of existing. All quality monsters are mysteries, and there is no bigger mystery than aliens. We can play ignorant and imagine a lonely universe, but to most people the idea of life beyond Earth is not only plausible but expected. With all our science and technology, the question is not whether or not there are aliens, but whether or not we will find them—before they find us.

It’s not an accident that certain monsters are more popular than others. Each one triggers a unique reaction in the human psyche. By analyzing these fictional fiends, we are able to dig deep into our instincts and understand the creative link between fear and fantasy.

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