Jul 13, 2017 | essay

The Importance of Being Monstrous

In this increasingly bullshit world we live in, coping mechanisms are important. Getting through the day can be a battle when you’re bombarded with explosive political bombshells every hour and one week can feel like a year. It takes its toll and everyone tries to deal in their own way. For instance, I became a monster. My advice is for you to do the same.

Online I am an ancient evil, a tentacled Lovecraftian abomination in the guise of a girl. My friends are murderous unicorns, killer clowns, and your regular run of the mill psycho killers. We regularly suggest the most violent methods as a way to deal with the smallest slights. We build up our own personal mythologies like armor, making the littlest problem into a vast epic between the powers of good and evil. This asshole cut me off in traffic? Don’t they know I am the Blood Queen? My train is late? Don’t they realize I am the King of the Dead? I will make them suffer, I will burn everything down with the force of my wrath.

In real life, many of us are scared. We feel increasingly helpless in a world that seems like it’s gone wildly out of control. Our destinies have slipped out of our hands and we’re being jerked around by fate. The petty indignities of 21st century life grind us down and we look on in horror at a world full of hatred and inequality, trying to eke out lives in an uncertain time. We sink money into student loans and rage against articles calling our generation lazy and wasteful. We watch the tire fire that is politics from between our fingers because looking at it directly is like looking at an open Ark of the Covenant except it’s our faces that are melting off, not the Nazis’. After a while, being afraid loses its sharp tang and becomes another dull pain we just live with. I’m tired of being afraid, I want to be feared.

Since we were young, pop culture has taught us about villainy and monsters; the evil witches, the boogeymen, the things that go bump in the night. They were simple tales where the monster is easily slain and good always triumphed in the end. That education becomes an inoculation against childhood fears. It doesn’t take long before we no longer worry about those monsters. They don’t seem so tough or so scary as we get older. Pop culture never prepared us for the real villains of our adult lives. We’re unprepared for the new enemies that rise up when we get older; the heartless red tape brought on by petty bureaucracy, the stark inequality between rich and poor, and all the thoughtless and cruel ways our lives are made harder by those above us. Death by a thousand cuts from forces we can’t even see or touch. That’s why Dolores Umbridge is the real villain in Harry Potter. She uses her power to be vindictive, to push through rules that hurt people, to sow discord and seize control. She’s the personification of government overreach run amok and she rules with an iron fist. Everyone thinks Voldemort is the real enemy but he’s easily dealt with. You can kill Voldemort. Umbridge stands for the many-headed Hydra that are adult fears, of mercurial governments and capricious companies that do whatever they can to keep control and take what they want even when we are wrung dry of blood and money.

We do what we can to counteract them. We protest, we call, we crowdfund. We stave off the feelings of hopelessness on social media, trying to rally the troops to causes we believe in while those in power seem hellbent on wrecking the place. Bravery and perseverance can only get you so far. White hot rage cools into weary pessimism. Sometimes it feels like our efforts end up being worthless. Our calls fall on deaf ears, our protests mocked and ignored. After a while “eat the rich” sounds like fantastic advice and for that you need your own set of fangs.

Much ink has been spilled about my generation, the mysterious Millennials. We’re blamed for everything under the sun and no one listens when we cry out that the deck was stacked against us from the beginning. The Millennial weapon is humor, an absurdist brand of self-depreciation that older generations struggle to understand. We embrace ridiculous things about ourselves and twist them into strengths. None of us are real monsters but we play one on Twitter. Sometimes that can be enough to give us the courage to keep fighting, to keep laughing, to give yourself the confidence to get through another day.

Self-care comes in many forms. Some people do yoga, some people garden, and some people give themselves the persona of a necromancer and flippantly discuss murder and pulling off heists. If the world is already on fire, why not become a dragon? Maybe the fire won’t burn as badly then. This world is filled to the brim with monsters, grinning two faced fuckers in badly fitting suits. When confronted with the monstrous, why not become a monster? The next time someone tells me to smile, I want to bare my razor-sharp teeth instead.

As a child I always admired villains. I loved Disney bad guys more than the princesses. They had better songs and outrageous costumes. Bond villains had style and panache. Dracula was doing everyone a favor taking down those whiny Victorians, the Wolfman was misunderstood, and Cthulhu just wanted to sleep. Often times it felt like the villains made more sense than the good guys. The monsters were more compelling than the people hunting them. Given the choice between Frankenstein’s creature or the frothing at the mouth, pitchfork and torches waving townsfolk, I’d pick Frankenstein’s creature every time. In a world that expects you to just take whatever bullshit it throws at you it feels goody to have an outlet that allows you to sharpen your metaphorical blades and contemplate what you’d do if you stopped playing nice. When life hands you lemons, rig them with explosives and throw them back.

Everyone has secret inner worlds no one else knows about. We all have games we play in our heads when we’re alone, stories we tell ourselves to occupy our time. All of us have built intricate mythologies about ourselves, cobbled together from things we love and people we know. We’re all legends in our own minds. We all want to pretend that news of our displeasure turns us into John Wick and the fact we are angry is met with a single horrified “oh”.

In my internal world, I am an ancient evil. My flesh and bones no longer feel small and inconsequential. In real-life I am just a series of numbers. I’m quantifiable. I am only as good as my credit and my debt, only as useful as my work evaluation score, only as worthy of love as the number on the scale in my bathroom. But deep down, I am a terror from the darkest oceans, I am tentacles and teeth, a cosmic chaos from the void. My friends are evil mermaids, ravenous kaiju, and loathsome deranged gods. We are demons and werewolves, vampires and dark fae. We sneer at the world, waving swords and bows, taking a baseball bat to the knees of those that wrong us. Our personas become our armor in a world where we’re just throwing rocks and sticks at giants who wield nukes.

Let this become your rallying cry. Howl it at the moon. Hiss it at the sun. I may be small, I may be mortal but I am the villain of my own story. I am my own champion. Sharpen your claws, hone your teeth, and fight back. Inscribe “here there be monsters” on the map of your soul. In an increasingly monstrous world, in these interesting times, embrace a new mindset and become a monster.

© 2017 Meghan Ball

About the author

Meghan Ball

Meghan Ball is an avid reader, writer, and lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. When she isn’t losing to a video game or playing the guitar badly, she’s writing short fiction and spending way too much time on Twitter. You can find her there @EldritchGirl. She currently lives in a weird part of New Jersey.