Monster Men

This song by Lordi, the Finnish heavy metal band known for their elaborate and ever-present costumes, serves as a musical complement to the artistic works of Boris Vallejo, Dorian Cleavenger and Luis Royo.

These visual artists represent a particular tradition in the science fiction/fantasy genre that depict explicitly sexual imagery with inhuman beings. Monstrous men and human women, or monstrous women, interestingly enough, almost never shown with human men.

While it is probably true that a great deal of the appeal of these works rests in our obsession with sex, there are nevertheless interesting patterns of depiction that may, under further consideration, bring to light more nuanced interpretations.

In a tradition dating from at least the time of the Book of Enoch, and continuing through the middle ages with legends of the succubus and incubus, to these present day artists, a portion of western civilization, at least, seems fascinated by these supernatural couplings.

I’ve had the good fortune of being able to discuss the matter with a wiser mind than mine, and he informed me that the term monster is connected to the verb ‘monstro’, to point out or demonstrate. From ancient times monstrous births, two headed cows, children with extra fingers and the like, were seen as signs of some future event, pointing to catastrophe, or some other divine message. The coupling of a human with something monstrous may also resonate with this sense of predictive symbolism, or with a sense of the strange power of somehow going against nature.

Yet in the case of these depictions there is also another question to be raised. There is an asymmetry in the tradition between men and women. So what’s the meaning of it?

One possible avenue of interpretation is that all these depictions are made by men who for one reason or another project their own sexuality as something monstrous, perhaps predatory, perhaps frightening, and in this way serves largely as a shadow of Jeudaeo-christian sexual values. This may explain why there are so few images of monstrous women with human men. In this reading the monstrous women serves a different role, not as an expression of a masculine self image, but of a dangerous female other, not coupling, but itself threatening.

Royo, I think, is the most self-aware of this asymmetry and comes the closest of these three to breaking free of its framework in some of his images, but still, his overwhelming tendency is to make the male the monster, or machine, or extra-natural, when juxtaposed to the female figure.

A great deal more could probably be said about this, and I can not help but think that something very important about the west’s conception of gender relations is contained within this tendency, but as yet do not feel I have enough certainty to conclude what that could be.

In the mean time, please enjoy their images, but be warned that many are of an adult nature.

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