Beautiful Monsters

The relationship between beauty and goodness is a tricky one. The 19th century concept of inner goodness being evident in outward beauty was always a bit shaky. The traditional and much-loved fairy tale about Beauty & the Beast is only one example of a curse or bad choice hiding the natural, inner beauty of a character in a monstrous candy coating. Oscar Wilde certainly wrote Dorian Gray as eye-candy with a rancid center. His story still resonates with us today, because we’ve all met attractive people with rotten cores.

Today we have a wealth of human-faced monsters with interiors and exteriors that don’t match. The nasty Queen Bee cheerleader is usually a pretty girl. The gorgeous model with a heart of stone is beautiful but bad news. And the super-attractive and charming businessman/sociopath is fun as a character because he uses his good looks with callus disregard for the feelings of others. They are relatively new popular stereotypes in fiction  — all monstrous in their own way and, occasionally, supernaturally enhanced to complete MONSTER status.

But every time I think we’ve arrived at a time and place where outer appearance isn’t considered indicative of the inside, I get a harsh reminder. Halloween witches are, inevitably, ugly as well as wicked. Given the outward beauty of the witches with a “B” all over TV, movies and books, you’d think that Halloween costumes would catch up…but not yet.

I guess we’ve simply added to our army of monsters — with beautiful monsters as well as ugly — while not entirely giving up the old link between the outside and the inside. The challenge for writers is to create monsters and monstrous humans that ring true. Sometimes this means turning a time-honored stereotype upside down and sometimes it means enhancing what we, as readers, accept as familiar and natural. In my own storytelling, I’m beginning to tap into the power of the ordinary. Characters neither beautiful nor ugly, with surprises stashed inside perfectly normal exteriors can be fun!



  1. I agree with you on the character into monstrous humans that ring true, because I am creating the spiders, they’re humans that are actually spiders, but are created so by the spider priest, pisces in the spitting image of humans and live their lives accordingly to humans in every manner. Today’s characters have to be created in the image of near human or human in a way that’s convincing to audiences and the personality of the character makes it all the more exciting and convincing, it’s amazing what writers, including myself can create with these monstrous characters. I love the looks and the way writers are recreating classic characters and/or creating new characters. I’ll say for instance, Supernatural, or Fringe and American’s Horror Story: Asumlyn are all – and there are more- are great and eyes glued to the screen attention getter, I know my eyes are when I watch them, as well as vampire diaries, etc.

    • Candy

      Spiders! OOOOOOOOOOooooooooo I know more than a few people who are frightened at just the word.

      The recreating of classic characters, and classic stories, is at the heart of my Candy’s Monsters series. Those old stories continue to echo so it’s an invitation to writers of all stripes. The trick is to update and reinvent these stories so that they resonate with 21st century readers.

      I think your spider idea taps into some classic fears — and classic horror movies. I remember shivering while watching those black and white movies on TV. Great memories!

  2. This post reminded me of the old fairytale ‘Snow White’. I think folk tales were more in touch with the human condition than most of the stereotypes we have today. I wonder if the connection between beauty and goodness is a more modern invention, of say Hollywood? Or maybe the obsession with youth and beauty is itself a fairly basic human trait…

    • Candy

      There was a lot of in the 19th century — Beauty is truth, truth is beauty… (Keats). The Grimm brothers did collect a few tales where the ugliness of a character, like the queen in Snow White, is hidden behind her beauty. I don’t think Hollywood can be credited with the invention or the destruction of the beauty myth, but it certainly exploits it in all sorts of story-lines. Hollywood’s big flaw in this department is the limited vision of beauty. But I’m not going to indulge in a rant here. It’s dinner time and I’m hungry. Just fill in a good, solid rant about expanding beauty beyond the supermodel image. (#S@@@XXX@#&#####0***!!!!?)

      Witch hunts are a good example of “ugliness” used to target individuals. The smart, rich, wise, clever or, most likely, skilled with herbal medicine mid-wife/witch was a solid member of a community until she got in the way and then it was easy to use her appearance (not being a pretty, young thing) against her in an accusation of bad magic.