Monster boyfriends: brooding, deadly, often ridiculously hot, and most importantly, not human. These boys tend to steal the hearts of the main characters and readers in whatever story they make their mysterious appearance.
Taming the beast
Whether it be on a quest, a kidnapping, or a betrothal, our hero must learn to “tame” this beast, whether through love or friendship. This monster could be cursed, a zombie, a fae creature, a werewolf, vampire, you name it. In some cases, it could even be a human that has some very dangerous, dare I say “monstrous,” red flags (Think Joe from You). But at the core of this trope, is a creature that is deadly, full of the unknown, who (hopefully) learns to not be that way through the love and friendship of the protagonist.
Perhaps one of the main examples that come into mind with this trope is the story of Beauty and the Beast. This story, made popular by the Disney animated film of the same name, feels like the first ancestor of this trope–the grandad of all monster boys.
Many fell in love with the Beast (myself included), as there is something just magical about watching a book-loving, kind, young woman learn to see the good inside the sad and scary, but sweet Beast.
Monstrous bad boys
Fast forward a decade, and we enter the era of sparkling vampire boys and shirtless werewolves. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series gave the world not one, but two new monster boys to fawn over. Both Edward and Jacob share similarities to the Beast, in that they all are a broody bunch, they all are mysterious, and they are all dangerous. They are monsters that could hurt you if you’re not careful. Notice that Bella, the heroine of the novel, shares a similar personality (and name) as Belle. Bella is just wrapped in a bit more teenage angst and melodrama.
But the monster boyfriend train is far from over. Fast forward another 10 years into the mid/late 2010s, and the Fae have taken over as the hottest monster boyfriends on the block.
Sarah J. Maas’s New Adult A Court of Thorns and Roses series and Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series exploded the Fae into the mainstream, with their pointed teeth, tails and wings, and penchant for trickery. Rhysand and Cardan are new incarnations of Jacob and Edward (of course with different personalities), as well as a homage to the Beast as well. Feyre and Jude, while again differing in personality from Bella and Belle, function in the same capacity in their stories. Both learn to love the monster that they are at odds with, thus making the monster become better.
What makes these monsters the same?
And why each year do we see more and more retellings of Beauty and the Beast and stories featuring monster boys appear on our shelves? Why do we keep buying them and crave them more?
Renowned psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson talks about why the monster boy is deeply entrenched in our psychology in his lecture series titled “Maps of Meaning.” In lecture seven, titled “Images of Story & Metastory,” Peterson talks about the “female hero myth” and why females are attracted to stories about monsters.
He states that the female hero myth goes something like this, “The basic plot is that this woman encounters this mysterious and aggressive male and tames him.” And we see exactly this in Beauty and the Beast, Twilight, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and many more monster stories.
Why must we tame?
Peterson then shares why there is that attraction to a dangerous being that needs to be “tamed.” He says, “When chaos manifests itself, what makes you think that someone tame is gonna be good for anything? So [the monster’s] aggression is absolutely vital. . . But because it’s incredibly dangerous . . . it has to be civilized.” In summary, when bad stuff happens and the world is scary, a creature with immense power seems like the best option for protection and support. But, of course, you can’t have that dangerous power be targeted at yourself, so you must “tame” it, befriend it.
Of course, Peterson also bluntly states that, “There’s no fun in taming someone who’s already been tamed.” There is truth to that. Monster boyfriends offer that sizzle, that capacity for danger that is bottled up and controlled for you alone. Please tell me I’m not alone in loving the scenes where the monster boyfriend goes crazy when their love interest gets hurt. It is thrilling to see someone willing to harbor their internal chaos for you.
So that is a reason why the monster boyfriend reigns supreme in our hearts, and how the 1,067th retelling of Beauty and the Beast will appear on our shelves despite having read the other 1,066. And I, for one, am okay with that. Bring on the monster boys and their tragic, deadly glory.
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- A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
This feature is part of a series called Trope Tuesday here on the Books section of The Young Folks. In this series, we choose a trope that we love and explore its history, what is special about it, and provide recommendations!
Read more book features here.