So I’ve been watching various shows lately, skipping between different ones or different episodes or seasons, to the whims of my mind, but they generally have some element of human animality in them, and it’s interesting to me to compare and contrast how that theme is handled in the different series and even more interesting is how I personally respond to watching them in regards to that theme. I rewatched the anime series “Claymore” since I hadn’t watched it in a long time and honestly didn’t remember much from it beyond there being women in it that could shapeshift to monstrous forms. “Claymore” handles the contrast between human and nonhuman through themes of monstrosity and heavily blurs the line that supposedly separates human from monster, including showing that some of the claymores (the half-monster women) can surpass that line into physical monstrosity beyond what others believe are their limits (to which they wouldn’t be able to retain, let alone return to, being human in mind), but they still manage to come back to their human side. Although the show doesn’t instill any ‘shifty’ feelings in me despite the large amount of nonhuman shifting it shows, my reception of it is overall positive in how they handled the themes of humanity and monstrosity, though I think it could have used a bit more emphasis on human not necessarily being an “opposite of monstrosity” kind of thing since humans can very much act monstrous to extents Earthly nonhuman animals don’t or can’t.
Then there’s the CW’s “Beauty and the Beast” series, which I vary as to how much I like how the show is handled depending on the episode and season. Part of season 3 was leaving me feeling tired and annoyed at the over-glorifying and romanticizing of the concept of “being human” and acting like there is some hard line between human and animal and if someone (such as the main character, Vincent) passes that line they are forever a monster and can’t return to ‘being human’ no matter what. By the end of the season they loosened that hard line and heavily implied that even if such a line is crossed the individual can still return to being more human rather than being “doomed to forever be a monster” (in the bad, derogatory sense). So my response to how they handled the human verses animality theme improved as the season went on. I have a special fondness for most of the first season, though, especially since Vincent’s animality was front-and-center for much of it and it was something he was much more learning to control and handle as being part of how he was and how to live with being more animalistic at times. As opposed to some parts of the series in which he tries to live as ‘human’ as he can, shifting to his animal side as little as possible, and leaving that shifting or the use of his heightened senses to basically being a tool uncommonly used to fight off some foe or to help ‘solve’ a case. I do wish the show included a stronger sense of Vincent embracing instead of rejecting or hiding his animality, and that the line between human and animal was treated as being much more blurry instead of a bold, solid line. Maybe some therians would be better at writing something like that. Heck, I’d write fanfiction like that if I was actually any good at writing fiction–which I’m totally not.
I’ve tried to get into Freeform’s “Siren” series about mermaids–I watched the first season but kind of slowly got through it and barely managed to watch through the 2nd season’s first episode. Which is unfortunate because I rather like the design of the mermaids–their physical design with fangs, claws, and gills, but also their mentality as predators and pack animals. Yet there’s just something about the characters or how the story is told or something else that just makes it difficult for me to really get into the series and enjoy it. I do kind of dislike that parts of it focus on making the merfolk more “human”, including there being one that’s basically lived decades of her life out of the water being essentially totally human and out of touch with her roots of being a mermaid. I feel like they took a great concept of merfolk that are animalistic humanoids and tried to ‘humanize’ it too much for the sake of a longer story (whereas if it was a shorter story like a single movie, maybe they could better leave the merfolk more animalistic–though hopefully not as the villains).
The anime series “Vampire Knight” is another I recently have started rewatching. Despite the number of vampires in it, the only one I really connect with is one of the main characters, Zero. The story in part deals with him coming to terms with slowly transitioning into a vampire, a more feral type than the other recurring vampire characters in the show, and there’s something about him and his story that I connect with and gets me a bit vampire-shifty. Most of the vampires in it are just “too human” feeling to me. Which is kind of funny because my own kind of vampire, blutpirs, are still overall rather human in form and mentality, though they can do minor shapeshifting (eyes, teeth, nails) and do have more cat-like mental aspects at times, but I think it comes down to me personally experiencing being a blutpir, non-physically, through times in which I feel not “just human”–the shiftyness is an important aspect of how I experience my vampire ‘type.
When it comes to the game “Prototype” I love that it allows the player to be a humanoid monster that can fight and consume others. It blurs the line between human and monster and is morally grey about the main character’s position as a monster that needs to consume others (be the prey human or monster, civilian or military–it’s kind of left to the player as to who or what to consume) in order to survive and heal, and even potentially be a hero of sorts. I enjoy being able to play as an animalistic, monstrous predator and maybe I’ll go back to replaying it sometime as it’s been a long time since I’ve played it. But I do have a strong fondness of the protagonist that goes into teratophilia.
Another TV show, MTV’s “Teen Wolf”, can make me feel kind of shifty, as well. I do like that, at least in the seasons I watched, there was a lot of embracing of the characters’ nonhumanity, that being nonhuman or partially human didn’t automatically mean “bad” or “evil”, with the villains being human or nonhuman but it really came down to the individual’s personality instead of their species. And I rather like that approach but it’s uncommon for me to come across.
Lastly, a somewhat odd one is the 2000 Syfy series “Invisible Man” which can get me a little shifty at times. I said odd because it may seem a story about an invisible man wouldn’t deal much with themes of animality and monstrosity but it really depends on the angle in which it’s approached (I’ve seen and heard of other invisible man stories exploring monstrous themes, though, but this one in particular really stands out to me). The protagonist is fully human but due to certain factors, he has times of basically ferality and a predatory mindset that I kind of relate to with my vampire ‘type, possibly more so because ultimately my own animality isn’t something that’s physical, it’s a mental and behavioral thing despite me of course being fully physically human. I also like that the transition in mentality is preceded by severe pain, which kind of feels like a parallel with the pain of physical transformation that many shapeshifters are depicted going through.
I do have a soft spot for numerous stories that involve a person just coming into a new power or aspect of themselves that is animalistic in some form and them learning to control and/or embrace it. It’s just something that I tend to connect with and enjoy both from a monstrous and animalistic otherkin/therian perspective and from a monster-hearted perspective. These stories leave me kind of empathizing with the character, feeling myself in their place and connecting with their struggle to balance human and nonhuman in their life and selves. But when/if the story turns toward fully rejecting that animality or being “saved” by becoming fully human, then my interest vastly wanes and the connection is lost. I’m so tired of stories about how being human is “the best thing ever” and is infinitely better than being nonhuman, especially animalistic, despite the fact that humans ourselves are animals and animalistic. It’s a stupid dichotomy that I’m bored and annoyed at hearing throughout my life.
My mind scrapes around various media–pictures, TV shows, movies, books, etc.–to find stories and characters that don’t give into that tiring theme of “humans are best”, media that I can relate to more in the fact I’m nonhuman and human–blended and fluid, animal and monstrous–because it’s just such a rarity, such a gem, to find those little scraps of this stuff, and unfortunately it sometimes ends up being in the form of a villainous or antagonistic character. I’ve sought out this media since my early childhood, though I’ve tended toward hiding away that kind of thing from others, privately enjoying it because of fear for how others may react to me finding such satiation in the monstrous and the nonhuman humanoids rather than in the ‘glorious solely human’ stuff. I still hide it most of the time from my partner, not really anymore for fear of what they may think but rather out of habit and because privately partaking in it is more comfortable for me, especially if it does get me feeling shifty, and I’m overall okay with that.
I also relate to these fictional ‘monsters’ in that I feel like I live a “split” life between human and nonhuman, that my nonhumanity is something that remains hidden from most people–albeit, because it has to in that it is so highly non-physical, just mildly behavioral, that others can’t be aware of it, rather than it being a physical thing. But there’s still that empathy I feel of “I’m hiding my animality and monstrosity from other people for fear of consequences and them not understanding”. I feel a deep sense of familiarity and sameness with these animalistic or monstrous humanoid beings. And that’s where my monster-heartedness and otherkinity really meet. I know that unfortunately I’m limited my whole life to these nonhuman aspects being so strictly internal and subjective, even though I came to terms about that a long time ago and generally don’t have species dysphoria, there’s still part of me that wishes I could live this, or part of it, physically and to be loved and cared for by someone else (be they fully human or not) despite this or maybe in part *because* of my nonhumanity. To be loved so much even though the other person can clearly see my monstrosity and animality–that would speak volumes to me.