Let our monsters love, let our heroes fail.
Members of marginalised groups are so often thought of in terms of the monstrous. Our lived experience, our appearance and presentation, our relationships, our cultures, our love — all of these things are made into horror by oppressive attitudes. Similarly, there is a particular narrative so intrinsic to the idea of “heroism” that we no longer analyse whether that person does good deeds — instead, their association with the hero narrative justifies them retroactively.
This manifesto calls for the continued analysis, complication, subversion and reclaimation of these convenient narratives.
- Look at who uses the word “monster”, and how much the story confirms this as objectively true in the narrative
- Avoid describing human physical traits that are identifying markers for certain people as being aspects of the monstrous except where reclaiming this (“skin goes dark/black” as a symbol for “turning evil” would literally imply the shade of one’s skin indicates their morality. vice versa with purity — angels are often described in terms of whiteness and light)
- Understand and attempt to navigate the difficulties, beauty standards and/or ableism of the grotesque
- Lean into the queer relationship dynamics that are often suggested or demanded by monstrous love
- Ask why certain situations couldn’t be resolved/complicated by hot monsters, or monsters-and-heroes, making out. More situations than you think…
- Let monsters describe themselves in the story
- Acknowledge that people will want to fuck your monsters
- Allow monsters and monstrous perspectives to be centralised in the narrative
- GIVE MONSTERS EMOTION
- GIVE MONSTERS MORE EMOTIONS THAN ANGER
- “a tribal warrior society where everyone answers to strength” isn’t enough
- Recognise the multitude of people’s work and lives went into crafting a so-called “hero”
- Ask if and why the hero’s perspective must perfectly align with the objective reality of the story
- Look at who gets to be called a “hero” in this world
- Ask if the Hero’s Journey really allows us to effectively explore real, messy, complex, interesting, nuanced, relatable experiences
- Allow your heroes to fail utterly in their quest and to discover that their quest is something wholly other and closer to the monstrous
- Discover if the hero really needs to solve problems with violence
- Knock binaries on their head and see what shakes loose — if after consideration you decide your story does require one pole of a binary, it’s cool
- Allow your hero to go unarmoured and defenseless
- Let empires fall
- Accept that revolution and/or the apocalypse might only look like that to the people in power with the most material value to lose
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
In a cosmogony where good and evil (and even moral neutrality) are objective physical forces, they effectively become nothing more than factions with different tastes and traditions. Good and evil becomes an aesthetic choice. Certain uncomfortable grey areas of morality are then associated with n/either faction, which potentially means that spheres of human interaction are taken to difficult and/or ridiculous places. Skin colour displays morality, Anglicised names tend to be more on the side of “the good faction” than all others. Real world accents become associated with monsters.
The grid of Lawful-Good to Chaotic-Evil is a simplistic tic-tac-toe game that has been brought to a state where nothing further can progress and neither side can win. It’s time for more interesting scales of character morality.
This manifesto, alongside The Slow Games Movement, was created as part of the Manifesto Jam, February 2018. Monstrous Love and Heroic Failure was also exhibited as part of the Manifesto Jam selections at Now Play This 2018.