It is a universal truth that people are scared of monsters. The specifics might change, given place and time, but deep down, we’re all afraid of things that go bump in the night. The inhuman and supernatural fascinate us. This is primarily because creatures like vampires, ghosts, and gumihos are reflections of deeper fears, both personal and societal. Monsters are the worst of humanity, amplified for our terror. Of course, how monsters are perceived varies both on who the monster is and who is looking at it.

The masculine monster is exemplified in Exo’s “Monster”. This is monsterhood as both a passive overtaking and an aggressive drive. Exo have developed a deranged obsession with a girl, and rather than restrain themselves, let the want and sex and violence take them over.

You can call me monster

I’m creeping in your heart babe

I’ll flip you over, break you down and swallow you up

I’ll steal you and indulge in you, I’m gonna mess you up

I’m engraved in your heart, so even if I die, I’ll live forever

Not only have Exo given themselves over to their darker impulses, they do not even try to resist them. They own and exalt in their new status as monsters, in the power it grants them. They hardly see it as an impediment, convinced this dark side will entice their love to them. They want, so they will have, with their monstrousness as both a cause and a consequence of this entitled male mentality.

Then we have f(x)’s “Dracula” which serves as the female view of the male monster. While ostensibly about the legendary monster, this monster is a reflection of an ingrained fear. After all, a vampire is a strange man who comes into town and is never seen at a decent hour before penetrating a young woman to take what they want, leaving her behind with her life destroyed. The symbolism is not hard to track. It is also vital to remember that Bram Stoker did not write Dracula as a hero. He is a monster who stalks, kidnaps, and kills women who strike his fancy.

Don’t be alone, dont’ walk in the dark

The moment he opens his eyes

you better ru-ru-ru-ru-ru-ru-ru-run

f(x) is being hunted by a man obsessed. Where Exo reveled in their evil as proof of their devotion, f(x) captures how a woman on the receiving end would actually feel: terrified. They spend most of their time running, banding together, warning other women to stay away from this creep, and trying to find someone who can protect them. Tales like to portray the love of a woman as that which can redeem a monster, but here, f(x) proves that self-preservation instincts are good to follow. While stories often use love as that which can redeem a monster, you can’t do that if you’re dead.

Of course, not all monsters are men, as seen in Got7’s “She’s A Monster”. While f(x) saw a monster and ran screaming, Got7 line up to pledge their undying loyalty. The difference lies in what makes a monster. The masculine monster is a monster because of dark, obsessive, and threatening actions. The feminine monster becomes a monster by . . . being beautiful.

She’s a monster, she has everything

She lacks nothing. Her whole body is full of charm

On her face, her eyes, nose, lips. Her body, her S line

Oh baby I like everything ’bout you

She’s a monster. She gives a fatal blow

She has total control over me. I can’t move

You’re my monster, monster. I’ll obey you

I’ll sacrifice my heart to you

Got7 is driven to near insanity by their proclaimed monster, though she never does anything monstrous. She doesn’t hunt them, hurt them, or even seduce them. Instead, she is deemed a monster solely on the grounds of her unequaled beauty, and the fact that Got7 is willing to do anything and everything she commands. In the end, Got7 seems to fit the title of “monster” far better than she does.

This idea that women are deemed monsters by insecure men is explored by Sunmi on “Siren”. The sirens of myth were women with irresistible voices luring sailors to their deaths. Well, that’s what men said. Sunmi offers the alternative idea that sirens were less murderous and more striving to be left alone.

Get away out of my face

Don’t come any closer boy

(Even if I’m sad, I won’t cry)

Get away out of my face

Don’t look at me anymore, boy

(Even if I’m sad, I won’t cry)

Once again, she is not a siren because of anything she does. Instead, her boyfriend has crafted this flawless image of her and refuses to let reality break it. She tries to end it, even as he refuses to accept “get away” as an answer. She pushes, he clings, and she transforms. Sunmi might be a monster, but not one of her own making. She becomes the tragic monster, forced into the role of the beautiful but cruel woman by a man who has refused to listen to her when she tried to be anything else. While men have to be monstrous to become monsters, women just have to be wanted.

Monsters are a reflection of ourselves. We project onto them our fears, our anxieties, and our experiences. They can tell us what we fear in ourselves, but they can also show us how to rise above our insecurities, to slay our inner demons in place of our imagined ones. Are there any monsters you think deserve more love? Leave them in the comments!

(Lyrics via Color Coded Lyrics [1], [2], [3], [4], Images via JYP Entertainment, SM Entertainment, MakeUs Entertainment.)