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Monsters - What monsters frighten you?

To consider our differing perceptions of monsters.

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider our differing perceptions of monsters.

Preparation and materials

  • None required, but you can play the opening scene from Monsters Inc. if you wish and find and have the means to play ‘Monster’ by The Automatic as the students leave the assembly.


  1. I wonder if you were ever afraid of monsters as a child? Did you worry that they were going to come out from under your bed and get you or maybe even come out from the wardrobe? Perhaps in the half light something hanging from your bedroom door or even a shadow cast from your nightlight might give the impression of something frightening and your imagination simply got too carried away.
  2. I want to look at our perceptions of what and who we believe to be monsters. In the film Monsters Inc., our view of monsters being creatures that scare and frighten children are turned upside down.Play from the very start of Monsters Inc. to when Mr Waternoose says, ‘You are going in there because we need this.’, if using.As it turns out, the monsters scare the children because then they derive the power they need to heat their homes and run their appliances from the screams of the children, much as we need electricity, oil and gas to power appliances in our homes. The commonly held belief in ‘Monstropolis’, however, is that the children themselves are toxic and they are the monsters as they will kill a monster child if it even touches one of them.
  3. Often, our perceptions of what makes something a monster come from the information that we are given about them by others. Groups or individuals can be demonized and turned into monsters, people becoming afraid of them. This may happen for good reasons or not.There are very clear examples of this happening in history. There was the anti-Jewish propaganda that led the Nazi regime to convince much of the population of Germany the Jews were monsters who needed to be destroyed. The dehumanization of the Hutus by the Tutsis in Rwanda led to genocide on a large scale. More recently, the demonization of Islam and Muslim people after various terrorist attacks by some extreme individuals has aided the spread of fear and mistrust and retaliation attacks against all Muslims. Clearly, not all of those who are painted as being monsters have teeth. Just as, in the film, Boo and Sully break down the mistaken understanding that children are poisonous, so we must be aware that the information we are given may or may not be true. It is up to us to make our own decisions about who is a monster and who is not.
  4. Some monsters are not external, however – they come from within. They are our deepest fears realized or made real. Often, in our nightmares, our subconscious releases those fears and anxieties that we keep hidden and our own monsters come out to terrorize and frighten us. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a creature called a Boggart appears to each person as the thing that they fear the most. For Neville, it is Professor Snape, for Harry, a Dementor, and for Professor Lupin, it is the moon. This individual fear or monster has to be overcome by using the courage and strength that can be found from within. This comes from realizing that it is not really a monster, but a figment of the imagination. What happens, though, if we, like Harry, have some monsters that seem too overwhelming to defeat? Well, I guess then it is a case of seeing whether or not your monster is actually real.

Time for reflection

Did you check under your bed when you were little, only to realize that there was nothing there at all?

We need to face up to what our perceived monsters are and fully check the facts before deciding that something really is monstrous. Do your monsters need to be understood so that you can realize they aren’t really monsters at all, it is simply your perception of the monster that makes it frightening? 


‘Monster’ by The Automatic

Publication date: October 2013   (Vol.15 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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