Metanarrational Monsters, Part Two – Transformational Love Monster

Archetype One –
Transformational-Love Monster

Shrek: Fiona? Are you all right?


[Fiona looks at herself, and sees she is still an ogre]


Princess Fiona: Yes. But, I don’t understand. I’m supposed to be beautiful.


Shrek: But you are beautiful.


Donkey: I was hoping this would be a happy ending…


[Shrek and Fiona kiss]


–  From Shrek [2001]




It many seem a bit odd to begin a discussion of monster archetypes with one that involves the idea of love. After all, monsters are supposed to be scary and horrifying, right? For some people, however, such as those with autistic disorders that interfere with perceptual and inter-relational capabilities (like Aspergers Syndrome,[1] for example) the idea of finding a relationship with another person can be seen as a genuinely terrifying and/or monstrous task.


The example of the transformational-love monster is one that is both very deeply historical and varied. An early example of this is the classic story of Beauty and the Beast, in which a young, beautiful prince trapped in the body of a monster can only be freed by love. This archetype is one that is re-imagined in various iterations throughout pop culture both in music videos, such as Meat Loaf’s[2] I Would Do Anything For Love,[3] and a recent series of films, Shrek, which explore the ideas of being a monster and being turned back into a prince. In Shrek, the idea is reversed (as a comic foil) as both the characters of Shrek and Princess Fiona are actually intermittently turned from ogre back to human and vice versa, through the plots of the different respective movies. In the end, however, Princess Fiona chooses to remain an ogress – to remain like the natural state of the ogre that she truly loves.[4] Her choice has made her a fixture in the cinematic imagination and a search on the Internet will find homemade tributes to her produced by her many fans celebrating the true beauty of her own transforming love.[5]


Shrek[6] built its plot device upon the foundation of the classic story of Beauty and the Beast, which is an indelible part of the public imagination. Beauty and the Beast serves as a kind of repository for thematic ideas that find traction in virtually every aspect of culture and media, even rock and roll, as is the case with Meat Loaf’s before mentioned music video for his classic song, But I Won’t Do That, from Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell [1993]. The video won him a Grammy award for Best Rock Solo Performance, though music critics hated it and it was put on many of their “Worst Of” lists of 1993.[7] In the video[8] Meatloaf plays an apparent beast – though there are also allusions a vampire mythos/meta-narrative. Through the apparent power of love, Meatloaf is transformed from his beastly appearance into that of a normal man. As is the nature of cultural artifacts that have become pervasive in the collective civil conscious, they too are subject to both reinterpretations and even outright lampooning.[9]


But even before there was rock and roll music, the Transformational Love Monster was alive and well on the stage with Philip Glass’ 1946 opera La Belle et la Bête, aka Beauty and the Beast.[10] Glass’ work was again brought back in 1994, as an opera sung as the soundtrack to the movie,[11] which is regarded as one of the greatest cinematic interpretations of the classic.[12] The source for the original mythology, however, was not a music video or an opera but rather a literary story, one written by the French writer Madame Gabrielle–Suzanne de Villeneuve in 1740.[13] Villeneuve’s story itself also reaches back into an important substrate for folklore and fairytales: the fantasies of animal brides and bridegrooms coupled with the tantalizing mystery of transformational magic.[14]


It is this deep-seeded fascination with the power of love and magic to transform both the devoted and the beloved that gives the Transformational Love Monster its powerful affect upon the imaginations of both young and old. Many young people will remember the cinematic interpretation of the Beauty and the Beast story in Disney’s animated version [1991][15] and the later Broadway[16] musical version, which is still in production and on tour.[17]


Whereas the ethos behind Beauty and the Beast speaks of true love’s power to change the monstrous into something beautiful, older movie goers may remember a movie, Bella Lugosi’s The Invisible Ghost [1941],[18],[19] that bespoke something very different and much darker about the power of love: that it could make the ugly beautiful, but it was also capable of transforming the peaceful into something quite terrifying. In this black and white classic, Bella Lugosi plays Charles Kessler, an upstanding citizen in his community. Kessler is shown to be a bit of an oddball, as on the day of his and his wife’s anniversary, he sits down and pretends to have dinner with her. The only problem is, she isn’t there, and he doesn’t act like it. He believes she has run away but that she is destined to return. However, the truth is something quite different. His wife has partially recovered from a devastating car accident and is in the care of his gardener, in the basement of the small house he lives in nearby. During a storm, however, she ventures out. Mr. Kessler, one dark and stormy night, looks out and sees his wife and is struck mad by her visage. He goes into a zombie state and claims the first of many of his future victims. In the morning Kessler awakes, never knowing that he is a murder. Kessler is never suspected until the end of the film when one of the police detectives find his wife wandering around outside and bring into the house. Upon bringing her into the room, Mr. Kessler experiences his break and then subsequently tries to kill one of the officers. Only then do the authorities know who the true killer is.[20]


In the extremely popular video game Chrono Cross, the story unfolds of a young man, Kid, who is searching for his lost love, Serge, across the dimensions of space and time. In this case, time travel and quantum physics play the transformative agents that separate two loves.[21] The end of the game poetically leaves the question of whether they find one another in the end potentially and heartbreakingly unanswered. [22]


The transformational love monster is perhaps the most categorically promiscuous of all the archetypes. Love and its transformative effects are often intrinsic plot devices that run along other monster archetypes in many classic interpretations. For instance, in the Hammer production of The Mummy [1959],[23], [24] it is the Egyptian high priest Kharis’s desire to be with his secret love, the stunningly beautiful and recently deceased and mummified Princess Ananka, that compels him to attempt the blasphemy of trying to bring her back from the dead. Kharis (played by Christopher Lee) is cursed to protect his queen for all eternity as punishment for his crime when he is caught trying to read the sacred scroll of life in an attempt to bring the object of his desire back to life.[25]  In this version, The Mummy represents the unpredictability of love and how even the processes of love can be confusing, painful and ultimately the cause for a curse upon those who are involved. When we see the Transformational Love Monster archetype, the horror of the mummy – lurching and struggling as he walks – fades into the background and the viewer feels sympathy for Kharis. Perhaps what has happened to him is nothing that could not happen to our own selves were we in his same situation. The horror of the mummy is sublimated into our understanding of our own hearts. We are compelled to wonder if we ourselves would become just such a mummy monster were we found guilty of trying to access the forbidden and the extraordinary to be reunited with our own lost and secret loves. In this movement, the mystery of the past is appropriated as our own potential mystery and we participate in the question that it both asks and leaves unanswered: could love ever make us such a monster?


If Meatloaf’s song I Would Do Anything For Love is representational of a song involving Transformational Love that has a happy ending – there are many more songs that tell a different story. Love songs sing all along the whole of gamut of human emotions – and the sad ones, as Elton John once sang – say so much.[26] Perhaps none is as beautiful as the haunting lyrics of the late Jeff Buckley’s song Hallelujah.[27],[28]




i heard there was a secret chord


that david played and it pleased the lord


but you don’t really care for music, do you


well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth


the minor fall and the major lift


the baffled king composing hallelujah








well your faith was strong but you needed proof


you saw her bathing on the roof


her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you[29]


she tied you to her kitchen chair


she broke your throne and she cut your hair


and from your lips she drew the hallelujah








baby i’ve been here before


i’ve seen this room and i’ve walked this floor


i used to live alone before i knew you


i’ve seen your flag on the marble arch


but love is not a victory march


it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah








well there was a time when you let me know


what’s really going on below


but now you never show that to me do you


but remember when i moved in you


and the holy dove was moving too


and every breath we drew was hallelujah




well, maybe there’s a god above


but all i’ve ever learned from love


was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you


it’s not a cry that you hear at night


it’s not somebody who’s seen the light


it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah








In her book Against Love, Laura Kipnis makes a polemical argument against love as a wonderful and beautiful thing “poking holes” and arguing that it has does have a dark side[30], readily capable of make Kharis-like creatures out of us: monsters of us all. Perhaps – for some of us – it already has.



[2] Meat Loaf is the stage name of musician and actor Marvin Lee Aday, (

[3], I Would Do Anything For Love, official music video.

[5], YouTube Princess Fiona fan tribute (with Alexander Burke singing Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah as the soundrack).

[7], information and statistic for Anything For Love.

[8], I Would Do Anything For Love, official music video.

[9] (Meat Loaf: Literal Video Version (Anything For Love).

[15] Internet Movie Database entry for Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast (1991).

[16] The official Broadway Database entry for the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast.

[18] Internet Movie Database entry for The Invisible Ghost [1941].

[19] movie trailer for The Invisible Ghost [1941].

[23] trailer for The Mummy [1959].

[24] Internet Movie Database entry for The Mummy [1959].

[28] Music video of Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah.

[29] An allusion to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah.

[30] “It’s a new form of mass conscription: meaning it’s out of the question to be summoned by love, issued your marching orders, and then decline to pledge body and being to the cause. There is no way of being against love precisely because we moderns are constituted as beings yearning to be filled, craving connection, needing to adore and be adored, because love is vital plasma and everything else in the world just tap water. We prostrate ourselves at love’s portals, anxious for entry, like social strivers waiting at the ropeline outside some exclusive club hoping to gain admission to its plushy chambers, thereby confirming our essential worth and making us interesting to ourselves. But is there also something a bit worrisome about all this uniformity of opinion? Is this the one subject about which no disagreement will be entertained, about which one truth alone is permissible? (Even cynics and anti-romantics: obviously true believers to the hilt.) Consider that the most powerful organized religions produce the occasional heretic; every ideology has its apostates; even sacred cows find their butchers. Except for love. Hence the necessity for a polemic against it. Polemics exist to poke holes in cultural pieties and turn wisdom on its head, even sacrosanct subjects like love. A polemic is designed to be the prose equivalent of a small explosive device placed under your E-Z-Boy lounger. It won’t injure you (well not severely); its supposed to shake things up and rattle a few convictions.” Laura Kipnis, Against Love – A Polemic, from the chapter Reader Advisory, pg. 4.





About hollerscholar

I'm a theology & philosophy student, writer, web developer, and medical laboratory professional.
This entry was posted in Cinema Studies, Cultural Mythology, Dystopicism & Fear, Existentialism, Horror (Classic), Philosophy Studies, Propaganda Studies, Transformational Love Monster Archetype and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s