In the fifteenth episode of Monster, I am certain that by the time I reach the end of this series, I will have run out of ways to state just how ridiculous unprepared I was for all of this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Monster.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse (particularly of sex workers), Nazism, right-wing extremism, and racism/homophobia
Hi. That was… an episode. An episode that happened and I wasn’t prepared for and I’m still just not at all ready for Monster.
There’s a lot here meant to unnerve us, and firstly, I want to talk about how the show builds up the idea of The Baby. The very name of this man is creepy, and he’s spoken of in reverential tones. He is someone to be feared, someone who values power (and has a whole lot of it), and someone who delegates lower tasks so as to keep their identity as mysterious as possible. He’s like a mob boss, and initially, I was curious if that was where this was headed. The archetypes were there, and the business he seemed to run with sex workers out of the Candy pub definitely made it easy for me to assume I knew what I was about to watch.
Yeah, if only. I will say this: I’m not sure if we’re meant to see The Baby as a person who is just short or a little person, and it makes a difference in terms of using a disability as a means of communicating the monstrous. Which is something that we’ve talked about on Mark Watches many times over the years, and I’m curious if that is how others read the depiction of The Baby. The truth is that I find so many other things more monstrous about this character, like the way he talks so openly as a right-wing fascist and his treatment of Dr. Tenma. Those are clearly horrible things that the show WANTS us to recognize as horrible, you know? They’re not quirks, but qualities and beliefs meant to be seen as horrific.
Seeking the Truth
And it’s through both Tenma’s and Nina’s pursuit of the truth that they both end up in the clutches of this neo-fascist organization. I know that I mentioned this before in previous reviews, but it really is vital that I acknowledge how much this show is rooted in a place and a time. This has to unfold in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, as right-wing extremists were gaining members and power. And this show (and I assume the source material) is unafraid to be very explicit about that. It’s not until we see inside the home of The Baby (is that his home???) that the truth about this organization is revealed. What Nina and Dr. Tenma discover presents us with a fuller portrait of the aim of these people, and… y’all. Y’all!!! What the fuck is this show??? A new Hitler? A genocidal attack on the Turkish population in Frankfurt??? I AM NEVER READY FOR THIS DAMN SHOW.
Let me start with Nina’s plot, as I feel like I have a bit more experience here to discuss what the show is doing. Nina is still determined to find her brother and kill him, and it’s what brings her into the Candy Club, where sex workers are not allowed to do business until they meet with and are “approved” by The Baby. But all of this feels more like some sort of exploitative front for what the group really wants to do. Which makes me wonder about the woman Nina discovers through that chilling conversation down the drain in the bathroom. How many others were kidnapped like that? How many others were subjected to this kind of nightmare because they were Turkish? While I’m not Turkish myself, I experienced this specific form of xenophobia while I traveled through Germany and the Nordic countries back in 2015. Bigots couldn’t even read me correctly and CONSTANTLY thought I was Turkish, and holy shit. I can’t speak specifically to this experience, but even being associated with it meant that I got a glimpse into how virulent this form of prejudice is. I was followed in stores, interrogated constantly, treated terribly by train conductors… y’all, it was a LOT. So even though this transpired so far ago, I still felt like this story was grounded in something deeply real.
Given how many of these neo-fascist organizations are empowered these days, the whole reveal of the plan to bait Johan so he can become this group’s next Hitler was… lord. What the FUCK. How does this show keep changing up on me??? All of this stems from the group’s obsession with Johan, who they somehow believe is well-suited for this role. Those scenes with Professor Goedelitz are HORRIFYING, y’all. And did anyone else catch the imagery with the fruit? I feel that was a direct way of communicating decadence and class to Nina, and it was so deeply disturbing.
Actually, so was the torment of Dr. Tenma. Christ, his beating was so goddamn intense. I do appreciate that the show isn’t ignoring how Dr. Tenma would be othered in a situation like this, though I am DEEPLY worried about what fate awaits him while he’s in the hands of these people. One thing that’s fascinating to me is that Dr. Tenma keeps discovering new worlds as he pursues Johan. How many other people know about Johan? How many others in the government ware seeking him out? And what will they be willing to do to have him on their side?
HI WHAT IS THIS SHOW
The video for “Be My Baby” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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