The Love Monster
Emily Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters depicts the events of main character Karen’s life as the daughter of a single mother in a poverty-stricken household, trying to survive the struggles of being different in a conservative Catholic school. In an effort to provide readers with the full experience and complexity of a child’s imagination, Ferris tells the story in the form of a comic book from the point of view of Karen.
Like most children, Karen is relatively naiive. Her greatest concerns are her friends in school and finding her next captivating adventure. However, Karen’s innocence is tainted by the troubles of a difficult homelife, consisting of a wildly superstitious mother, rebellious older brother, absent father, and mentally ill neighbor. Through Karen’s mentionings of discrimination, racism, bullying, and anger-ridden men it becomes clear that these negative factors in her environment influence her overall outlook on life.
These effects are most noticeable in Karen’s views on love and relationships. One drawing in what is presumably Karen’s journal shows a horned monster whose bony fingers and sharp claws reach forward in an attempt to capture two terrified lovers. This gruesome image is accompanied by the caption “I don’t know what happened between my mother and father or what is up with Deeze and his girlfriends, but I’ve come to believe that love is actually the weirdest monster out there. And if you think love doesn’t rip people to bloody shreds… YOU’RE DEAD WRONG!”
The juxtaposition of this adult-topic regarding a lack of faith in relationships (and the pain that comes when these relationships fail) and a child’s fearless, neverending imagination is mirrored in the details of Karen’s drawing:
The most obvious example of this is the physical features of the creature shown, as its face is drawn in the shape of a literal heart. This indicates that this is not just another zombie, ghost, vampire, or werewolf like Karen’s many other subjects of her illustrations, but the physical embodiment of love itself. Its green fangs, witch-like warts, and protruding horns confirm that this thing is in fact an evil monster, hungry for love-ridden souls.
In addition, the monster’s skin is bright red, the color of passion and its subcategories of love and danger. The color red is proven to evoke strong feelings of excitement, including heightened senses and increased energy. When looking at something red, people and animals are biologically engineered to think of blood, meat, and internal organs, evoking a level of alertness unattainable with any other color. A number of phrases are associated with the color as well, including “red-hot,” “seeing red,” and “red-handed.” Whatever thoughts a person is presently having are intensified when accompanied by this color, indicating that the artist’s opinions on love and relationships are aggressive and vehement.
Below is a color chart of “key emotions that are said to be stimulated in one form or another by the individual colors themselves.”