Generations differ on movie monster picks

By ED SUSMAN, UPI Science News   |   Aug. 25, 2002 at 9:16 AM
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CHICAGO, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- When it comes to a favorite movie monsters, the over-30 crowd loves tormented, though murderous souls like Frankenstein, Dracula or even the giant ape King Kong, but the younger generation prefers monsters like Freddy Krueger, of "A Nightmare on Elm Street," for his killing prowess and imaginative ways of dispatching victims.

"Monsters are liked for their intelligence, superhuman powers and their ability to show us the dark side of human nature and thus allowing us to participate vicariously in some of these normally forbidden activities," said Stuart Fischoff, professor of media psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, whose laboratory surveyed 1,166 people.

Respondents to the survey named 205 different monsters -- with Dracula or some kind of vampire registering 133 votes, the most references. Another 97 people mentioned Freddy Krueger, the giant lizard Godzilla garnered 75 mentions and 61 people named Frankenstein and his various relatives. Some people even named Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson and Shelley Winters as their favorite monsters.

"Everybody loves monsters," said Sandra Russ, professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "Our favorites tell us something about ourselves. I personally am interested in Dracula and others that show troubled psychology, characters that are tormented and alienated from society."

Russ said one interesting finding of the survey was the researchers did not detect much difference between the sexes in their movie monster favorites -- although there was a difference in age.

Fischoff, dressed in a black Dracula-style cape, presented the survey results at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. His co-investigators also wore costumes, such as "The Bride of Frankenstein" or victims of vampires.

The researchers collected responses from radio call-in shows and Internet surveys, or from shoppers at malls and travelers at bus and air terminals. The respondents ranged in age from 16 to 91, Fischoff told United Press International.

"This is not flaky research," said Stephen Hard, a social psychology researcher at Central Connecticut State University, New Britain. "It is a very interesting study. These are (large) numbers of people surveyed, which would tend to validate the findings."

The younger participants in the survey -- those 25 years of age or under -- listed Freddy Krueger as their favorite monster, followed by vampires, Chucky the demon doll, the seemingly unkillable Michael Myers of the "Halloween" series and Godzilla.

The middle group -- aged 26 to 49 years -- ranked vampires first, then Godzilla, Frankenstein, Freddy Kreuger and the acid-slime drooling monster from the "Alien" movies.

Those over age 49 selected vampires first, then Frankenstein, King Kong, Godzilla and E.T. -- possibly the least threatening of any monster in the list. E.T. made the top 25 list in each group.

Other monsters listed by all three groups in the top 25 included Jason Vorhees, who committed mayhem against teen victims in multiple "Friday the 13th" movies; Hannibal Lecter, of "Silence of the Lambs"; actress Linda Blair, as the possessed girl in "The Exorcist"; the masked multiple murderers from the "Scream" movies; "The Mummy", and "The Blob" -- an amorphous alien that snuffed out dozens of Midwestern citizens before Steve McQueen froze it in the 1958 camp horror classic.

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