We in the Mothman fandom have come to think of him as a mascot for the absurd, the misunderstood, and the queer. His ascent is similar to that of the gay Babadook, a phenomenon that took over pride season this year — for the uninitiated, he was the creature in the top hat with long claws whom you might have seen vogueing in parades across the country. As the world around us seems to descend into political and environmental chaos, Mothman and his motley crew of monsters have become queer icons — much to some people’s confusion. But their rise makes perfect sense when we look at our histories.
Where I’m from, a small town in the middle of nowhere, the gay man was the bogeyman. He was constantly waiting to prey upon the hapless straights in their locker rooms, salivating at the prospect of converting them to the gay dark side with his bite. All things evil and repulsive were his domain — report cards, emotions, curfews, and books, to name a few. All these things were gay, because they were bad.
Like many other young queer people, I rooted for the villains in Disney movies, who were often coded to have traits similar to mine, like Scar’s dripping sarcasm or Jafar’s fondness for eyeliner. The heroes seemed to have more in common with the people that made my life miserable. They always ended up in a heterosexual relationship, of course — their reward for beating down the queer baddies who had dared to rise above their station. The villains, meanwhile, were always sent back to where they belonged: in hell, or the at bottom of the ocean, or hidden away in a lamp. Out of sight.
Now, when LGBT rights are under attack and the future is anything but certain, there has emerged among some queer people a renewed interest in drawing strength not from institutions, which have largely failed us, but from our countercultural roots, our historic defiance of norms. Oh, so you think queer people are monsters? We’ll show you monsters. And this time, no one’s locking us back in a cage.
This Tumblr post with over 50,000 notes sums up the sentiment well: Queer people, finally fed up with being called villains, decide to reclaim cryptids as their own. It’s a delicious subversion of the rhetoric that has historically been used against us: a reclamation, a reappropriation, a hijacking. Then there’s this one, which depicts a marriage ceremony with the Mothman as the groom, making moth noises instead of saying his vows, putting a hilarious twist on a traditional institution.
While there’s been a long tradition of reappropriating queer villainy, multiple factors have conspired to make our current era a golden age — and one factor in particular. After the election, it became clear that the White House probably wasn’t going to be lit up in the colors of the rainbow anytime soon.
This partly explains why the gay Babadook became the pride icon of 2017, after being mistakenly labeled as an LGBTQ film on Netflix. The Babadook, a fictional character in the eponymous horror film who terrorized a family’s home in Australia, was a fitting metaphor for queer people’s potential roles under the Trump administration: We will be the antagonists.
Queerness has always held up a mirror to mainstream society in order to mock it. Camp has historically drawn from the ridiculousness of the cisgender, heterosexual world to critique and ridicule its oppressive social norms. This obsession with labeling cryptids and monsters as queer, a practice that is in turns nihilist, absurdist, and completely illogical, is a perfect parody of the time we live in. Read more via Buzzfeed