15 of the most interesting female monsters in fiction

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8. The Gorgon

The whole genesis of the Medusa myth is rooted in some pretty awful sexism. Though the myth varies from place to place, it generally follows as such: Medusa is a beautiful human woman. Poseidon sees her, is entranced by her beauty and, as ancient gods were wont to do, sexually assaults her. This takes place in a temple dedicated to Athena. Instead of protecting the victim, however, Athena decides to punish her. She transforms Medusa into a gorgon, a frightening monster with snakes for hair and the ability to turn people to stone with her gaze.

So, while Medusa’s appearance in films like Clash of the Titans is clearly meant only as a kind of final boss battle, it’s undercut by yet more tragedy. Medusa didn’t ask to have her world and her body violated by two different gods. Probably, if you asked her, she would prefer to have normal hair and the ability to look at people without turning them into statuary, either. She definitely would have wanted Perseus to mind his own business and leave her alone. That’s better than being murdered by a so-called “hero.”

Snake-haired tragedians

Besides Greek myth, Medusa and her fellow gorgons (like some monsters, she works well on a team) have appeared throughout other stories. There’s the rather cheesy 1964 Hammer horror film, The Gorgon.

In that film, set in 1910 Germany, seven different victims have been turned into stone. The local leaders know what’s up, more or less. If nothing else, they know that the local spooky legends of phantoms really don’t need to be investigated. At least, not if the investigators want to remain made out of flesh and bone.

Turns out that the “phantom” in question is one of the last remaining gorgons. She’s defeated, naturally, which may be a mercy given that her snakes have already taken on an immovable, plastic-like form. Still, despite all of the murdering and terrifying appearances, you can’t help but feel a little bad for the Gorgon.

What happened to all of her sisters? How does she feel about being stuck in rural Germany with World War I looming on the horizon? The lot of the monster, especially more-or-less immortal ones, is often loneliness. It’s not an envious fate.