I decided to kick off my “creature-feature” with a discussion on the BBC TV Series “Being Human”, because that is exactly what monster stories are all about. And here is one that comes right out and says it; this story, of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost, is not about monsters at all.
It’s about Being Human.
[For those of you unfamiliar with this brilliant BBC series, (okay I’m a little fanatical), Being Human is a dramedy about three supernatural beings sharing a flat and trying to live a “normal” life. I am discussing the British original series, not the soon-to-come Americanized version. You can check out a trailer here.]
With their great chemistry, this perfectly cast trio are able play the part of three people with a bond like no other. Our three main characters are the vampire Mitchell, the werewolf George, and the ghost Annie. Although there are obvious advantages to being supernaturals, they would all rather be living an ordinary life. Sure, Mitchell is immortal and both he and George have supernatural strength and accelerated healing. And yes, Annie can teleport and scare the bejesus out of you at will, (not that she would, unless you’re an evil ex-boyfriend), but none of these superhuman abilities make up for what they have lost. Those little things they took for granted while living their normal, human lives have all been snatched away.
Given the title and the theme of the series, I have to wonder if it was at all inspired by the poem by C.S. Lewis, “On Being Human“. In Lewis’ poem, supernatural beings (Angels) have reason to envy us, because for all their majestic beauty and intelligence, the simple pleasures of being human are lost on beings that cannot, for example, feel the air on their skin, or conjure pleasant memories with their sense of smell. (Memories most likely created within the bonds of human relationships.)
Because part of what makes us human are our ties to one another.
Mitchell, George and Annie come together as outsiders in order to feel less alone, to feel connected to something real, to have some semblance of a normal, human life. In this case, friendship is a mirror. Mitchell, George and Annie count on one another to see a reflection of their own humanity, and if one of them fails, they all fail.
The trio of supernaturals are dependent on one another for salvation. For hope. Without the other to confirm their right to live side by side with human beings, there is no hope. Like most relationships, there’s is of love and hate. They love each other for the reflection of the spark that makes us all human, our potential. But at times they resent one another, also for what they see of themselves. It reminds them that they will always be separate from the world, that they will never be fully human, invoking feelings of self-hatred. If one of us can’t manage to walk the line between monster and human, how can I?
Being Human has many other themes that I will not explore in this post, such as the life-altering consequences of our decisions, massive guilt, anxiety, addictions, and the cycle of life and death.
But what I love most about this series, is how it explores feelings that we all have, that little voice that tells us we are alone, outcasts, separate. That feeling that maybe we’re not as good as we think we are, or as righteous as we want to be. That fear that one day we will give in to some of our darkest moments. Life is hard, and none of us are perfect. We all have a little monster inside of us, and every monster has a saving grace.
What matters is the choices we make. It doesn’t matter how we come to exist in this world, or what kind of curse we’re given, or that somebody has tried to steal our voice.
What matters is…Being Human. It’s a choice.