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Episode Fifty Eight

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Monstrous Agonies E58S02 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Fifty Eight.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through trad music, a voice saying “-major change-”, a voice saying “-and I'm not digging it-”, reggae music and classical music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-feel it brush against your face and awake, cold and frightened.

It's almost two o'clock here on the Nightfolk Network, and time for our advice segment.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

The Nightfolk Network – community owned, community run.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Our first letter tonight is from a listener struggling under the burden of tradition.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

So I'm having a bit of an issue with my mother. There's a big family reunion coming up and it's the kind of thing that means all my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents will be there.

Initially I was very excited, especially as it's the first big family event since my two partners and I moved in together a couple of years ago. I was looking forwards to introducing them to my extended family.

At least, I was until Mother and I were talking on the phone a week ago, and she said asked which of my partners would be joining us at the reunion. I was confused. I said both of them, obviously.

Suddenly, she was all “not sure that's the best idea” and “the older members of the family might not understand”. I started to say that plenty of my cousins had brought partners to previous events and it wasn't as though that had been difficult to explain, when she cut in, saying, “I just assumed that you'd only be bringing whichever one of them has your coat.” I was so stunned. [nervous laugh] I couldn't speak more than a mumbled promise to call her back later.

My family has always been very traditional, holding onto some very antiquated thoughts and customs from the old days. This is especially true when it comes to relationships. And that's fine I guess. I mean I understand the significance of giving a partner your coat as a sign of trust and I'm always happy for my cousins and friends when they tell me about giving theirs to their partners.

But for me it's always felt kind of... gross? And... unbalanced. Especially considering the tradition's history. I don't want to commemorate the fact that my people used to get imprisoned by people stealing their coats and trapping them in one form.

To me, giving my coat to a partner isn't some supernatural marriage contract. It's a symbol of something people did to control us. I know other people like the tradition, and that's great for them but I don't want anything to do with it!

But honestly, the worst part is that Mother has made it clear that she assumes one of the people I love is more important than the other. That I have one relationship that is more real, and that I'll eventually pick one to settle down with. To give my coat to.

Even if I didn't hate the idea of giving my coat to anyone, it's incredibly uncomfortable to even consider and it- it just-- [sighs] It hurts.

I've already talked with some of my cousins and made plans to stay with them instead of my mother during the reunion. My partners are being really lovely about it. But I wish I knew how to explain things to Mother, and to my other relatives. Or at least, how to care less about their opinions.

The Presenter (as themselves)

You've hit the nail on the head here, listener – a good part of dealing with this issue will be managing your emotional response to other people's reactions.

You can, of course, explain the situation to your family. You've explained it quite clearly here, and have done very well at expressing your personal misgivings about giving your coat to a partner, without insulting or belittling those to whom it is important. I have every faith you can manage that again in conversation with your mother or other relatives.

But however well you explain yourself, you can't control how they feel about the matter. You need to work on your own emotional resilience, in case they don't respond well.

Arrange to have a conversation with your mother about the reunion. Make it clear that you will be bringing both your partners, and that you have no intention of giving one of them your coat now or in the future.

You can explain your reasons, but avoid defensiveness. If you feel yourself being pulled into an argument, remain polite but firm and bring the conversation to an end. This isn't a debate. You are an adult, and you're simply informing your mother of a decision you've made about your own, adult life.

You might also prepare a response for when other relatives at the reunion ask about your relationships. You don't need to share anything you're not comfortable with, but it might help you feel more secure to have an answer ready if the topic does happen to come up.

It sounds like your partners are already aware this may be an emotionally difficult event for you. Let them support you as necessary, and otherwise, try not to dwell on your anxieties. This is an event you're looking forwards to – let yourself enjoy it! Throw yourself into things, have fun, and know that whatever other people might think, you're making the right choice for you.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

Are you protected in your workplace? Earworms across the country are reporting record rates of contract breaches and unfair dismissals. Protect yourself. Join InMi, the UK Earworm Union, today. InMi – proud members of the Nightfolk Network.

[End background music]

The Presenter

Remember, our advertising slots are now available to our community shareholders. You can buy shares in the network for just £50, and support the station in its work as a community broadcaster.

Our second letter asks what can be done about misrepresentation in the media.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

Let me get one thing absolutely clear: we were here first. My genus arrived on this plane of existence over six centuries ago. We kept our heads down, minded our own business. And nobody minded us. For six centuries, nobody minded us.

Then that blasted game comes out. It was the late '90s – feels like another world. Creature liberation was only just starting to take off in a mainstream way, and most sapios still thought anything less than screaming at the sight of us was progressive.

You can take your pick of “problematic” rep from that era. It was all problematic. But as bad as it was to see lazy stereotypes and cliché storylines, what happened to us was... [laughs bitterly] so much worse.

I guess the game devs just didn't think anyone would recognise us. We're a minority genus – even within the community, we're not particularly well known. Or didn't used to be. Until they took our image, dropped it into their video game, slapped a whole new name on us, and pretended we were just another fictional creature they'd invented for their idiotic shoot-em-up.

It was so casual! We were just a prop for them to use, just another bit of set-dressing for their lousy story. And nobody noticed. Nobody cared! There just weren't enough of us to make anybody care!

Well. People know about us now. Or they think they do, anyway. They think we're like our video game counterparts – mindless, violent beasts covered in blood. It's a little better than it was – most people don't point and stare when I walk down the street any more. But there's still a generation of gamers who think it's so funny to make jokes about how much better I look than the original graphics.

There are campaigns, you know. They managed to get our image removed from the recent remaster, replaced with an actually fictional creature, though of course, the studio didn't apologise for what they'd done. Still, people are starting to become a bit more aware of the issue.

But I still find myself talking to people, and slowly realising that they think they recognise me. As if they could know anything about my people, my culture, based on one, ridiculous, made-up representation of us in a video game from 25 years ago! How am I supposed to fight this kind of ingrained ignorance?

The Presenter (as themselves)

This is certainly a tricky subject, listener. The issue, at its most basic level, is that of responsibility.

Of course, the original designers of the game are responsible for the harm done to your genus by their blatant misuse of your image. And the publishers, critics and fans are responsible for giving such a game a wide and lasting audience, without listening to the criticisms your genus has raised. It sounds as if they, at least, are being held accountable by the campaign work you mentioned.

But individual players are also responsible for the media they consume, and the degree to which they allow that media to colour their view of the real world. It's frustrating that these people seem either unable or, more likely, unwilling to do their basic due diligence when it comes to internalising the messages they're being sold.

The other question is how much responsibility you feel when it comes to countering this narrative. You want to protect your culture from slander, and stand up for your people. I understand that. Challenging negative assumptions can be an act of self-empowerment and validation. But it can also be extremely draining, both physically and emotionally. Please, do remember to take care of yourself.

With this in mind, I recommend you take these interactions as they come. Different situations will call for a different response. If someone is joyful in their offensiveness, taking pleasure in referencing this video game and unresponsive to your discomfort, they're not worth engaging with. They aren't willing to do the work to improve their behaviour, and it's not your job to make them ready.

If, however, they come from a place of sincere ignorance, you can correct them. Explain that, actually, that piece of media was deeply offensive, and encourage them to do their own research about why. You don't need to handhold them through this – if they care about respecting you, they'll do the work themselves. And if they don't... Well. You can adjust your expectations of them accordingly.

That's all for our advice segment. Stay tuned for another instalment of our history series. This week – how the liminal community exerted their influence during the age of steam...

[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through classical music, pop music, a voice saying “-and many members of the public may see-” and more pop music before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Fifty Eight of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

Tonight's first letter was a submission from an anonymous submitter, the second letter came from Exal, and today's advert came from Sue. Thanks, friends. See the show-notes for details on how to submit your own advert ideas.

Hello and welcome to our latest supporters on Patreon, Kira and There-is-freedom-in-the-dark. Join them at You can also make a one-off donation at, and help us grow our audience by following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence]


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