During the latter half of the 20th century, prominent movie monsters such as "Jason", "Freddy Krueger", "Mike Myers" et. al. filled the roles of our collective anxieties and fears of suburban USA. Movies such as "Alien" and "Terminator" not only gave a dimension of horror in science fiction but also played on the female fears with regard to childbirth and divorce. Whilst new characters emerged, oldies such as Dracula and Wolfman continued to provide their regular scares now and then. For sure, we've also reinvented and rebooted many of the old characters and applied them to the modern world. The host of DC and marvel superhero movies testify to this. Zombies were no longer the supernatural undead but a rabid host of regular people infected with an engineered virus. Vampires became moody high school children and aliens eventually all became short, grey, big black eyes with bulbous heads eager to sexually molest random populations primarily in the USA. These all represent something meaningful in our societal psyche and I don't deny their validity. However, surely there are new characters/ideas representing novel things that do not need to be shoe-horned into the old skins and narratives. These are the monsters and heroes that I would like to identify and discuss. But before we begin, there are a few guiding rules to state.
1. We must only accept characters and ideas that became prevalent in the public sphere after the cold war (i.e. 1990).
2. "Old idea - new skin" or conversely "New idea - old skin" are easy to spot but acceptable. However they should be limited as there are too many of these in the current culture of rehashes and reboots.
And so let us begin. The three biggest disruptive things that affected everyone in the world in the 1990's were the end of the cold war, the proliferation of personal computers and wide-spread internet access. Therefore it's reasonable to look for new characters from these disruptions affecting the cultural thought. The "Terminator", the machine horror at this point had become the "divorced dad hero" in the second movie of the franchise and it was no longer quite the right fit for the internet age. Thankfully before the decade was to end, the "Matrix" had filled this role and had seated itself as the source of mythos for the internet experience and also provided a continuation of the same kind of fear for artificial intelligence as was instilled by the original terminator. There were certainly other related cyberpunk-like storylines such as "Ghost in a shell", "Appleseed" and "Johnny Mnemonic" that helped create the world of the Matrix. However the horror element was not as extensive in these stories and perhaps the attraction of a super hero origin story was the missing ingredient. The character "Neo" was essentially a super hero when it came down to the basic shell of the story. He's a nobody at the start of the movie and by the end becomes "The One", the all powerful prophecised demi-god who leads the charge against the machines. In this sense, he's a superhero of the 21st century, created from our sense of wonder regarding the internet. An expressionless avatar in a virtualized world who battles the oppressive forces to free the minds of the imprisoned. The idea certainly struck a chord with many but it faded in popularity rather quickly as the internet itself morphed into a different experience with the arrival of social media and smart phones, and what came to be known as "Web 2.0". And what kinds of characters did we get through that transition (aside from the likelihood that Neo will resurrect as Neo 2.0 in the latest franchise, mirroring the "new" web)?