I don’t think much about having been born male. I’m starting to realize that that’s because I don’t have to. The same is true of being caucasian, although I’ve always objected to the labels of “white” and “black” as being polarizing and wildly inaccurate. Although I grew up in poverty, my “social markers” put me in a place of privilege, even if others sharing my demographic have locked me out of the club. These thoughts were raised by Mallory O’Meara’s excellent The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick. As soon as I saw the book announced, I knew I had to read it. As O’Meara would doubtlessly not find surprising, I had never heard of Milicent Patrick before. I’m not surprised that a woman designed the Creature from the Black Lagoon, however, because woman create memorable monsters (can I get a “Frankenstein”?!).
The reason I don’t think about being male is because the crumbling society built by males assumes that it’s the default. Men have always been shortsighted, I guess. Having been raised by a “single mother” (she was technically not divorced because a male-made religion said it was sinful), I always believed women to be protectors, capable heads of families, and far more empathetic than the men I met. I didn’t realize at the time that we lived so close to the brink because men devalue women. Milicent Patrick grew up in a family where this was much more obvious. A talented artist, she incurred her family’s lasting wrath by going to Hollywood and doing what was then movie makeup work. That she designed the beloved Gill Man makes sense to me.
O’Meara’s book is sure to make thoughtful readers angry. Not at the author, but at the behavior of men. Perhaps due to my unbalanced upbringing, it has taken many years to see what others probably notice much more readily: women have to struggle for that which someone like myself can simply claim. Bud Westmore, Patrick’s boss at Universal, claimed her creation as his own work. There are monsters in this book, and I’ll give you one guess as to their gender. Still, I’m glad to have read it for I know I’ve found another monster fan. O’Meara’s clearly aware of how those of us who admit this odd passion are marginalized in a world that prefers super heroes and those good with finance over those who see monsters everywhere. This is an important book; read it and you’ll see them too.