Over at The Atlantic, I took a look at NBC’s reboot of The Munsters, Mockingbird Lane, and beyond that, the question of what monsters are for and whether they can have any actual impact when they’ve become ubiquitous:
So if we aren’t supposed to be frightened of the Munsters, what are they for? Mockingbird Lane has stripped away the working-class symbolism of The Munsters, which at the time was meant as more direct commentary on a kind of family sitcom that doesn’t quite exist anymore, replaced by self-aware, upper-middle-class juggernauts like ABC’s Modern Family. Herman no longer works at a funeral home, or even seems to work at all, and Lily’s so ethereal—she appears in clouds of smoke and wears designer frocks weaved for her by friendly spiders—it’s hard to imagine her starting up even so posh a business as a beauty parlor. Grandpa may disdain the neighbors, but that’s just because they’re human and not for any more-revealing reason. Marilyn, the sole member of the family who doesn’t exhibit any monstrous traits, is presented more as a chipper agent of the Munsters’ interests than, as she was in the original, someone whose values and sense of self turned out very differently than they might have otherwise had she grown up in a fully human family. There’s no real sense of darkness Marilyn is either drawn to or has to conceal from the world at large: Everything happening around her is too brightly lit and flip in tone for the show to communicate any sense of danger.
If every person, every anxiety, every repressive impulse, is monstrous, then it’s awfully hard to distinguish what should actually be frightening, what’s actually momentous, what actually requires a major battle.