Predator: a Memoir, a Movie, an Obsession by Ander Monson
Have you ever watched a movie, TV show, or even listened to a song so much that you could talk someone’s ear off about it? Well Ander Monson did, and instead of talking to us about it, he wrote a memoir. Predator: a Memoir, a Movie, an Obsession takes readers through the critically-acclaimed 1987 film Predator, seemingly frame-by-frame, as a sentiment of his love for the movie. But as the subtitle entails, this is not just a re-telling of the film he holds close, this memoir also tells the story of Monson’s troubled upbringing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, what it means to be American, and men. All these items, Monson shows us, are related to Predator.
The first thing Monson discusses other than Predator is men with guns. He writes that “I feel like I saw enough dudes with guns in the 1980s and 1990s for a lifetime” (4). This is where the writing of Monson begins to shine, and it makes this memoir so much more than just an obsession. But Monson makes the idea of obsession and connections the focal point very early on– “some cops get shot, I think of Predator. Some cops shoot kids. Guns in the grocery store, I think of Dutch, Schwarzenegger’s character” (5). The connections and obsession only escalates from here, and it all serves as a way for Monson to explore society through his own experiences.
Going into this book, I had never even seen the movie Predator. I knew it existed, and I knew it was a good movie, but I didn’t really know what the Predator looked like until I saw the cover of the book! However, my lack of prior knowledge did not deter at all from my reading, but rather it enhanced it! As stated previously, Monson brings readers through the entirety of Predator, complete with time stamps and all. Since readers are led through the whole film, those of us who have never seen it experience it in a very unique way, where we consider the men (of America), Monson included, the homoerotic undertones, the use of guns, and more of the movie.
But what is the point of Monson’s 146 viewings of Predator and his subsequent tangents (I say “tangents” with love)? Well, as much as I’d love to offer a profound meaning to the book, all I can say is that it’s about Predator. More specifically, it’s about the culture surrounding the movie itself, which Monson was actively a part of. For example, Monson writes that “I’m watching 1987 and I’m watching me in 1987. I mean, I watch it all the time. But every time that one line comes up it pushes the needle a little deeper” (61). The line in question is “slack-jawed faggots,” and Monson explains that “it was in the script– it wasn’t improvised. In fact, it was in a version of the script two years earlier” (61). Like many things, Predator, the movie, acts as a product of its time– it shows us what 1987 was like and the culture at the time. At other points, Monson explains how Predator can be watched as a Vietnam movie, or how many fans of it (men) discuss all the “manly” elements, such as guns and violence, but there are actually heavy homoerotic undertones from the very beginning.
Monson discusses how fans of Predator don’t get what he gets from the movie, how other white men his age don’t see the homoerotic undertones, that they stand strong in their reading (viewing?) of the movie as a classic 80s action film. This is what happens when we read Monson’s Predator memoir– we get out of it what sticks with us. Maybe you lean more into the impact of a partner dying of AIDS, such as Paul Monette’s, the author who wrote the novelization of Predator, did; maybe you also resonate with the intertwining of American white men, Predator, and 1987; maybe you focus on Monson’s ideas and notions on gun (control), also analyzed through the movie. For me, I read Predator: A Memoir, A Movie, An Obsession as a novel that allows Monson to discuss multiple topics he associated with the film itself– in a way, he is ranting at us, all while going on tangents about society and himself.