Friday, May 14, 2010

Stuff: "Dig down far enough into this oogly-googly magnetism, and you will find yourself kneeling before the most depraved and nihilistic of gods."

One of the oddest things about the enduring popularity of the work of H. P. Lovecraft is that, among all the various cult fandoms in horror, it might the intentionally goofiest. Despite the relentless nihilism of the Cthulhu mythos and the grim and somewhat humorless rep of the author himself, Lovecraft's fans enjoy being silly. Really really silly. Is it a reaction, conscious or otherwise, against the bleak core of Lovecraft's art, some mass subversion in the guise of fan love? Is it a natural consequence of Lovecraft's famously overwrought prose? Perhaps, as time has pushed his unique style closer and closer to self-parody, Lovecraft's fans have stepped in to make the parody explicit.

I've never been able to rig up a satisfactory answer, but Erik Davis over at HiLobrow stares into the face of wacky madness and confronts the rise of Cute Cthulhu. [Warning, the illos get very NSFW at the end of the essay - CRwM] From his article:

At the risk of madness, we must study the anomaly at hand, that monstrous correlation known as the Cute Cthulhu: the chimeric fusion of Lovecraft’s obscene and infamous octopoid monster with that gooey, hard-wired mammalian sentiment now propagated through Japanimation, infantilizing design, and the spewing cute feeds of the Internet. Cute Cthulhu entered our dimension in force a decade ago, when Lovecraft’s “green, sticky spawn of the stars,” who even now lies dreaming in the sunken city of R’lyeh, transformed into a cuddly green plush toy designed and sold by a company called ToyVault.

What's he conclude? Well, half the fun is getting there, but I'm no tease:

But here is the great secret, my fellow mortals: cute is the true horror, the ultimate obscenity.

Part of this horrible obscenity lies in the ability of cute to undermine human reason and agency. The return of the Great Old Ones will reduce every human being unlucky enough to be alive to utter helplessness. But so too do we all become drooling sock-puppets of mammalian algorithms when confronted with furry exteriors, chirpy voices, disproportionately large eyes and heads, charming reductions of scale, and goofy facial expressions. Just watch heads turn in the grocery aisles as a particularly photogenic baby gets paraded by on the shopping cart, or watch your own heart melt when that little puppy with the velvety ears stumbles over a bone. Dig down far enough into this oogly-googly magnetism, and you will find yourself kneeling before the most depraved and nihilistic of gods: the abject.


Indeed.

If you've got enough sanity points left, check it out.

6 comments:

Sarah said...

I forget where I saw it, but somewhere online there is a little cartoon called "Lil Chthulu" that combines Chthulu with a children's story. It's pretty funny.

B-Sol said...

Fascinating stuff. I think ol' HPL would be scratching his head at the whole phenomenon!

CRwM said...

Sarah,

Another manifestation of the phenom. Thanks for the tip.

CRwM said...

B-Sol,

I agree. And not just the cute Cthulhu stuff. I think he'd be baffled in general by how much fun - plain ol' silly fun - people have with his nightmares.

Bill said...

It's an odd and unhappy fact that creatures that were supposedly indescribeable twenty or thirty years ago have found a familiar face these days. I'm fairly certain that Gahan Wilson, the various illustrators of the gaming guides, and Guillermo del Toro, all must shoulder the greatest part of the burden. Shame on them all. Shame.

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