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It comforts them to see an incomprehensible terror from beyond the reach of time reduced to cuddly, huggable teddy bear.
May 4, 2010 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Cthulu Is Not Cute. (NSFW)
posted by shakespeherian (81 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Although, he does clean up well with that extra 'h'.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:40 AM on May 4, 2010


It's Erik Davis, who is usually worthwhile, so I'm bookmarking it for later. Thanks!
posted by gimonca at 6:41 AM on May 4, 2010


The "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" tag is missing.
posted by Ljubljana at 6:44 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Although, he does clean up well with that extra 'h'.

I like to start my day off with a gigantic embarrassing misspelling.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:45 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe we're not actually all trying to reduce our fears of cosmic horror into a form that won't drive us mad, but simply think that HP Lovecraft is kind of silly?

Funny he brings up tentacle porn, because someone once pointed out to me that Cthulhu sounds like it was described by a person very afraid of vaginas.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:51 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


actually, after considering it, I'm guessing Davis goes for the "somewhat silly" angle himself.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:53 AM on May 4, 2010


I used to be slightly irritated with all my "weird" friends insistence on maintaining an 'ironic' dedication to ersatz religious iconography and mythos by obsessing over Lovecraftian lore.

Then some dipshit college kids came up with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Now instead of at least looking semi literate, speaking at length about a legendary author and his storied works, these same people come across as stupid assholes, pointing at a child's drawing of a pile of spaghetti with googly eyes saying "GET IT!? GET IT?! I AM MAKING FUN OF ORGANIZED RELIGION WHY AREN'T YOU PRAISING ME FOR HOW SMART I AM?"

I miss Cthulu.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:54 AM on May 4, 2010 [12 favorites]


someone once pointed out to me that Cthulhu sounds like it was described by a person very afraid of vaginas.

I think they may have been reading the author's biography back into the text.
posted by tigrefacile at 6:55 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh that was delightful.
posted by empath at 7:03 AM on May 4, 2010


plate of tentacles
posted by jfuller at 7:08 AM on May 4, 2010


I rate this article:

Chthonic.

With 12% more gibbering horrors, it could have broken into the lower ranges of the Rugose rating.
posted by Mister_A at 7:13 AM on May 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


fuck cthulu!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:20 AM on May 4, 2010


I liked the first bit. The tentacle porn stuff was too far. Adding intercourse and sexuality into the argument with the "reaction to cute = reaction to porn" point was okay... belabouring it was unnecessary. Lovecraft's stories are full of references to all kinds of unsettling (to him) material realities, and perverse (to him) urges and drives... they are not all about sex. Even if you restrict yourself to the Call of Cthulhu, it'd be an impoverished reading of the story to focus on the slippery, briny, tentacle-y-ness of it all.
posted by ServSci at 7:25 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cthulu cannot be crucified, thus it must be cuteified.
posted by Dr.Rhetoric at 7:30 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was all like, 'safe for work, safe for work, yep still pretty safe for work. hmm, I wonder why this got the... Oh. Tentacle porn.'
posted by kaibutsu at 7:35 AM on May 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


Funny he brings up tentacle porn, because someone once pointed out to me that Cthulhu sounds like it was described by a person very afraid of vaginas.

Actually, it is well documented that the inspiration for the form of Cthulhu comes from HPL's aversion to squid and cephalopod seafood in general. The fact that Cthulhu makes your friend think of a vagina is somewhat strange, I hope it is only because they are not very familiar with what the big C looks like.
posted by Dr Dracator at 7:36 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


From TFA: Cthulhu, of course, is obscene enough on his own—not only are his or its rubbery tentacles and briny origins exhibit A in any Freudian reading of Lovecraft, but his very existence perverts the order of reality. But here is the great secret, my fellow mortals: cute is the true horror, the ultimate obscenity.

No, hipsters are.

There, just saved you several thousand words.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:41 AM on May 4, 2010


The fact that Cthulhu makes your friend think of a vagina is somewhat strange, I hope it is only because they are not very familiar with what the big C looks like.

Well that's pretty understandable - when the Big Guy isn't wearing his 'going out' costume, he actually looks like a lankier version of Robert Redford. His work clothes are pretty distinctive, so that when he's just trying to have a quiet night out he just wears the civvies and no one recognizes him.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:43 AM on May 4, 2010


^m^
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:51 AM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


The "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" tag is missing.

Thank goodness it is, otherwise next we know we'd get Hounds of Tindalos oozing out of every textbox's corner and putting a gruesome end to the site's userbase.
posted by Iosephus at 7:52 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank goodness it is, otherwise next we know we'd get Hounds of Tindalos oozing out of every textbox's corner and putting a gruesome end to the site's userbase.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by briank at 7:54 AM on May 4, 2010


The first two parts reminded me of Tom Smith's "Cthulhu Lite FM".

Dread Cthulhu knew we fight if we're scared,
So he made us so jaded that nobody cared.
With clinic bombings, kids shot at school,
And the W.B. Network -- hey, the Great Old One's cool.
...
Now, the secrets that killed men who lowered their guards
Are collected by children on cool trading cards.
Cthulhu Crunch, part of this nutritious horror;
Visit Cthulhu-dot-com, but -- trust us -- use Explorer.


Combine that with his initial reference to the Tea Party as a reaction to the advance of reason and you could have a whole heaping plate of beans to ponder.
posted by charred husk at 8:00 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Haven't finished reading the whole thing yet. I got carried away by the pictures. This one in particular brings me back to those fever dreams I remember so fondly from my early childhood.
posted by philip-random at 8:04 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Q: How many Lovecraftian protagonists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Just one - but are you sure he should turn it on?
posted by stringbean at 8:12 AM on May 4, 2010 [13 favorites]


The fact that Cthulhu makes your friend think of a vagina is somewhat strange, I hope it is only because they are not very familiar with what the big C looks like.

well, the argument convinced me at the time. not that it looks like a vagina, but that it sounds like what someone scared of vaginas would describe one as being in a Freudian way. looking up the call of cthulhu text, I'm thinking it was all the imagery about:

"The aperture was black with a darkness almost material. That tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneous wings. The odour rising from the newly opened depths was intolerable, and at length the quick-eared Hawkins thought he heard a nasty, slopping sound down there. Everyone listened, and everyone was listening still when It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway into the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness."

Maybe he was just really freaked out by squid, though, definitely can't blame him for that one.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:14 AM on May 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Lasagna Cthulhu!
posted by Greg Nog at 8:20 AM on May 4, 2010


It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway into the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness

This used to be me every morning on the way to work.
posted by philip-random at 8:22 AM on May 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


Then some dipshit college kids came up with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Clearly you haven't been touched by his noodly appendage.
posted by Evangeline at 8:25 AM on May 4, 2010


Q: How many Lovecraftian protagonists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

None. They are all driven mad by the incomprehensibility of the all-enveloping darkness, the sight of nothing and everything, the realization that they are mere leaves on the surface of a primordial pool the depths of which cannot be plumbed... etc., etc.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:25 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

Well, unless you're Grant Morrison, and then you just end up producing AWESOME.

(and/or getting abducted by aliens, your mileage may vary)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:33 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cthulhu matata!
posted by The otter lady at 8:48 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sigh.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:50 AM on May 4, 2010


When not writing about hideous soul sucking horrors what was Lovecraft into? Cats. Case closed.
posted by Artw at 8:55 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


FatherDagon: A relevant track for Mr. Redford's next outing
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:58 AM on May 4, 2010


Cats are hideous soul sucking horrors.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:59 AM on May 4, 2010


No one can be more pissed off about Cutethulhu than Blair Reynolds.
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on May 4, 2010


The phrase "tangy bon-bon of nihilistic materialism" will now be stuck in my mouth for days-'pon-days. Thanks.
posted by ford and the prefects at 9:00 AM on May 4, 2010


Also, according to my daughter, his name is Cuthoothoo.
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Q: How many Lovecraftian protagonists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A; The bulb... I see it! IT TURNS! By itself...! Yog Sothoth save me! I see! I see! Aiee! Iä Iä! The light! Oh great Cthulhu! Iä Iä! fhtagn! etc etc
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:02 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


^m^

^(;,,;)^
posted by adamdschneider at 9:07 AM on May 4, 2010 [13 favorites]


Sometimes a slimy betentacled cave and/or mouth is just a slimy betentacled cave and/or mouth.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:12 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


plate of tentacles

Dammit, now I want calamari and lunch is still hours away.
posted by contraption at 9:21 AM on May 4, 2010


This is pretty interesting, but I can't quit decide if it's meant completely seriously, or if it's at least partially tongue-in-cheek. Either way, it's obviously written by someone who knows the Literature and the Jargon, and there's at least some insight here, but I just can't make up my mind what to think about it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:23 AM on May 4, 2010


I kind of like people to stop referring to every last squid or octopus as "cthulhoid" - Cthulhu is a maelevolent primal force, he's not just the tentacle porn version of Godzilla - but I suspect I'd be waiting a long time on that one.

( Maybe when the stars are right...)
posted by Artw at 9:27 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I admit I didn't yog-sloggoth through the whole thing, but this is a pretty good article, and treats its silly premise quite seriously (but not overly.) Fun!

But, as for the central question of why Cthulu is/is not cute I think the author missed the most obvious point:

Cthulu is not /real/. It is a made-up modern existential horror. To me, the existence of a plushy Elder God is no more anachronistic than a resin doll of Chucky or Jason or any other horror movie figure. More eldritch, to be sure, but not all that different. These are terrible dreams made real enough for our imaginations, but we /know/ they are fantasies.

I mean, we have plushies animals that would maul and eat you as soon as look at you, and those have been around for decades. And now you can get deadly microbe plushies. We are not above infantilizing even real horrors, so why should we draw the line at fake horrors?

It isn't that special, regardless of any underlying meaning of this (post- or otherwise) modern existential diaspora.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:28 AM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can't help feeling that Derleth and his urge to categorise and define everything is a little to blame.
posted by Artw at 9:29 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


A Study in Emerald & I Cthulhu
posted by homunculus at 9:35 AM on May 4, 2010


Can't help feeling that Derleth and his urge to categorise and define everything is a little to blame.

And Brian Lumley who added a whole soap opera of 'good' relatives to The Greqat Old Ones
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:37 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Brian Lumley just doesn't get what made the Lovecraft stories work.
posted by Mister_A at 10:01 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


^m^

^(;,,;)^


(:€

Damn Japanese-style emoticons...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:07 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who wants to criticize Lovecraft for his relationship to women / his sexuality / his misogyny are spelunking down the wrong briny sea caves. Sure, his stories didn't ever really have any women in them, but he was writing for the pulps; almost no one had women in their stories, unless they were damsels in need of rescuing, amazonian warrior babes (in need of rescuing), busty space babes (in need of rescuing), or the occasional post-gothic heroine (in need of rescuing). I don't mean to use this as an excuse, exactly, or that he should be forgiven for not having female characters (that's for the individual to decide), just that it wasn't really that unusual.

As for "reading the author's biography back into the text," anyone trying to derive a fear of women out of his biography isn't reading that very well either. He lived with his mother and then his aunts virtually his whole life, except for the couple of years when he got married (to a Jewish woman, no less). (His wife described him as something like "a more than adequate lover," or a "perfectly adequate lover" or something like that.) Their marriage fell apart not because of any sort of fear of women, but because neither one of them could make enough money that they could actually afford to stay together; their divorce was never finalized.

Finally, in his ridiculously voluminous epistolary life, the gender ratio of his correspondents was not drastically skewed toward men; in fact, in his earlier years, he seems to have corresponded with women more than men, though this seems to have changed as his horror stories gained more attention. When he went on his jaunts around New England, in fact, he visited female and male correspondents more or less equally often.

When it comes down to it, Lovecraft wasn't misogynistic or afraid of women so much as he was mostly asexual; not so asexual that he couldn't get it on (though as far as I know there's no evidence that he ever slept with anyone but his wife), but asexual enough that he never pursued more than the one relationship and didn't seem to miss it terribly before or after. He was just more interested in other things.

This isn't to say that he didn't have a whole pile of issues; dude was racist as the day is long, after all, not to mention he lived with his aunts his whole life, and he had all kinds of well documented phobias and other psychological issues. But full-blown misogyny doesn't really ever seem to have been one of them.
posted by Caduceus at 10:34 AM on May 4, 2010 [13 favorites]


I hear one time he even wrote a story with a woman in it!

(who wasn't a decaying hag possesed by the spirit of a fish beast shaman)
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Basically, the cutification of Cthulhu really boils down to something that Stephen King (a Lovecraft fan himself) wrote in Danse Macabre*: as long as you don't show the monster, your audience can go to work on it with their imaginations and come up with something way creepier (unless they're really unimaginative). When you open the door, no matter how much work you put into your ten-foot cockroach, something in the back of their minds is relieved that it wasn't a twenty-foot roach.

When Lovecraft only hinted at the lurking horrors, he was much more effective. Remember the end of At the Mountains of Madness? Where, after all the Elder Things and the shoggoths and whatnot, one of the survivors gets a glimpse at what's behind the really tall mountains and nearly loses his mind, and babbles a few disconnected phrases about the three-lobed burning eye and whatnot? Much more effective than a big octopus-headed, batwinged critter that looks like something a Japanese monster movie producer might throw together at the last minute out of random bits.

*I think that I've cited this book at least a few times in the blue, but it really is a good meditation, if a bit rambly, on all aspects of horror fiction.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's gratifying to see the pop culture love for Cthulhu, but I'm a bit ambivalent about it, because it has a way of taking awesome things and making them suck, partly through misappropriation and greatly through overexposure. We don't have Cthulhu T-shirts at Hot Topic... yet.

According to the Foreword at the front of the Encyclopedia of the Cthulhu Mythos, Daniel Harms mentions that, for a long time, August Derleth and Arkham House prevented other writers from contributing to the Cthulhu Mythos that they didn't approve of. (Early editions of Call of Cthulhu game materials bear a "by permission of Arkham House" notice.) This is kind of ironic considering that the additions of Derleth and a couple of his protégés, Lin Carter and Brian Lumley, are rather controversial in fan circles. (Fact: Brian Lumley invented Kthanid, Cthulhu's kindly brother.) Arkham House's influence seems to have diminished greatly in recent years, which has alllowed for the greatly increased popularity of Lovecraft, his stories and his ideas, but it's only a matter of time before the merchants of suck get their furry mitts upon the Mythos, and the thought does make me gibber, a little.
posted by JHarris at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2010


(Thinking about it, there probably isn't a super-abundance of Lovecraft shirts and things because there has never been a really popular Lovecraft movie or TV show.)
posted by JHarris at 12:40 PM on May 4, 2010


We don't have Cthulhu T-shirts at Hot Topic... yet.

(Thinking about it, there probably isn't a super-abundance of Lovecraft shirts and things because there has never been a really popular Lovecraft movie or TV show.)


I give Tim Burton five years before he makes a candy-colored overly-striped overly-CGI version starring Johnny Depp as HP Lovecraft who creates stories about monsters because of his absent father.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:47 PM on May 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I would watch that film, just for the sake of the yelling-at-the-screen qualities it would bring out in me.
posted by Mister_A at 12:49 PM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Obviously the man to bring the horror of Lovecraft to screen is Ron Howard.
posted by Artw at 1:00 PM on May 4, 2010


Opie f'taghn!
posted by Mister_A at 1:10 PM on May 4, 2010


Clearly there needs to be some Cthuloid version of Twilight ("Matilda thought new boy in class was sooo hawt! Even if he did smell like fish a bit.")
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:18 PM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Is the abrupt ending supposed to be some sort of meta joke?

No no, dear readers, the ghastly, frightful truth of our condition, which even now tugs on my sanity, is only fully realized by the figure of Cute Cthulhu itself, because Cute Cthulhu is the spawn himself of the ill couplings depicted in tentacle porn—the dread, dialectical media child of cuteness and drive, the ultimate correlation…

Erik Davis was unable to complete this essay. We hope that he will make a speedy recover and return next month with another Pop Arcana.

posted by christopherious at 1:36 PM on May 4, 2010


The Shadow Over Aunt Bee
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:51 PM on May 4, 2010


We don't have Cthulhu T-shirts at Hot Topic

No, but we do have this.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:14 PM on May 4, 2010


...your audience can go to work on it with their imaginations and come up with something way creepier...

*imagines*

It's the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:15 PM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


No one can be more pissed off about Cutethulhu than Blair Reynolds.
It must be said that I had meanwhile also grown increasingly disenchanted and frustrated (again) with the games industry’s orthodoxy, mediocrity, vapidity and apathy. Especially where Lovecraft and roleplaying are concerned, I feel strongly that too many bubbly, juvenile, tender-hearted milksops have infested the genre: Pollyannas promoting a kinder, gentler version of the Cthulhu Mythos by way of Cthulhu plush dolls, Elder Sign earrings, ‘Niggurath nursery rhymes, Miskatonic Christmas carols, and buttloads of other flippant silliness.

And it’s not just the gaming industry. The general population of devotees among “Lovecraftian circles” suffers from a fairy tale misconception of the Mythos, one that I believe would turn poor Howard in his grave if he could see the candy-ass travesty that his grand universe has become. The mainstream Mythos is a dumbed-down and diluted, popularized and trivialized, emasculated cartoon, wholly separate from the dark, unutterable, obscene and blood-soaked savagery that is the true essence of the Mythos, and my contempt for this fashionable, New Age, Hello Kitty Lovecraft is well known.
Someone failed their SAN roll.
posted by Tenuki at 3:05 PM on May 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Artw: "Obviously the man to bring the horror of Lovecraft to screen is Ron Howard"

Holy shit, I thought you were joking. I haven't read the comics, so I don't know how removed they are from Lovecraft's work to begin with, but surely this can't end well. I mean, the guy can't deal with something as bleak and horrifying as grave mental illness without making it kind of cute and quirky and cool.

(Whenever someone tells me how good "A Beautiful Mind" was, I tell them to go see Cronenberg's "Spider" and get back to me.)
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:06 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW, anyone who reads "Cthulhu" as "vagina" either needs to get to the local leather bar, or a GYN.

Just sayin'.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:27 PM on May 4, 2010


Cthulhu's not cute? Don't say that to my hat.
posted by ewagoner at 5:47 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone who wants to criticize Lovecraft for his relationship to women / his sexuality / his misogyny are spelunking down the wrong briny sea caves.

Who's criticizing? I just think it's funny. Pretty sure all the real critiques discuss the racial elements, anyway.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:59 PM on May 4, 2010


The HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast, which i bang on about endlessly, is pretty funny about that when they get to He, which is basically Lovecrafts "I hate New York and all foreigners" story, more so even than Red Hook, and which I would agree with them is a pretty terrible story to boot. They're usually a little jokey, but reign it in enough to discuss Lovecrafts stories properly, but in this case they just let rip.
posted by Artw at 8:23 PM on May 4, 2010


ChurchHatesTucker: "BTW, anyone who reads "Cthulhu" as "vagina" either needs to get to the local leather bar, or a GYN.

I just spent a few minutes trying to figure out a "ghoti is pronounced 'fish'" type thing here, but I had absolutely no luck.

posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:07 PM on May 4, 2010


The Boom! comics' Necronomicon was pretty cool. That would be a good start for a movie. Not much actual cuteness there, unless it's hiding something.

I loved the Family Circus one! There's the core of a feelgood movie right there.
posted by sneebler at 9:13 PM on May 4, 2010


I just spent a few minutes trying to figure out a "ghoti is pronounced 'fish'" type thing here, but I had absolutely no luck.

I'm never going to read The Shadow over Innsmouth the same way again.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2010


Ron Howard Philips Lovecraft
posted by Eideteker at 10:00 AM on May 8, 2010


George R. R. Martin is wrong about Lovecraft (In response to this)
posted by Artw at 9:44 PM on May 10, 2010


My position on so-called "fan fiction" is pretty well known. I'm against it, for a variety of reasons that I've stated previously more than once.

He may come to regret letting the HBO adaption of A Game Of Thrones happen then. There will likely be a flood of the stuff after it airs.
posted by Tenuki at 1:15 AM on May 11, 2010


Perhaps George could get one of fans to write the next book in the Game of Thrones series so he can spend more time watching football, blogging about his themed calendars and other spin-offs, moaning about people moaning about him not writing etc...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:04 AM on May 11, 2010


Hey, he's not your bitch!
posted by Artw at 7:33 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You haven't read my GRRM slashfic, I take it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:30 PM on May 11, 2010


Collosal squid actually kind of crap
posted by Artw at 1:22 PM on May 11, 2010


Instant Cthulhu: Just Add Water
posted by Artw at 8:27 AM on May 30, 2010


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