Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh #103 – Cutey Horrors Kawaii!

Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh #103 – Cutey Horrors Kawaii!When I was interviewing Alan Moore about Horror and Lovecraft last week, we touched upon the idea of horrific fantasies being tamed and domesticated in popular culture. There's been a general trend in mainstream culture to re-imagine figures of horror into something cozy, lovable, even sexy, and that trend seems to be getting stronger as time goes on.

Sure, it's one thing for vampires, werewolves, even Death himself, to be portrayed in children's cartoons as comedy characters. The agenda there is clear: they operate on children knowing these are supposed to be figures of terror and become a way for kids to come to terms safely with fear and mortality and, sometimes, as metaphors for multiculturalism and tolerance.

But what about fiction aimed at older audiences and adults?

Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh #103 – Cutey Horrors Kawaii!I'm talking about the TWILIGHTS, the TRUE BLOODS, the annals of Hell and its demons, and most surreal of all, the treatment of the Lovecraft Mythos. Of course, TWILIGHT, TRUE BLOOD and the rest of those supernatural romantic thrillers are primarily aimed at women so they can indulge in taboo fantasies of unsuitable and abusive men: vampires are metaphors for distant, withholding men and werewolves are, I don't know, hairy, muscular, violent men. They might beat you or bleed you every now and then, girls, but they love you, really. And TWILIGHT vampires are all sparkly now, so that's a plus, or so I'm told.

Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh #103 – Cutey Horrors Kawaii!Then there's poor H.P. Lovecraft. Much of his work is treated as a joke these days. G4TV's ATTACK OF THE SHOW has begun a series of running sketches featuring a trying-too-hard Goth girl trying to explain the Lovecraft Mythos (quite accurately, actually) while flanked by a Cthulu that behaved like a pet dog that needed housebreaking and an eyeless minion prone to childish outbursts. SOUTH PARK recent featured Eric Cartman turning Cthulu into his pet and Personal Attack Dog of Terror. My favourite Mythos joke is "When Cthulu calls, he calls collect. Cheap bastard." Of course Japan has also gotten in on the act. Previously, Japanese horror writers have written their own Lovecraft Mythos horror fiction that were said to be quite good, but now the otakus have gotten their hands and brought out things like MOE MOE CTHULU MYTHOS DICTIONARY featuring child-like, big-eyed girls hanging out with tentacle horrors, and a light novel and anime series called HAIYORE! NYARUKO-SAN!, about a teenage boy whose new friend is a cute girl who's really Nyarlathotep taken on human form because she wants to hang out with him. Yes, meet Nyaruko-chan. These are clearly the fantasies of certain Japanese men. We may have entertained the decadent phase of pop culture here…

The Japanese seem to be the most into taking horrific scenarios and making them cute, cozy and even sexy the same way we might try on a new designer jacket with an exotic pattern. They're not Judeo-Christian in their outlook, but they love taking the conventions of Christian horror – Hell, demons, etc – and crafting sexy pop fiction out of them without ever believing in them the way Westerners do. The two series that are currently hugely popular are BEELZEBUB and BLACK BUTLER.

Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh #103 – Cutey Horrors Kawaii!BEELZEBUB is about a high school tough guy and delinquent who's suddenly been charged with taking care of a baby who's the son of the Demon King. With the baby's sexy demon au pair by his side, he has to deal with surrogate single fatherhood while fending off gangs that want to beat him up and demon lords and their minions from hell who want the baby. The whole series is played for wacky slapstick comedy while he goes around trying to fob off the demon baby on someone else, usually a classmate, and sort of glosses over the part about him being primed to become the demon baby's host when the infernal toddler grows up and wraps the whole thing in a warm and fuzzy message about taking personal responsibility and sticking up for your friends, even they are going to bring about Hell on Earth.

BLACK BUTLER is even more dubious. In a Japanese fantasy of a late Victorian England, an orphaned aristocrat moonlights as The Queen's troubleshooter with the help of his butler who's really a demon he made a deal with to avenge the death of his parents. Personally, I catch a creepy child-grooming/abuse vibe from BLACK BUTLER. The aristocrat is a 12-year-old boy who's protected and attended to by his sexy butler who will eat his soul once their contract is fulfilled. The writer-artist, Yana Toboso is a woman who also draws Yaoi, or boy's love, manga, and this series seems to fit into the taboo, abusive, S&M-tinged romantic fantasies that drive the likes of the TWILIGHT series. I've had more than a few geek girls rave about the series to me, and sales of the English translation have been healthy. I'm no psychiatrist, but I'm coming to think the romantic and sexual fantasies of women are far weirder than men's.

Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh #103 – Cutey Horrors Kawaii!What I've been wondering is whether all these fantasies about getting comfortable with horrible things is healthy. Sure, there are loads of real horrors in the world right now – abuse, war, a collapsing global economy that could make everyone's lives miserable, real evil people, and so on. I tend to assume the increasing number of violent fantasies that normalise horrors for both kids and adults is an attempt to mitigate the sense of uncertainty and horror, but we could end up trivialising the horrible and miss their real meaning when everything becomes either a joke or a cozy romantic fantasy. Alan Moore said one reason he wrote NEONOMICON was to remind everyone that what Lovecraft wrote about was terrifying, not trivial.

Maybe it's better to stay afraid of Horror rather than try to chummy up to it or try to have sex with it. Fear is what helped keep us alive, after all.

Doesn't get to be a Horror at lookitmoves@gmail.com

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Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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