23 Feb

Tea Drinkers roundtable: By the pricking of my thumbs, something adorable this way comes

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday February 23, 2011 | League of Tana Tea Drinkers

The Count Von CountThe League of Tana Tea Drinkers was on the precipice of another disastrous awards endeavor when Groovy Age of Horror’s host with the most, Curt Purcell put forth the idea of a Tea Drinkers roundtable discussion exploring the cognitive dissonance you’d expect to find in cutesy versions of horror memorabilia. Color me fascinated.

There’s a fun sort of irony to be found in tipping horror on its ear and twisting the monstrous into something decidedly not horrifying. Are you a horror fan? Look around your room. How many Leatherface bobbleheads, plush Cthulhus, Count Chocula/Frankenberry/Boo Berry icons do you have within arm’s reach? More than few, I’d wager. You probably even have a box of Fruit Brute that you bought off ebay. I’m no different. As a matter of fact, I live for this crap. When my daughter would watch Sesame Street, I’d make my case why The Count was the coolest muppet on Sesame Street. As a parent of a three year old and a long-running commitment to the horror genre, I find myself trying to pass the torch with every opportunity. At night before bed, we read some of Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls and The Dangerous Alphabet, illustrated by Gris Grimly. We also weave in Boris and Bella, a story about monsters getting along, also illustrated by Grimly. There’s also a spoof of Goodnight Moon called Goodnight Goon that gets a fair bit of rotation and a pop-up book whose title escapes me at the moment, having to do with a kid frightened by the voice of his sister threatening to eat a cookie in spite of the actual monsters and ghosts that live in his house. Take a trip to the library sometime. There’s no shortage of cutesy kids books with a decidedly morbid tilt and I gotta tell ya, most of them are awesome!

The Dangerous AlphabetIve long maintained that the horror genre in its many forms is an amorphous reflection of society’s collective anxieties. The various monsters in horror stand in as a proxy for whatever happens to be scaring the shit out of society and what’s great about that is that most of them are versatile about representing those fears. There’s no fun in sustained fear, though, is there? Many of us come to horror because the jolt that we get from fear is a rush. It’ s a momentary thrill, a sinister joy that comes from laughing at something we probably shouldn’t laugh at, but when you keep those nasty horror vibes going for too long, the fun goes away, swept away by waves of actual despair. Where’s the fun in being bummed out all the time because of the inevitable doom that tends to travel with horror? What we need is a release valve and these cute, Saturday morning cartoon versions of our horror icons tend to act as that valve. Take the threat away and leave in its place a stuffed version of a Lovecraftian fiend and what you’re left with is an adorable reminder of that genre you love in a completely non-threatening package that you can snuggle up to.

A keen eye will notice, however, that this occasion in horror fandom is not something that has necessarily been around forever, nor does it tend to stick around. Bear with me. Continue Reading »