Friday, April 2, 2010

Of women, cephalopods and space monsters

On Tuesday while I was perusing the various message boards over on Ravelry, I came upon a thread about a rather offensive video game. Yes, of course I had to go read it and see what had upset this woman so very much. The video game was about rape, and I would have stopped reading it except for the discussion had sequed into some observations about Japanese culture.

I'm the first to admit that I don't know much about Japanese culture as there are other cultures that interest me more, so I read a bit more, and that is when a side topic of certain types of Japanese pornography appeared.
Apparently there is a subgenre that is of women being ravished by tentacle monsters. Yes, you read that correctly. To illustrate the point, one of the Ravelers linked to a picture from 1820 that demonstrates this. Before you go look, let me say that it's probably not safe for work, definitely not safe for your kids, and that what has been seen cannot be unseen. I've piqued your curiousity now, haven't I? Here it is.

Let's take a minute and talk about it, shall we? My first reaction was a mixture of "ewww!" and laughing. Yeah right, that's what women dream. Who wouldn't want to get it on with an octopus instead of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn? As for Keith's reaction when I showed it to him, well, I got another laugh out of that. The look on his face was so funny to me. It was mostly disgust. However, he did say the octopus looked like an alien, and that's when the thought hit me. If you look at science fiction, there seems to be a tradition of tentacled aliens. Let's look at a few of them after you indulge me while I ramble.
Why are cephalopods used as aliens so much? If you've read my blog for any length of time, you will know that I think they are amazing creatures. Not in the "I want to take one to bed" sort of way, but in a "wow, how do they do that?" way. The various members of this class of creatures can do so much that astounds humans. They are quite intelligent. (Which can be astounding enough considering what we encounter going about our daily lives. Imagine if the DMV were run by cephalopods.) This intelligence allows them to reason to some extent. Their skin changes colors to indicate emotions or to allow it to camoflage itself. I do love in one of the documentaries how a smaller male cuttlefish changes its color to look like a female and is able to mate with her right under the nose of a larger, more agressive male. You must admit that is very cunning.

However, it's their appearance that makes us use them for aliens. They are so unlike us. The soft body that can seem to change size. The tentacles which are very versatile and tactile. They look so darn different and otherworldly, and when trying to imagine an alien species as unlike us as possible, they probably just come to mind. I read somewhere that the reason there are so many other bipedal aliens in the Star Trek universe had more to do with the constraints of having to use human actors than anything else. (This was explained in an episode of The Next Generation where Picard, a Romulan, Cardassian and Klingon discover that all species have a common ancestor way back when. The name of the episode escapes me now. I'll do some research once I've had some coffee.)

Anyway, back to the space monsters.

The first one that popped into my mind is actually only described and never shown in their natural state. We'll blame lack of special effects for that since they are in Star Trek: The Original Series. The episode is By Any Other Name. If you read through you will find a reference to when Spock mindmelds with Kelinda and sees a creature with hundreds of tentacles. It's really too bad they didn't have the technology to do the special effects. Imagine a cuttlefish piloting a spaceship.

Next is the baby Agent J delivers in Men In Black. If you've seen the movie, you might remember seeing J being tossed around by tentacles coming from the car as mama space monster gives birth. Soon thereafter we see J holding a cute little octopuslike creature that smiles at him and then barfs on him.

Actually, as I thought about this and more aliens popped into mind, I recalled as a child reading over and over again the Classic Comic's version of The War of the Worlds. In this version the aliens were gray tentacled creatures who have a head shape that remind me of The Brain. I was glad when they died instead of wondering if I could date one of them.

Another example where this time a man falls in love with one is Galaxy Quest. Tony Shalhoub's character falls in love with Laliari, and during one of their makeout sessions we see her tentacles surrounding him. (I've looked all over and haven't yet found a picture of the Thermians in their natural state, so go buy this movie and watch it. It's wonderful and fun.) I'm wondering if maybe this is what Japanese men really want, but instead sublimate their octopoidal fantasies and project them onto women instead. But, I digress. Let's go back and look at more fictional tentacled space monsters.

I'm sure there are more, but of the ones I can remember, I left my favorites for last. Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons. In one episode it turns out that Kang is Maggie's father! I'll admit that the conception scene would never make it into a Japanese porno as Kang uses an insemination ray on Marge and never actually touches her.

And finally, he's not a space squid, but a demented lobster monster. Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama does have some squidlike features. Once again, go buy Futurama and watch it. Zoidberg is much more concerned with looking for food although they do go to his home planet when he contracts a case of Pon Farr, although that's not what they called it.
Anyway, perhaps I won't find myself thinking of sci-fi cephalopods in the back of my mind as I go about my daily routine tomorrow, although scrubbing out the dog houses and planting a few new plants does give one's mind plenty of room to roam the cosmos.

Have I induced nightmares? Well, if you dream you're about to be ravished by an octopus tonight, you can remind it just how damn good calimari is and dream yourself up a heaping mound of delicately fried rings instead.
Pleasant dreams.


Anonymous said...

I had to chuckle. I agree with your analysis, and confess to having my own deep fascination and respect for these unusual creatures.

I'm looking, now, for an agent for a novel I wrote where the characters are all evolved octopuses. (Octopuses still exist, and the octans have guessed their common ancestry.) Think of the technology limitations, and what they would lack: fire, wood, metal, beasts of burden, electricity, artificial light. But they are very good at farming, and learning chemistry.

Perhaps the key genetic mutation that would make such a race possible is one that would allow them to socialize. Octopuses now are almost entirely loners, and no matter how clever their communication skills, most of the time they are talking to themselves.

I could do without the tentacle-sex depictions that you describe. (And octans, like octopuses, don't even reach puberty until the end of their short lives.)

Here's a website I found that you may enjoy:

Best wishes.

===|==============/ Level Head

Anonymous said...

Hi Eve,
Now here you must be reliving a second childhood. It's great to see some of the little girl I remember so very well.
Pops and Ali