LOTTD Roundtable: What Do Cute Monsters Tell Us About Horror
As a member of the The League of Tana Tea Drinkers (LOTTD), I am occasionally asked to put on my big boy pants and take a more intellectual look at my fanboy-ish tendencies towards all things creepy, goopy, scary, and just plain monstrous. Most recently, the issue of cute monsters as advertising gimmicks and sources of entertainment for children and what that says about horror in general was brought up. Some of my fellow LOTTD have already had some great things to say on this ranging from J W Morehead’s (TheoFantastique) reflection on the mass marketability of monsters to Brian Solomon’s (The Vault of Horror) overview of General Mills’ Monster Cereals.
For me, our preoccupation with taking something horrific and turning it into something palpable for mass consumption is a concept that can be summed up by one show: The Real Ghostbusters. Ghosts are literally the most intangible kind of monsters, the unseen sort of horror that haunts most every kids dreams in one form or another. They lurk in the shadows, underneath your beds, inside your closet, and their brand is forever burned onto the faces of any adult who’s ever witness the true horrors of this world. But when you think about it, ghosts are never quite as scary once they’ve been seen- think about it.
Confronting what scares us allows us (especially kids) to conquer and ultimately tame it. It teaches us to solve the real horrors that face us everyday and there’s no better example of this than The Real Ghostbusters. Unlike the films, which walked the line between humor and horror, the cartoon was an all out rollercoaster ride of (kid-friendly) gross-out, troublesome spooks who each meet their end (again) thanks to the ingenuity and determination of four (seemingly) fearless heroes. These guys faced ancient evil gods, ghosts, and even the apocalypse on an almost daily level and never once did they lose the ability to convey a sense of empowerment over the horrors that plagued them.
Perhaps even moreso than the Ghostbusters themselves, Slimer presented an effectually adorable mascot for monster loving in all his green-jellied glory. Again, unlike the films, the cartoon version of Slimer was cute and easily the most entertaining cast member for small childern. Heck, the series was even later re-named Slimer! And The Real Ghostbusters to maintain that younger audience. Point being, Slimer represents something putrid and morbid (a fat, green booger-like dead person) and makes him so lovable that children (and even adults) are instantly endeared to him. The denial of monsters in the closet by parents becomes “Oh, that’s just Slimer sweetie wanting to come out to play. Just go back to sleep and you’ll see him in the morning.”
Toys, cereal, coloring books… even fruit snacks have become liable accomplices in the wake of The Real Ghostbusters until the sheer volume of merchandise has branded itself on the collective minds of pop culture. Even 20 some-odd years later, The Real Ghostbusters remain relevant to younger audiences (who have also become a bit braver… or perhaps more de-sensitized… than their parents). Speaking as a parent, my 12-year old daughter simply adores the show and insists on watching it every weekend (courtesy of DVD). Simply put: “[We] ain’t afraid of no ghosts.“