In the movie What About Bob?, Bill Murray’s character says there are two kinds of people in the world: those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t. I believe there are two kinds of people in the world. Those are the ones who know who Cthulhu is and those who don’t.
Last Thursday was the last day of school where I’d been teaching 8th grade science. I wore a t-shirt made to look an incoming cell phone call from none other than Cthulhu. I knew that some of my students would dig it. Others would have no idea what it was. The first person to comment on it was another teacher. She is probably in her mid-fifties. When we ran into each other in the mail room she said, “I like that shirt.”
After that I asked her if she knew who Cthulhu was. She did not. I gave her the quick and dirty introduction to the character. She gave me the all too familiar that’s nice smile and head nod that I get from lots of people who just don’t get horror at all. The kids, however, loved it. Cthulhu is in revival in the junior high school set.
Cthulhu is one of my favorite monsters. I don’t have much in my collection related to him, however. I own a Funko pop mini of the great old one, the previously mentioned t-shirt, and a custom embroidered shirt that I wear to book signings and conventions. That’s it. I, however, talk about him a lot.
At my former job, I often referred to my boss as Lord Cthulhu. Much like the elder god, the sheer sight of that boss would drive you insane. He shows up in random comments I make on a daily basis. I’m being literal about that. I mention Cthulhu every single day in some capacity.
I think that he is a neat character who needs to be mentioned with the likes of classics like Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and the werewolf. However, I am cautious about telling people to read “The Call of Cthulhu.” One reason is that Lovecraft is, in my opinion, an acquired taste. The second reason is Lovecraft himself. The author is currently a sticky topic. His ideas about humanity and which type of peoples are good is evident in his writing. Lovecraft shares a lot of racist, sexist, and classist ideas in his works. This causes a strong sense of cognitive dissonance within me. One the one hand, I really like some of the monsters that Lovecraft created. The other hand holds that he expressed his narrow minded and ignorant opinions in those works. It’s a tough balancing act, but I’m a liberal Southern so I’ve had to do this most of my life.
Then there is Cthulhu. He doesn’t care. He hates everyone equally and wants everyone to die just the same.
Cthulhu has also transcended his creator. I mentioned at the beginning there are two kinds of people, those who know him and those who don’t. Amongst those two kinds of people that I’ve met, only a few know who created Cthulhu. Most of the junior high kids know the character from internet memes, video games, board games, or that episode of South Park. I’ve not met a single kid who knew Cthulhu that had read Lovecraft. The transcendence that Cthulhu has made over his originator, makes it easier to like him as a monster.
Although he is incredibly evil, Cthulhu is cool. He’s everywhere. You can get bumper stickers advising people to vote for him in 2020. (Anything is better that what we’ve got.) There are parodies making him a cutesy cartoon character: Hello Cthulhu. This often brings down the appeal of monster to me. Cthulhu is still badass. He’s not like anything else. If anything like him comes around, it just a knock-off Cthulhu, an elder god at discount prices, a generic great old one you might pick up at Aldi’s.
So here’s to Cthulhu in all his look-upon-him-and-go-insane glory. Vote for him in 2020: why choose the lesser of the two evils. Get a cuddly stuffed animal. Buy your cat a costume and make her Cathulhu. Get yourself one of those knit hats that covers your face with yarn tentacles to keep the cold away this winter. Cthulhu’s cool. He’s hip, and it’s just not the 8th graders thinking so.
Editor Note: Cthulhu and Lovecraftian Horror as a whole is hardly ever done correctly. The mind bending terror of a thing whose very attention can drive you mad is terrifying, especially when done right. That said, Cthulhu and the look associated with it, is undeniably cool. I also heartily recommend both Call of Cthulhu games that are out, they are both fantastic.John Baltisberger