Uglydolls are a notable example, but far from the only one, of monsters being depicted in a cute, funny, or silly way designed to make us smile or laugh rather than be afraid. Jim Henson's Muppets, the monster cereals, the Rankin-Bass tv special Mad Monster Party?, and the Monsters, Inc. movie all fit the bill.
The first time I heard of Cthulhu plush toys, I couldn't help smiling, because the very idea of a Cthulhu plush toy seems so ironic and incongruous. How could anything ever described by H. P. Lovecraft be cute and cuddly? And yet:
Again, it's not just that this monster fails to be scary--he succeeds at being cute. And the facial tentacles that identify this as a monster, and specifically as Cthulhu, here take on the quality almost of bunny ears. ThinkGeek's product description nicely plays the horror of the Cthulhu we've come to know and loathe off of the obvious cuteness of the toy:
From "The Call of Cthulhu," by H.P. Lovecraft, we learn of a gigantic creature. It has existed for longer than memory, and has traveled between the stars. It can never die, and its very existence puts all that we know or think we know into question. It is truly alien, viewing humans and our society the same way we would view tiny insects. Cthulhu is a mass of tentacles and claws and feelers and scales. It is truly a vision of a nightmare, which, of course, means it would make a perfect addition to your home or office!
As a charming plush, this cute little monster will be happy to glare evilly at anyone – just for you. Look at that tentacled face – absolutely, other-worldly adorable. Come on; give that widdle, cuddley-wuddley, widdle Cthulhu a kiss. You know you want to. And if you are really nice to this small plush version of Cthulhu, when the real one wakes up…it might not eat you.
Now, why is all of this so appealing, and does that tell us anything interesting about horror? I posed this question to my horror blogger compatriots in LOTT-D, and they've certainly risen to the occasion! Here are the roundtable discussion contributions so far (I'll update as more roll in):
Monster Magazine World
Vault of Horror