Ten Tentacled Characters

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No matter how well modern filmmakers can create characters with no human attributes, we still find it easier to communicate with and relate to humanoid forms. What's the simplest way to take a humanoid fictional character and make it different, frightening, and maybe even disgusting? Put some tentacles on it! On the surface, tentacles evoke a mental image of the octopus, a strange and mysterious creature of the deep we never encounter in everyday life. Its tentacles are far-reaching, flexible, and numerous -attributes that can each be threatening. On a deeper psychological plane, tentacles remind us of snakes and the near-universal fear they inspire. Extending on that association, Freud would say the snake is a metaphor for the penis. That said, this post will not include tentacle porn -you can look that up yourself if you choose. Instead, let's look at some pop culture characters presented as different, frightening, or disgusting through the appearance of tentacles.

1. Monster from Outer Space

In the 1958 film I Married a Monster from Outer Space, a new nightmare for brides was introduced as Marge Bradley gradually realized that the body of her husband Bill has been co-opted by a tentacled alien from a race of males who have invaded earth seeking to mate with human women. This apparently happened a long time ago, meaning she has been sleeping with a monster.

2. Squidward Tentacles

Squidward is a friend and co-worker of the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants. Designed to be the antithesis of Spongebob's optimistic and bubbly personality, Squidward is cynical and slightly unpleasant, but isn't particularly threatening, possibly because he has only six tentacles. Or possibly because he is a cartoon character.

3. Purple Tentacle

Here's a character that doesn't have tentacles -he IS a tentacle! Purple Tentacle is the villain in the video game Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle. He was created in the first Maniac Mansion game, along with his cohort Green Tentacle. Purple, however, sprouts arms and becomes evil in the sequel in which he stars. Purple Tentacle also appears in the game Zombies Ate My Neighbors.

4. Ursula

The tentacled villainess in the 1989 Disney movie The Little Mermaid is named Ursula. She has no redeeming values whatsoever, and therefore is depicted as the scariest of undersea creatures (at least for little girls) -an octopus.

5. Davy Jones

The pirate Davy Jones is depicted in the second and third movies of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End as a tentacled sea monster. His disgusting appearance reinforced his standing as the villain of the second movie, but created a bit of cognitive dissonance when he emerged as an ally to the principle pirates in the third movie.

6. District 9 Aliens

The aliens from Neill Blomkamp's 2009 movie District 9 are derogatorily called "prawns". The species is designed to be hideous to human eyes, with the appearance of tentacle-like appendages growing from their faces, to highlight the "otherness" of an immigrant population of sentient beings.

7. Dr. Zoidberg

Dr. John Zoidberg is the incompetent medical doctor on the TV series Futurama. Although he is listed as a crustacean instead of a cephalopod, the appendages on his face are clearly seen as tentacles. He also squirts ink, a truly octopus habit.

8. Doctor Octopus

Otto Octavius is a nuclear physicist in the Marvel Comics universe. He invented a set of mechanical arms resembling tentacles which became fused with his body during a nuclear accident. However, the supervillain known as Doctor Octopus could control the arms with his mind, even after they were surgically removed. The doctor is Spider-Man's frequent nemesis, and has battled other superheroes in his time.

9. Kraken

The Kraken is a legendary sea monster which is undoubtedly an octopus or squid pumped up to gigantic dimensions. It disguised itself as a mile-wide island and attacked when sailors from passing ships lit fires upon it. These stories go back hundreds of years, and are possibly based on sightings of a giant squid. The Kraken appeared in the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans (and the 2010 remake) and in the 2006 TV movie Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep. The Kraken had its most widely-seen moment in the 2006 movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, when it devours Captain Jack Sparrow and his entire ship.

10. Cthulhu

The most popular tentacled fictional character on the internet by far is Cthulhu, from the story "The Call of Cthulhu" by H. P. Lovecraft. The ancient god rises from the sea occasionally to haunt mankind. The sheer horror of this character has inspired fan clubs, blogs, art, games, a political campaign, and other projects created to bring him down to a psychologically manageable level.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Maybe you can contribute other tentacled characters in the comments.

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June 15, 2010 - 5:14am
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