Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Deconstructing Gremlins

With Halloween approaching, I've been watching a lot of movies. On Saturday, I had a movieathon and one of the movies I watched was Gremlins, a movie I had always been curious about, but had never watched before. I would have been about 1 when it came out and we grew up in quite the isolated bubble.

In the movie, the furry creature found in an old antique store in Chinatown is called a Mogwai. Given as a Christmas present, the boy was told 3 very specific rules:

1. keep out of sunlight (will kill it)
2. stay away from water
3. do not feed after midnight

Of course, the three rules are broken. The creature, named Gizmo is a cute little brown and white puff ball with large ears and eyes. Almost immediately you learn that light hurts the Mogwai. It burns them. By accident rule number 2 is broken when water spills on top of Gizmo. In what looks like agony, Gizmo screeches and writhes as little balls of fur pop off. These balls grow and within minutes, there are at least 5 more Mogwai. It's clear that these new ones are different. They have gathered and named a leader, a creature with a white mohawk. They are devious and seek out ways to break the third rule and when they eat after midnight, go into a cocoon stage where they transform--coming out hairless and evil. Although, I suppose they were always evil, but the transformation was the peak of it. They go around terrorizing the town and killing the people.

While the movie was fairly entertaining, I had a hard time ignoring how implausible the movie was. Now, I've argued this movie before but I thought maybe there'd be something in the movie that would put aside my sense of disbelief. No.

Rule number 1: Stay out of the light

I was fine with this rule. There are reasons to stay out of direct sun. Albinism being one of them. Not that Gizmo had any signs of it. If he would, he would have been all white and his eyes would have been redish due to lack of pigmentation. Direct sun would have burned and made life difficult. That doesn't mean that he couldn't have been affected by the UV radiation. Maybe Mogwais are highly sensitive to it. Who knows.

Like most things paranormal, the fight between evil vs good is often portrayed with the evil creature being unable to go out into light. The only thing is that Gizmo is not evil and he can't go out in sunlight.

Rule number 2: Do not get wet

This is where things started to get murky. The moment water was poured on Gizmo he began to reproduce. (He's like a tribble from Star Trek.) Yes he. The move refers to Gizmo by the male pronoun. It's not completely unbelievable. There are some creatures where males reproduce-- i.e. Syngnathid fishes such as sea horses. However, the difference here is that there was no female Mogwai to place the eggs in pouches on him. Not that we know of at least. You assume he was the only one in that antique store but reality is that there could have been more. How many people have come back from the pet store only to find out that their guinea pig or hamster was pregnant?

Anyway, little balls of fur popped off and grew. What this tells me, without there being a female (let's assume for the time being since we don't know), we have to assume reproduction is done asexually (in gremlin form, they look almost reptilian and some are known to reproduce asexually so it's not a far leap) in a form of parthenogenesis. If Gizmo had been a female, things could have been explained easier, but he isn't. Unless he's a hermaphrodite and we just don't know about it, then...maybe...

But in the rule, it said very clearly not to get the mogwai wet because it'll cause this reproduction. I fought this rule and argued until my face turned red. I question how the mogwai supposed to stay hydrated? Obviously they wouldn't have a long life expectancy if they can't drink anything).

But, aside from staying alive there's the whole issue with the 'Add Water, Will Reproduce'. However, there have been studies that have shown that chemical or electrical stimuli have been used to cause parthenogenesis in scientific studies. If the mogwai have a natural allergy to water, maybe it created a negative external stimuli, causing this asexual reproduction to occur.

I found a site that suggested that if a mogwai was subjected to water to reproduce, the resulting trauma would affect the offspring. The offspring would be evil. However if a mogwai was prepared and underwent normal reproductive means, then the offspring (Gizmo) would be good. This assumes that they have other means of reproduction. Maybe it's explained in more detail later on in the sequels, but in the first movie, there was no implication whatsoever that they could reproduce any other way other than asexually. I'm also not entirely convinced that the trauma of the 'birth' would affect the resulting offspring that dramatically.

I still think it's crazy, but I'm willing to bend a bit.

Rule number 3: Do not feed after midnight

We know what happens. Feed after midnight and the mogwai goes into a cocoon state where it goes through a metamorphosis into the evil little gremlins. Now there's some debate here on the time. Why? Because technically the day starts at midnight, so when is the proper time to feed it (and what do they eat?)? Are mogwai supposed to never eat? All creatures need to eat and drink to survive. And what about time zones? How does this affect the no eating situation?

But that's not the point. We're not debating whether they eat or not. If you go by the 'trauma caused the evil in the offspring' theory, they would have been evil no matter what, even after they went through the change. I'm not so sure. In the first movie, it implied that eating= evil gremlins. Yes they were devious as furballs, but they weren't trying to kill anyone.

Eating (after midnight), is the catalyst to their transformation into the gremlins. While you don't usually see it in reptiles or mammals, butterflies start off as caterpillars and after a period of eating and whatnot, spins a cocoon and then changes. It could be the same type of transformation.

My only question is what does the transformation offer them that they can't do without fur and looking like Yoda? What do you think?

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