Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Movie Kiss of Taste, 7: Tentacle Grope (Galaxy Quest)

As a corrective to Zefram Cochrane's disgust that he let some alien "crawl around inside" him, I put together a post in honor of one of the sweetest, funniest, inter-species romances on film--and my favorite:
the romance between Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) and Laliari (Missi Pyle) from Galaxy Quest.

He's a Human has-been TV actor from the longtime-cancelled sci-fi series Galaxy Quest. She's a Thermian, one of an alien group who come to a Galaxy Quest fan convention to recruit the crew to save their race from an evil lobstery villain.
Thermians have no concept of fiction, and they mistake the transmissions they pick up of the old episodes for "historical documents." Thinking the Thermians are fans who want to hire them to make an amateur movie, the crew accepts--and end up playing their roles for real.

The minute Fred and Laliari encounter each other on the spaceship, their eyes meet and they know they were made for each other.




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Without the help of an "image generator" to make them look like humans, Thermians look like some kind of cephalopod. When Fred and Laliari finally kiss and her tentacles come out, he blissfully swoons to the floor in her arms. Eight, I presume.


I was thinking I was so clever to see the connection between this hook-up and the Japanese woodcut of two octupi making love to a blissful woman: "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife" (1820), by Hokusai--the guy who did the Great Wave (left), which makes such a nice poster.
But I know "The Dream..." from Art History, not from fandom, and merely one google later, I learn I'm a latecomer to a whole world of what Wikipedia calls Tentacle Erotica.
(A less friendly term is used--I don't want to mislead any Googlers by repeating it here--in this round-up at Blast Shields Down. BSD bloggers Matt and Caleb seem to be great guys, and the stuff can be weirdly fun in that way Japanese sexual manga can be, but some might find it disturbing.)


Not explicit or particularly disturbing, but gloriously cheesy is the world of octopus art in pulp fiction and comics.
In this art, octopi most commonly threaten women in titillating ways; but in honor of Galaxy Quest's romance, I chose this cover of Argosy (March 30, 1940).

I suppose this octopus is threatening, but the guy doesn't seem too unhappy about it, and neither was Fred.

I don't know, but I bet that while I was ignorant of this tentacled history, Galaxy Quest writers, David Howard and Robert Gordon, weren't. I'm just guessing, based on how deftly--and lovingly--the movie handles sci-fi tropes at the same time it skewers their silliness.


I found the cover at the wonderful Poulpe Pulps, where blogtrix Francesca Myman features "hard-to-locate images of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure pulp and comic covers featuring the wily octopus". (Poulpe means "octopus" in French.)

Octopoids aside, the most satisfying thing about Galaxy Quest is that it's a classic quest, in which the characters discover some home-truths about themselves.
Hard-won personal transformation is a quest formula that has worked since forever, from the Iliad to the Wizard of Oz, and storytellers who skip the personal part, no matter how many other explosives they add--well, their stories usually turn out like my chemistry lab experiments in 10th grade always did:
they just never turned colors and blew off steam like they were supposed to.
(Should I name a certain recent movie that comes to mind? Aw, naw, no matter.)

Finally, for those who like plain old Human-on-Human hetero kisses, Galaxy Quest provides a pretty good one of those too, between Jason (Tim Allen) and Gwen (Sigrouney Weaver).

2 comments:

deanna said...

One of my favorite movies, and some good kisses, yes. We watch Monk now, and it's always interesting to remember Tony Shaloub in his other fun role.

fresca said...

I gave "Monk" a try on DVD, just because it was Fred, I mean Tony, but I was disappointed--it's OK but where's Laliari? And Guy? and everybody?