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Wednesday, December 07, 2005
A Scary Post
A couple of weeks ago while babysitting Gracelyn and Davis, we were reading a Dora the Explorer book together. We came to page with Swiper, when suddenly Gracelyn asked me to close the book and not talk about Swiper anymore because he scared her.

I was a bit taken aback by this because Gracelyn has never shown any signs of being frightened of Swiper before. In fact, we've watched dozens of Dora episodes together (OK, probably the same four on the same DVD but I've seen them many times) and she's never shown any particular fear of Swiper before or since. But, being a good uncle, I stopped reading (Davis was annoyed but got over it quickly, finding another book to read) and held Gracelyn while I assured her that nothing scary was going to happen.

Interestingly enough, the other morning I woke up early and being that it was Saturday and I was feeling lazy, I flipped on the TV and started surfing around the channels. I went past ABC Family just in time to see that one of my favorite cartoons from growing up, SpiderMan and His Amazing Friends was starting up. I hummed along to the cheezy 80s theme song and then settled in for a trip down memory lane. (On a related note--go and watch the opening from the first season and tell me how that song can NOT get stuck in your head!)

Oh, irony of ironies--it was an episode entitled "Swarm." The basic plot is alien rock comes from space with alien intelligence in it. The alien intelligence comes out as a set of glowing eyes that makes bees form into a body for it and it then takes over people into some type of hive mentality, by zapping them all into drones. Spidey, Iceman and Firestar show up and try to stop Swarm, only to have them all zapped. Spidey is immune from the zapping since he's got radioactive spider-blood in him. He then gets Iceman and Firestar to chase him into a lead lined vault where he cuts off the radiation from Swarm and cures them. Then they go back, sneak into the hive, steal the rock and launch it back into space from a convienently located telescope that happens to have a rocket in it. (Yeah, I know....it seemed a bit lame back when I was younger.) Swarm is defeated, everyone returns to normal and suddenly, Aunt May has a craving for honey.

Anyway, I bring this up becuase back when this episode first aired back in 1981, I found it incredibly disconcerting. OK, I'll be honest--it frightened the pants off me. And looking back, I'm not exactly sure why. I seem to remember the whole idea of this creature with a body of bees who could take over your mind and turn friends against each other as being incredibly scary. Of course, part of if it may have been that the only thing Swarm really said was the word "Swarm!" over and over again. (There's an audio clip of it here). I remember sort of looking at bees in a different light for a few days.

I think part of the reason it stuck with me was the first time it aired, my parents made me stop watching halfway through in order to run an errand or do something silly like spend time outside, so I didn't know how or if Spidey defeated Swarm. I assumed he did when next week I tuned in and everyone was fighting the Green Goblin or whatever other menace had come along, but you never know.

Thinking about this cartoon reminded me of two other TV shows that disconcerted me as a child. One was an episode of The Smurfs (don't laugh) that I think was called "The Purple Smurf." The basic plot is one of the Smurfs is bitten by this bug that turns them purple and then run around going, "Gnat! Gnat" and biting other Smurfs until the whole village is turned into this. Papa Smurf races against time to find a cure and does so just as he's bitten, spilling it out and creating this cloud that cures everyone. For some reason, the thought that--holy cow, Papa Smurf is even succumbing to this and no one is safe really bugged me. I remember being on the edge of my seat, wondering if this was the end of the Smurfs and if any bugs like this existed near where I was living and could make me into a mindless purple slave, jumping around and going "Gnat! Gnat!"

The other one was a live action series, Buck Rogers. As a kid, I used to think Buck Rogers was one of the greatest shows I'd ever seen. (Of course, I was all of five or six at the time and had yet to discover Doctor Who, so go figure). I remember watching it for what seemed like years and I was stunned to recently discover the show only ran for two seasons. The episode in question is from the show's second season and it's called "The Satyr". In it, Buck goes to a planet and finds a woman and his son who are being terrorized by this creature that is half-man, half-goat. And we find out that this condition is a disease and it can be transmitted--by what means I'm not still clear on. But you know you've got it because your eyes glow. Anyway, Buck is stranded on the planet for some reason and trying to help the woman and her son. About halfway into the story, Buck somehow contracts the disease and there's a scene where he's looking at himself in the mirror and his eyes start to glow.

Yeah, pretty much scared the pants off me. To the point I remember driving around with my parents after the episode aired in the evening and I kept looking all around the car for glowing eyes and I just knew, just knew that any second this creature was going to jump onto the car and transform me into a half-boy/half-goat creature.

I have to admit that seeing that Buck Rogers in now on DVD, I'd like to see this particular epiosde again now, close to 25 years later. I wonder if it'd still be as effective or if I'd just wonder why it bothered me so much as a younger person. I mean, it's not like any of these shows are exactly held up as the pinacle of suspense and/or scary that say, the works of Alfred Hitchcock are. But that said, they still disconcerted me as a child and made a strong impression on my young little mind.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 12/07/2005 08:01:00 AM | |
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