This being is everywhere in pop culture, but no one has any idea who he is. He has shown up in multiple forms of media ranging from T.V. shows and movies, to video games, and even a presidential campaign in his honor. As his presidential slogan says, “Abandon the pathetically lesser evils, and vote for the Greatest Evil.” (Olive). This greatest evil is Cthulhu from the Cthulhu Mythos made by H.P. Lovecraft. The big question is, why is Cthulhu so big in pop culture today?
Cthulhu is a monster that was created by H.P. Lovecraft in 1926 and is still very relevant in the world today, but more needs to be said about him before it will make sense why a monster that is almost 100 years old is still around today. In the universe he was created in, he is a “Great Old One…” (Lovecraft). Which is what people might more commonly known as an Eldritch god. An eldritch god is a being with incomprehensible power that takes the form of a horrible monster that drives you insane just by looking at them. Cthulhu is no different from that description as he is multiple stories tall, a squid like head, tentacles around his mouth, giant wings, sharp claws, and full black eyes like volcanic rock. He also has the ability to manipulate hundreds of thousands of people with his mind at the same time, and he is so giant compared to humans that in his book he picks up two sailors with one hand, and “ The sailors were devoured whole…” (Lovecraft 3).
Cthulhu is horrifying and truly a being of nightmares. According to the article done by Auroch Digital “… it comes down to two reasons why Cthulhu is still relevant: The ‘open source’ nature of the original Mythos means it was born within the concept of others adding their own take to it.
The core theme of the Mythos, that humanity is but a minor footnote in the history of Earth, speaks to us as part of our own fear and fascination with death and the concept of ‘the apocalypse’” (Digital 1). The first concept is easy to grasp. When you put work into something you start to care for it more and more as you put more work into it. This was a big part of making Cthulhu as popular as he is today, because so many people have added to him, to make him what he is today. With so many people adding things to this horrifying monster, it helps the monster live longer in multiple cultures. The second concept is the more complicated of the two, but with a bit of explaining and help from 1 of the 7 monster theories made by Jeffrey Cohen it will make a lot more sense.
Monster theory is the combination of 7 theses that are used to “[Understand] cultures through the monsters they bear” (Cohen 4). All of the theses go more into depth on the reasons why a monster is created and would be enjoyed among the culture it was created in. Some of these theories apply more to different monsters then they do others. In Cthulhu’s case the theory “The monster is the harbinger of a category crisis” works the best to explaining why Cthulhu became so popular (Cohen 6). Cthulhu is a monster that is always the cause of horrible unimaginable things, causing chaos and destruction in his wake, because of this he is “’ a revolution to the very logic of meaning’” (Cohen 7). The idea of something that forces people to come to realizations of possible death and destruction are very interesting to us. Cthulhu always appears at the time of a crisis, most of the time the crisis being his fault in the first place. The way he was able to do this just never got old as people kept rewriting his story and adding to it. It made it more appealing to each culture it was rewritten by. In the end, the culture created a very real living and breathing monster that not only everyone is afraid of, but they are intrigued by.
With people still adding to his stories and using him in works of their own this has caused him to show up in many different places over the past 94 years, ranging from a simple ‘hat tip’ in Lovecraft’s direction to a full on game centered around Cthulhu himself. The Cthulhu universe A.K.A. The Cthulhu Mythos can be seen referenced back as far as 1961 in the film Gorgo, but one of the earliest direct references to Cthulhu outside of his mythos is in the T.V. series “The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991) with the episode being season 2 episode 41 ‘The Collect Call of Cthulhu’ (1987)” (Lovecraft Wiki). The recreation of Cthulhu will continue on for years as Cthulhu continues to show up in or have an influence on a multitude of other T.V. shows, films, novels, and games. Some of the more popular of things he has influenced are: The Mist, The Cabin in the Woods, The Justice League, Star Trek, DC Comics, The Witcher series, and the Fallout series.
Because of Cthulhu’s appearance in all of these different places and times, he has been a big part of pop culture. People would grow up seeing and hearing works made with this monster in it that would leave people fearful but curious for more. This would cause Cthulhu to keep reappearing in more things as these people, that heard about him, made their own works with him making the cycle repeat again. Some of the more recent pop culture works he has been in and/ or influenced are: The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, South Park, Supernatural, Robot Chicken, Stranger Things, Rick and Morty, Gravity Falls, The Elder Scrolls series, Resident Evil, even Grand Theft Auto V has a mask modeled after Cthulhu’s Head. The list goes on and on, and there is no way a single list can hold all of his references, there are just to many. He has been so popular recently that there has even been people trying to campaign him for the presidential election.
Cthulhu is a big part of our culture because of all the things we use him in, and all of the arts he has influenced Anywhere from old radio stories he starred in, to modern films and TV shows he is heavily referenced in. He is a great monster that will continue to be rewritten to fit the fears of current society around death and the apocalypse; and continue to be used by many people do to the fact that he is open source. Both of those facts have made Cthulhu relevant in pop culture and some predictions believe that this relevance will keep him in pop culture for many years to come.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture: Seven Theses.” From Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 3-25.
“Cthulhu Mythos in Popular Culture.” The H.P. Lovecraft Wiki, lovecraft.fandom.com/wiki/Cthu lhu_Mythos_in_popular_culture.
Digital, Auroch. “The Mainstreaming of Cthulhu: How a Fringe Horror Creation Became Popular.” Medium, Medium, 15 Feb. 2018, medium.com/@AurochDigital/the- mainstreaming-of-cthulhu-how-a-fringe-horror-creation-became-popular-5598dcb7795e.
Lovecraft, Howard Phillips. “The Call of Cthulhu.” Weird Tales, Feb. 1928.
Olive, Devil. “Cthulhu for President 2020: Vote for the Greatest Evil.” Cthulhu for America, 2015, cthulhuforamerica.com/. Accessed 7 August 2019