Oh hello. Nice to meet you. I’m a grown woman. Who is afraid of animals.
Well, not animals per se. Specifically, I am petrified of a fictional genus of animals that I like to call “human-animal hybrids”: Man-imals if you will. Their natural habitats are children’s TV shows and films starring Marlon Brando, although they can occasionally be found grazing outside used car lots and chicken restaurants.
Not sure what the hell I’m talking about? Allow me to ‘splain. It comes down to this: whenever I see a human dressed up in a realistic animal costume, I have the urge to run in the other direction, or if that option isn’t available, cower like a child with my head tucked into my shirt. (Notice I said “realistic” animal costume – this is not a reaction prompted by mouse ears from Disneyland or those knitted hats with gerbil ears that hipsters wear; only by the combination of prosthetics, head-to-toe fur, and the kind of faithful animal imitations that most actors left behind in Strasberg Level 3.)
Still not sure what I mean? Check out the horrifying examples below. With any luck they’ll make you just as phobic as I am!
Bob Dog, from Mister Rogers Neighborhood: truly the Famous Original Ray’s of terrifying Manimals, and the bête noir that started it all. Like many of my peers I watched a lot of PBS as a child, and Mr. Rogers was a frequent visitor to our tiny black & white TV. Though I remember thinking Fred was a little wussy at the time, I now credit him with helping build my delicate semblance of self-esteem. I also credit (blame?) him for introducing me to Bob Dog – a seemingly innocuous inhabitant of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe who sported a spirit-gummed canine nose and footy pajamas, walked around on his “hind legs”, and howled and woofed his way through lessons on being nice to others. I never absorbed any of his teachings, however, because I was too busy screaming. Seriously. My Mum used to tell me that she’d have to anticipate Bob Dog’s appearances in every episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood (not that hard considering each character had its own theme music) and distract me, or she’d end up spending the next hour talking me down from a psychotic break.
Zoobilee Zoo: Apologies to Ben Vereen upfront, because though I love him I can’t stand even the thought that this show existed. Actually, Hallmark should apologize for making him prance around moronically in a leopard suit, mug to the camera and sing songs like “Rhyming is Fun” with the other – ahem – Zoobles, but they never will. Plus the costumes all look like they were pulled out of some crazy old woman’s basement where they were used as cat beds. Can someone tell me why human-animal hybrids seem to be the inevitable default setting when networks are coming up with kids shows?? Are lessons about sharing and counting somehow easier to absorb when delivered by a terrifying freak? I have to assume they are. Because as much as I try, I will never get the damn theme song out of my head.
The Island of Dr. Moreau: I actually can’t believe I’m bringing up this film, because writing about it will require me to do a Google image search for stills, the thought of which makes my hands shake. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Well, my nightmares anyway, and I don’t even know what the movie’s about. I once saw some scenes from it by accident when I was channel-surfing and the memory of those ungodly creatures is branded forever onto my brain grapes. And yes, I understand that’s part of the point: that Dr. Moreau is some kind of twisted evil man who populates his island with homemade animal deviants by blending DNA like a breakfast smoothie. Well done, Island of Dr. Moreau! You have succeeded in arousing in me the kind of deep-seated Jungian revulsion normally reserved for Real Dolls, and guaranteeing that whenever I pick up the remote with one hand, my other hand will be hovering over my eyes.
Splice: I am a HUGE fan of Sarah Polley, but the preview for this film forced me to cover my ears and hum loudly whenever it appeared on TV. ‘Nuff said.
So…yeah! Hope you enjoyed the forced thrill ride into the darkest corners of my neuroses. I certainly feel better for having heaved a little mental poison onto your collective laps. And if by admitting my phobia I can prevent one more adult from donning a latex nose and whiskers in the name of entertainment, well…then my work here is done.