By Tony Oursler
Apr. 12, 2005
Blob is a funny word, an ugly thing. It's alive and nobody knows why. Maybe it came from outer space or it came from a science experiment gone bad or from pollution or from the sea or out of a really sick body. It never stops moving, moving all around with no place to go. When will it die. It can't die by any means known to man at this moment.
What's your gut reaction? "Gut reaction" is an American term for your first response to things before you examine the facts intellectually. When you see the blob your gut reaction is: you want it to be gone, you want it to die.
The blob's movements are alien yet oddly familiar. Pulling and stretching. Like peristaltic movement. Like the way things move through your body by contractions which result in locomotion. You understand this is linked to your bowels and intestines because even though this motion is involuntary, it is conscious on some level. It is essentially a wave, the universal form of energy transmission divided into peeks and troughs like a bad ocean. Unending waves, wave after wave, wash away your shape. Now formless. You are the blob.
Now, you want to help the blob.
With its transparent skin, the blob exposes its muscles, organs, blood flow. The banal workings of the organism are revealed in fragile detail. How embarrassing. To encounter the blob is to see the simple, low ambitions that sustain life with no greater purpose. The blob can only and merely exist, it is useless. Whatever happens inside the blob should be hidden, should remain private.
The blob can be funny like any mutation, a dead end creature in the chain of evolution. And in the food chain, it has no niche, no other life form feeds on the blob. It's a disturbing creature because it is unique A Monster that could kill you like a cancer, a devolution of cells. Here is the nightmare scenario: a terratoma analogous to you, an evil negative offspring replaces you the host. A formless double, the blob kills you when it takes up residence within.
When you gaze at the blob, your eye no longer has a focal point because the blob has no focal point. You see right into it. You may keep loosing your sight in a myopic blur. In this way the blob can escape even though it moves very slowly and with no apparent direction.
In the movie, "The Blob," the ruby colored nemeses could be a sign of the counter culture, the erotic, psychedelic, loud, political, chaos impending into the serene, the anxious cold war America of the 1950's.
The blob is scary because we do not understand it nor do we easily recognize it. Always changing shape, it's more like a spill than a sphere. It's like part of a fat person that escaped and came to life. It's like Jell-O or slime or mold.
In the 1958 movie, written by Irving H. Millgate, the blob destroys a small town and attacks a movie theater while people are inside watching a movie. We are always in a movie or watching a move or thinking of a movie when we are attacked by a blob. That's the only way that a blob is stronger than a human. When a human is distracted by watching some sort of moving image or by being more interested in something other than their real life, that's when we are vulnerable That's when the blob gets us.
The Caricature, a primary pictorial form of political and social satire, emerged in the west in the Renaissance and came into full bloom in the mid 1700s. Hand drawn pictures of popular people, institutions and cultural symbols focus on defining characteristics and graphically blow the characteristics out of proportion. A man known for his large nose can be nasally exaggerated. Greater transformations produce more successful caricatures, But rough humor is a delicate exercise. Like blowing up a balloon, you must know when to stop or you will end up with nothing. Though the blob is beyond any identifiable features, it still is a character, an irreducible entity.
The blob, a free floating signifier, has recently become a pet character on the internet. The e-fad involves "life forms" which are computer coded animations and "live" on your computer screen. A digital pet--it needs attention, your time, and it expresses cartoon emotions. It's a low life form, meant to entertain. The good blob, the useless blob, is a sad case who demands care and empathy. The blob needs help. Why? Look at the condition it's in. You could be the blob.
You could be sad and have SAD , Social Anxiety Disorder. As Pfizer put it "You may feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you once loved. You may feel anxious, can't even sleep. Your daily activities and relationships suffer. You know when you just don't feel right. Now, here is something you may not know. These are some symptoms of depression. A serious medical condition affecting over 20 million Americans."
The pharmaceutical industry has created a chemical caricature of neurological emotive states of happiness and normalcy known as selective saratonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs. . One of a group of pharmaceuticals known as SSRIs, Zoloft is being directly marketed to you. "Cause you know when you just don't feel right." A depressive you is imaged on Television as a sad blob, limping through life in black and white. You can alleviate all anxiety and become a happy blob zipping through life in technicolor simply by purchasing a medication, Zoloft. 6 billion dollars a year is generated by SSRIs.
After the mental caricature the physical follows. Fight blob with blob. Inject fat from your stomach or buttocks into your penis to exaggerate its heft and girth and length. Breasts, cheeks or any number of body parts which rule the hierarchy of facial features and physical form may appear in need of more blob to make us happy.
The smiley face a simple circle with a curve for a mouth was the first version of feel good optimistic images produced by Harvey Ball in 1963 for State Mutual Insurance Company. Apparently he added the eyes so that someone could not subvert the image into a frown by inverting it. Smiley face became a run away pop cultural phenomenon and by 1970 there was an estimated 50 million smiley face buttons circulating the globe. The reductive strategy employed in the design of the smiley face can be seen as a popular response to the concurrent fine art issues of minimalism. The yellow void is a last gasp at persevering emotions, at holding onto a vanishing image of happiness. Historically the smiley face is one attempt in a long line of codifications of emotions and expressions that can be traced back to the Victorian gothics, who made the postmodern leap of separating emotion from experience.
This is just a brief history of blob...to be continued.