Gizmo…Caca! – Stripe
If you are from my generation you will remember a a Steven Spielberg film released in 1984 called “Gremlins.” Spielberg was at the height of his career at the time. He had amazing success partnering with George Lucas on the Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark film. He followed that with many more iconic films including E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the Goonies. The younger teenagers, like me, were enthralled by the imagination, wonder and possibilities of these films. It was with that anticipation that we were excited to go see his next big film, The Gremlins.
Little did we know, that the MPAA did not really have a way to rate a movie like this. They had basically, movies to sit your kids in front while you did something else (G), movies you can watch with your kids (PG) and movies you should not take your kids to (R). We also did not realize that Spielberg did not have much to do with Gremlins. This was really a Joe Dante film, using Spielberg’s name for marketing purposes. Watch the original trailer. This is promoted as a coming of age story, with a cute little mysterious creature named Gizmo. Sure there is a reference to the fact that they can become mischievous and if you look carefully you will note that the creepy hand that comes out from behind a desk, is not cute and furry. However, us early teens were used to this by Spielberg by now. A little scary at first, but then you would begin to like the new and fantastic creatures that would emerge in his films.
Ok, truth be told here. Full disclosure. All of us early teen boys had a secret crush on Phoebe Cates, or more appropriately the Linda Barrett character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Sneaking into R rated movie become a thing in the 80s. This 1982 film was top of the list, every 10 – 13 year old that thought he was cool, just had to find a way to watch this movie. Anyway, if you want a glimpse into the psyche of the preteen mind of a young boy – just watch this show. The swimming pool scene is probably etched into the mind of every male adult that was alive in the 80s. Anyway, it is with that backdrop, that I want to highlight the fact that Phoebe Cates was cast as the “girl next door” character in Gremlins. It was also rated PG, so good to go, right? Win-Win.
Anyway, it is with that climate that we all went to see Gremlins. I think I would have this recurring nightmare for about 10 years after this, where these little creatures would come up the stairs, grab me and drag me down into the bottom floor screaming. Parents really complained after this, all their macho little teenage boys were quietly whimpering all night long and find a way to sneak into their parents’ room to sleep on the floor. Shortly after the release of this film, did the MPAA create the PG13 rating. Take your little kids to this movie, but we warned you! Lets get into the movie and why I have labeled this blog, Stripe.
The eccentric inventor of a father, Mr. Peltzer, brings home a gift for his son for Christmas. He purchases a Mogwai. This is an incredibly cute, slightly alien looking creature that makes cooing sounds and sings pretty little songs. There are some rules however. Mainly, they do not like bright lights, do not get them wet, and never feed them after midnight. Of course all of these things happen in due course, and an accident in Billy’s room spills some water on the cute little Mogwai that he had names Gizmo. This produces what is known as “the first batch.” The first batch is made up of five additional gremlins. The leader of this batch is known as Stripe.
Stripe and the other Mogwai are not like Gizmo. They are tricksters, prone to fits of laughter. They take advantage of poor little Gizmo and tease him mercilessly. They each have their own personality and the darker more sinister one is that of Stripe, who has a characteristic mohawk, evil grin and almost menacing black and white fur. Stripe fools Billy into feeding them all after midnight. Gizmo declines the midnight snack, but the other five dive in and feast in a chaotic frenzy. This is what causes their metamorphosis into Gremlins. So there we have it, born from the innocent, kind, docile and harmless Gizmo is the darker more twisted primal creatures that soon begin to terrorize this small hometown.
The lesson here is interesting and rather complex if you stop to consider. Stripe escapes the fight between the five trouble makers, Billy and his Mother. Stripe then begins his rampage through the city, by replicating himself by diving into a swimming pool at a YMCA. His band of misfits indulge in all sorts of mischievous behaviour, murder, mayhem, poker, gun slinging, flashing people, theft, larceny, smoking, drinking and watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. During the movie scene, all the Gremlins are singing happily along to the tune, Heigh Ho! – all except for Stripe, who is plotting his next move while eating his popcorn.
You see, we all have a stripe and many other Mugwai buried in our souls. Do we feed them? Do we give in to their pleadings, their irrational desires? Are we so quick to allow them to multiply, compounding one after another? That Stripe version of yourself is buried underneath, along with many other desires, attitudes, feelings, ambitions, and indulgences. It is the job of our Gizmo, the single consciousness of our primary self to keep these reigned in. To tell them no, to control their appetites and to prevent them from melting our world into chaos.
So in essence we are Mugwai. We are capable of achieving serenity, peace, tranquility and singing a beautiful song. However, we are also Stripe. We are the leather jacket, mohawk, sharped teethed, Donkey Kong playing creature that wishes to wreck havoc on all that is good. So what will it be?
Yeah, what is it going to be Mr. Reams? You going to let those COVID gremlins get into your life and mess things up? No, I am not. I am going to put that little sucker George into the microwave and hit the +30 second button 5 times. I am going to hack that little demon, Lenny’s head off with a fake King Arthur sword. Going to put a bullet in the stomach of that cheater at cards and lock the doors of the theater and blow the place up.
Time to drive my little sports car right over the top of Stripe. I am going to be the edgy little Gizmo that exposes that gremlin to the sunlight and shows him for what he really is. Time to go back to black, time to set my jaw, squint my eyes and hit the trail. No gremlins in this sequel.