When you take something frightening, like a bat or a jack-o-lantern, and stick a baby-face on it, one of two things will happen.
First, it might neutralize the fear, turning it into a “Muppet Babies”-type effect where it just becomes another random cute thing. This is often the intended effect.
Most intentions, however, fail.
And that’s why the second outcome with baby-faced creations is much more likely: existential dread.
Now, this effect isn’t the kind of “run screaming” terror you get from a werewolf jumping out at you or getting blindsided by a preview of another Paul Blart: Mall Cop sequel. Instead, this is the kind of uncanny valley feeling of realizing you’ve had an itch on the back of your neck for some time now but it’s now become an oozing, glowing pustle that’s speaking to you in Latin. It’s sanity-destroying, but there’s literally nowhere to run or hide.
There’s a series of cards that have this effect on me: the baby-faced pumpkin kids.
Now, I make a lot of jokes about cards being scary or “Aw, hell no!” reactions. But with these, I’m not joking around. They get under my skin, and all year long, something will trigger my memory. Then they just dwell in my head for an hour or so and I wander around feeling…badly weird. Like a mix of hangover and fever weird. It’s not good.
It’s similar to the reaction I have to kewpie dolls. (And, lord, I just searched for the ones I posted on here. I wish I hadn’t. I got up and took a break for a few minutes to compose myself…)
Kewpie dolls have always struck me as horribly wrong. It’s something about the “smart, knowing baby” vibe, I think. It’s the same with Chucky or the old Twilight Zone about the evil dolls. They’re things that should be simple and innocent, but kewpie dolls always have this look in their eyes like they’ve seen more shit than you can imagine, and they’re oki with it. You shouldn’t mix that with infantilization because you end up with a thing that looks like it knows right and wrong but chooses to ignore them, all while pretending to be “innocent.”
Turns out that kewpie dolls were pretty progressive things, though most people think of them as images of simple innocence. But Rose O’Neill was a hardcore suffragette, and she even used them in a bunch of posters and ads to give women the vote. She even designed the things to have a questionable gender, making them naked but giving no recognizable junk or clothes that gendered them in any way.
Doesn’t change my visceral reaction. I want to set them on fire.
And that goes for these pumpkin demons, too.
I feel like I should recognize the artist. I can’t place him/her, though, which is probably good because it would taint anything else I knew was by them. And, luckily, I can’t find too many more of them out there.
I do have a lot of other “innocent” looking kid/toddler cards that get close to the same level of disturbing cuteness, but nothing matches those pumpkin kids for me. It’s like you take the worst of the kewpie dolls and put it on an over-swollen pumpkin headed child, and you’ve just made a mongrel sandwhich of awful.
Anyway, thought I’d share. Enjoy these small glimpses of hell.
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