Odd creatures aren’t just a staple of weird news stories.
They’re a huge box-office draw. Name a blockbuster or billion-dollar movie and it’s almost a sure bet that they feature fantasy or alien creatures.
Think about it: AVATAR, STAR WARS, the Harry Potter series and the lame Harry Potter prequel series, STAR TREK, MEN IN BLACK, any of the 5,832 Marvel movies, LORD OF THE RINGS and the lame Hobbit prequel series that should have been one flipping movie.
Yeah, there are cute fluffy creatures sometimes. Yet just about every giant hit has a zoo’s worth of Ewok’s, orcs, space elves or cybernetic raccoons with a gun fetish.
So what gives a creepy sea creature, man-eating forest monster or elephant-sized wild hog such power to fascinate us?
Let’s break it down.
WILL THIS MONSTER SEE ME AS A SNACK?
That’s the most visceral attraction, a caveman instinct we can’t get rid of: paying close attention to obvious threats.
And yes, a healthy chunk of weird creatures–whether they live in the sea, the mountains or your local forest–tend to be predators with humans possibly on the menu.
IS IT FASCINATINGLY DISGUSTING?
There’s some crossover here. Many of the things that can totally go nom-nom-nom on us–like leeches, lampreys, giant squids and alligators–can’t be called cute.
A bunch of non-threatening weird animals are only interesting because they’re so bizarre and repellent, like the blob fish.
THIS CAN’T BE REAL
Other strange creatures get our attention because we can’t believe they’re not CGI.
How do Christmas Tree Worms really eat? Do lampreys have eyes or are they just a wormy eel thing with giant teeth?
THE FLORIDA MAN TEST
Weird news stories typically involve people in groups (usually men) late at night plus alcohol or drugs and the following optional ingredients: firearms, dangerous wild animals, explosives, 7-Elevens, the police. Oh, and the state of Florida, a state that generates so many weird news stories that headlines starting with “Florida Man” and ending with bizarre mayhem are truly a thing.
So whether or not an odd creature gets featured in a weird news story may hinge upon it passing the Florida Man Test, as in: can a Florida Man use this creature to generate a headline?
Two great examples: alligators, pythons and sharks.
Florida Man has robbed a 7-Eleven late at night, hid from the cops in a pond and been eaten by a gator. An entirely different Florida Man carried a live gator into a gas station and used it to steal beer or money, or beer and money (I forget, wasn’t there, sorry).
Pythons have overtaken the Everglades, and may be impossible to eradicate. They’re devouring local animals and even trying to eat the gators.
Sharks are another common element in weird news, with Florida Man getting arrested for dragging a shark behind a boat.
One unlucky Florida Man has hit the weird news lottery, getting bit by a shark, punched by a monkey, bitten by a snake and struck by lighting. No joke.
I salute you, weird sea creatures that should not exist, and I hope global warming doesn’t bring too many of you within range of Florida.