B-Movie Biology 101

Back in the eighth grade, my friend Luke and I tried our best to stamp out a syndrome we called the Jesse Effect. Although the pernicious symptoms of the syndrome ran rampant in a variety of our friends and relations (and indeed, in ourselves), it was named after one friend in particular, Luke’s next-door neighbor, Jesse K___, who lived in a state of complete sublimation to the Jesse Effect.

The syndrome was characterized by a tendency to be a know-it-all, but of utmost concern to Luke and me was the unquenchable need in the afflicted to point out the impossibility of a particular scenario in whatever movie we happened to be watching that evening. Say for instance, we were enjoying the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Commando (a very likely possibility) or perhaps Night of the Comet (and even likelier possibility), Jesse might say, “Dude, there’s no way Schwarzenegger could hold that guy over the edge of that cliff with his arm straight like that, I don’t care how strong he is.” Or, for Night of the Comet, “No way! If the comet killed all the dinosaurs last time it came around, it would’ve also wiped out the mammals, and then there’d be no humans for it to kill the next time!”

The sad fact was that despite our harrassing of Jesse, we were all know-it-alls, and guilty of an almost-constant stream of calling bullshit on whatever unworthy piece of garbage we happened to be watching on USA Up All Night. It was all just adolescent over-compensating.

I was reminded of all this as I read through this utterly fascinating article at the Fathom Archive titled The Biology of B-Movie Monsters. For those of us who perhaps harbor a secret fear of gargantuan spiders or arthropods, or even of Kong-style over-sized apes, biologist Michael C. LaBarbera pretty much lays out the impossibility of their existence (or at least the impossibility of them achieving anything much more threatening than slumping to the ground in a pile of crushed limbs and laboring to breathe). He also Jesses the shit out of the Incredible Shrinking Woman (who would’ve had to eat her own body weight on a daily basis just to maintain her body temperature, but, on the plus side, she could’ve jumped off the top of the kitchen counter with no harm done), Mothra, the giant ants from Them! and many more.

The Fathom Archive itself seems like it’s worth a browse. The articles on the site (somehow connected to the University of Chicago) read like cocktail party conversation starters for smugly brilliant, Hampden College types: The Wrath of the Northmen: The Vikings and their Memory, Hatshepsut: Wicked Stepmother or Joan of Arc?, and Ancient Greek Curse Tablets.

What happened to Buzzsaw? He had to split.

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