Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
A while back I looked at the kids book series Goosebumps and pointed out that it was pretty (okay, very), dark for a kids book collection. One of the darkest ones was two kids being transformed into chickens, that idea alone is chilling. Hence why basing an entire series around it makes it even worst. Not to mention the threat the enemy poses. But I’m getting ahead myself, so let me explain.
Animorphs was a series of books that was occasionally written by K. A. Applegate but mostly written by ghost writers (so, just like Goosebumps, the quality of the series can drastically vary from one book to the next). Five normal 13 year old teenagers discover a crash alien space craft and gain the ability to morph into other animals via touch thanks to a dying alien (who then gets eaten in front of them). Using this power they must fight against the Yeerks, parasitic aliens that crawl into someone’s head and take control of their body, except that they have to feed every 3 days in a special pool. These kids have to fight off these alien invaders using nothing but their wits and their morphing capabilities. Right. Got all that? Good.
Now where to start? How about the fact that there are alien slugs that take control of your body and make you do whatever they want. They listen to every thought you have so you’re never gonna be free from them. They will always be there, hurting your love ones and trying to infest them too. And when you do get a moment alone, it’s in a cell surrounded with 20 other people suffering the same fate. You’d never be free of it, since you couldn’t kill yourself. You’d be forced to live like that for the rest of your natural life. What’s worst is when they need new hosts. The men have pretty strong bodies, they can do all the heavy lifting and whatnot. Why not set up some baby farms and just use the women for what they’re needed for. You wouldn’t even need to bother to infest them, just lock them up and take the baby when it’s done. You could even teach the little guy to accept the Yeerks as some sort of God that must always be obeyed. That they must never question the almighty Yeerk. In a generation or tow you’d have a bunch of servants that’d never know the difference. But before that point, you still have kids being controlled. Little seven to ten year olds. If they wanted to rage an open war and win all they’d have to do is send the children into battle. Sure it’d be a bit of a lost, but could you honestly ever shoot a kid? So the bad guys are pretty dark.
But what about the heroes? The thing that never seems to be brought (at least I don’t remember it being mentioned that much) is that these soldiers, these guerilla warfare soldiers to boot, are nothing more then kids. They have the weight of defending their entire planet thrusted on their shoulders, with all the complex moral choices that go along with it. Kids that barely know anything about politics beyond who the current president is. Kids that no nothing of warfare outside of modern video games. These are the kids that have to try and protect the world. They get lucky in the fact that the Yeerks are only trying to take on one small area of the planet, in a well-armed country (while it makes sense to have plenty of armaments when you go to war, surely taking over smaller countries like New Zealand make more sense. Having four million people in your army in a country most people can’t point to on a map can’t hurt the cause). They do kill regularly, using the justification â€œoh they’re aliens, so it’s okayâ€ (they don’t kill humans, but the other aliens have been proven to have sentience).
Secondly every animal they acquire comes with it’s pre-set instincts. A dog is going to know naturally to do dog-like things (like walk on all fours, something a human brain couldn’t do). Now ignoring the question about whether or not morphing into another person gives you their memories (since considering that the brain is made of electric signals, then replicating that would give you access to their mind), the bring up the problem when they morph into ants. They get almost overwhelmed with the need to serve the colony. The hive mind takes over and they barely escape from it. While I don’t remember what book it’s from, the talk about the person loosing their mind is pretty damn horrifying. And I was like 8 when I read it, which is even worst. Gave me nightmares for weeks that did.
Now the morphing powers come with a pre-set two hour time limit; and one character ends up trapped as a red-tailed hawk. Now that isn’t too bad. Another gets trapped as a Taxxon (a large maggot-like alien who’s insatiable hunger causes it to eat itself if it had its guts ripped out). The books don’t shy away from explaining just how terrible it is to be trapped in such a form. But there are still animals I wouldn’t want to be. A chicken, for example. Or a fly. But what’s worst is being stuck in-between forms. Lets say the two hours are almost up and you try and demorph, but don’t get quite the way there. BAM! Suddenly you’re a half-man half-animal monstrosity. If you’re lucky (and I mean really lucky) you die very shortly afterwards because you become an organism that just can not survive (like being a human with a fly’s head). If you’re unlucky you’ve morphed just enough to keep yourself going, and your friends can keep you alive. Like being a human that has two extra fly arms and large fly eyes. You’d be conscious throughout all of it. I for one would rather be a fly then some sort of monstrosity in-between.
For the last problem (the last I’ll mention at least, there are far more specific examples), I take it back to the Yeerks. Lets say the teenagers hadn’t got super morphing powers. Lets say they just saw the alien and then got away with their lives. The are now burden with the knowledge that not only do aliens exist, a large majority of them are trying to take over their bodies. Even with their superpowers they still have to be constantly on edge. They can’t trust anyone. Anyone. They’re the worst type of paranoid, because they’re right. One character’s brother is Yeerk controlled, as well as their principal. But what about all those that they don’t know are controlled. Think about all the people you meet in your day-to-day life. Now imagine that every one of them was plotting to essentially kill you. Now imagine not being able to tell which ones are trying to to kill and which ones aren’t. You’d have to distrust everyone. And these are teenagers, they’re at the age when they need the most support. It’s also the age that they’re the most watched. They have to keep up the appearance that they’re just normal teenagers doing school work. If they slip up once, if one of them gets caught, then it’s all over. Human race, doomed. So not only can’t they trust anyone, and keep up appearances, they’re as good as dead if they make one mistake. That’s pretty dark.
So there you have it. A rather brief look at why Animorphs is just so dark and depressing. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.