Spi­dery Writ­ing

Bon­nie Bur­ton gets inside the mind of big screen arach­nids

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Opinion -

Oh, what a tan­gled web we weave. When first we prac­tise to de­ceive! Es­pe­cially when we’re gi­ant mu­tant spi­ders at­tack­ing a city that chooses to wel­come us with mil­i­tary gun­fire. Though to be fair, mon­ster spi­ders don’t need to trick their prey – they just need an ex­tra large web.

For all who squeal in fear when­ever a spi­der of any size pays a visit, watch­ing movies about killer spi­ders in­vad­ing un­sus­pect­ing ci­ties full of help­less hu­mans may seem more like masochism than en­ter­tain­ment. But in­stead of squirm­ing in my seat when Hor­rors Of Spi­der Is­land or Eight Legged Freaks show up on telly, I change. I side with the men­ac­ing mu­tant creature over the hu­mans ev­ery time.

Be­fore you call me a traitor to hu­man­ity, con­sider the facts. Th­ese spi­ders are afraid, lonely and home­sick. They are mis­treated in labs, stolen from the rain­for­est to be poked and prod­ded, or held pris­oner in mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions.

Sci­ence is, pri­mar­ily, to blame. In the case of the 2013 movie Big Ass Spi­der the tit­u­lar spi­der was just hang­ing out, got in­flated by sci­en­tists test­ing alien DNA, and sud­denly it was, er, big ass. Nat­u­rally it wanted re­venge. And who could blame it? A sim­i­lar thread runs through 1955’ s Taran­tula, where sci­en­tists use an atomic iso­tope to cre­ate a su­per food nu­tri­ent by test­ing on mice, guinea pigs and – yup – an in­no­cent taran­tula. Which es­capes. And grows. Thanks, sci­ence! After the huge spi­der kills live­stock at the neigh­bour­ing farms, it re­turns to the lab to ex­ter­mi­nate the re­main­ing sci­en­tist. Only a dose of napalm fin­ishes it off in the end.

That’s not the end of sci­ence’s crimes. In the 2007 movie Ice Spi­ders an en­tire ski re­sort is sub­jected to gi­ant black widow at­tacks thanks to sci­en­tists in a nearby top- se­cret mil­i­tary lab that ex­per­i­ment with the growth pat­terns – re­sult­ing in a mu­ta­tion and some very bad arach­nid mood swings. Pes­ti­cides force hordes of ma­raud­ing taran­tu­las to go after big­ger prey in King­dom Of The Spi­ders ( 1977) star­ring Wil­liam Shat­ner. Another man- made mess it seems. The film ends with one heck of a gi­ant web co­coon, and not a happy re­sult for the hu­mans.

In the 1967 Toho film Son Of Godzilla, the spi­der mon­ster Kumonga was the en­emy, but later – in De­stroy All Monsters – he ends up sav­ing the world along­side Godzilla. The spi­der chose to take the same ap­proach hu­mans do in all wars – the en­e­mies of our en­e­mies are our al­lies. When Kumonga is cap­tured by aliens who are in con­trol of Mon­ster Zero ( also known as King Ghi­do­rah) the arach­nid avenges its im­pris­on­ment by us­ing

I side with the mu­tant creature over the hu­mans ev­ery time

its web to take down the aliens’ num­ber one weapon of de­struc­tion.

Some poor spi­ders are nei­ther nasty or nice; just in­no­cent arach­nids that are blamed for atroc­i­ties they did not com­mit. When Harry Pot­ter came face to face with the gi­ant spi­der Ar­a­gog, we learn it is wrongly ac­cused of killing a stu­dent decades ago. While it was in the spi­der’s in­stinct to at­tack hu­mans, out of re­spect for Ha­grid, it re­frained.

In real life, spi­ders can’t even spot us un­til we are a foot away. A spi­der is not likely to plot its re­venge on us if it can’t even see us. But spi­ders are blamed for bites that ac­tu­ally come from fleas, mos­qui­toes, bed­bugs, ticks and mites. Just like Ar­a­gog, they are quite nice re­ally, wrongly ac­cused for the ac­tions of bugs that do mean us harm. Movies have taught me that sci­en­tists – not spi­ders – are the en­emy here.

So be­fore you squash that spi­der on the wall, or bel­low “MUR­DERER!” at the mu­tant spi­der that lev­els a town in the movies, re­mem­ber that th­ese crea­tures – even the grotesquely en­larged ones – are just try­ing to sur­vive in a world where hu­mans still call the shots. Bon­nie is happy to de­fend spi­ders but please don’t pour a bucket of them on her head.

O ur colum­nist Bon­nie Bur­ton, a San Fran­cis­cobased au­thor, has writ­ten a num­ber of books in­clud­ing her lat­est – The Star Wars Craft Book. B onnie ap­pears on the mas­sive “Geek & Sundry” and “Stan Lee’s World Of He­roes” YouTube chan­nels. M ore of her writ­ing can be found at www. grrl. com.

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