Friday, 4 November 2016

But is it Gothic? - Courage the Cowardly Dog

This week, the Gothic Reading Group met to discuss the childhood cartoons that formed us into the wonderful Gothic adult-children we still are to this day. Daniel Southward here discusses his relationship to a cartoon dog. 

Why do we watch things that make us afraid? It's an important questions and one that dogs Gothic and Horror theory. Why, for example, would anyone watch a show about a tiny pink dog that is constantly visited by terrifying apparitions? Try not to terrier-self up about it though, just beagle-ad that Courage the Cowardly Dog existed. I am. So settle in, paws anything else you're doing and try to kee-pup (Sorry for the puns, hope they didn't make you feel melan-collie -SEND HELP)

As a young lad, my television choices were largely determined by the temperament of my older brother and his ungodly strength in our frequent fights for the remote control. Thus I grew up with a lot of Transformers, Thundercats and Captain Planet. Still, in the odd occasions when I did somehow wrangle control, I would find myself going straight to cartoon network and the flashing late-nineties surrealist horrors that awaited me there.

At the reading group some of these came up - the horrifying animation and awkward sexual innuendo of Cow and Chicken, the grim reality of Invader Zim, the unendingly catchy theme tune of Round the Twist. None of these shows, despite some of their grimmer moments, ever stuck with me as much as Courage though.

Courage ran on Cartoon Network from 1999 - 2002, -(It had a span[iel] of three years MAKE IT STOP )- and in that time it spawned some truly horrifying memories for me. The central premise is as follows: As a child, a puppy is abandoned at a farm house in the middle of Nowhere. Literally. This pink dog would eventually grow up, under the care of Eustace and Muriel Bagge, to become Courage! The Cowardly Dog! Eustace delighted in torturing the dog with frequent scares, while to Muriel he was a little angel. Paradise, of a sorts, then. Each episode, however, Courage must fight off evil witches, deadly foxes, mattress demons and all other manner of beasts and supernatural beings, all of whom seem to want to steal away his precious humans. Our wee pup will always somehow defeat them, despite being extremely afraid, and return everything to the status quo...mostly.

While the scares were many and terrifying (You were warned) The villain who always returns to mind, when thinking about Courage, though, is the Black Puddle Queen.

Black Puddle Queen seducing Eustace in the bath.

While she only appears in one episode, the witch is a truly terrifying figure. Able to move seamlessly between any body of water, warp her form into anything she likes and with a predilection for seducing men into her deep underwater palace of doom where she would slowly consume their flesh, she was truly a force to be reckoned with (especially in a show in with a very limited female cast... which now I think about it is pretty damn bad. Shame on you courage). One of the terrifying aspects of the queen was that she appeared seemingly at random- a thunderstorm swept over Nowhere, deposited a black puddle and that was it, that was all that drew the queen to the place. That and she can appear in a cup of tea. *eyes up tea on the edge of the desk*

To return to the original question though, why would we watch a show about supernatural creatures wanting to eat someone's parents? A bit of wish-fulfillment of a child perhaps? That something exciting would happen, that they - despite their cowardly nature - would be strong enough to overcome anything, despite how scary it was?

Or maybe just because it was a bit weird. Probably that.

Whatever the reason, the experience of watching Courage was always pleasurable if a little... ruff?

Danny 'Doggone' Southward is a PhD Researcher at the university of Sheffield and currently owns precisely one dog. He wanted to call him Courage, but was over-ruled. His research focuses on the contemporary Gothic, Metafiction and Metamodernism. He loves Puns, send him some of your best Dog-based ones on Twitter @DannySouthy and make his day. 

1 comment:

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