Monday, April 19, 2010

You Don’t Know Where That Bear Has Been

As a young television viewer, I initially had access to only three channels — NBC, ABC and a very fuzzy feed of Fox. Eventually, my parents sprung for a satellite dish and this enabled me to see all manner of programming inappropriate for someone my age. Included in my young education of violent, sexual, violently sexual and otherwise disturbing movies was stuff like Lawnmower Man, Halloween 4, strange British sitcoms, the Rocky Horror Picture Show for some reason, and episodes of Dirty Pair, all of which I thought were AWESOME because I didn’t know better. Also on this list is the 1981 movie Heavy Metal, the first adult cartoon I’d ever seen. I loved it, and just this weekend I re-watched it to check the accuracy of my memories of its greatness.

In case you’ve never heard of Heavy Metal, have a look at its poster, which communicates all you need to know about the film’s theme and general imagery.

Overall, Heavy Metal wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, and at times I actually thought it was about as cool as it seemed when I was a kid. Perhaps more than anything else, I found myself surprised by the quality of bands supplying music for the soundtrack — Blue Öyster Cult, Stevie Nicks, Cheap Trick, Grand Funk Railroad and Devo, just to name a few. Certainly not the screeching, thrashing kind of music the name Heavy Metal suggests.

Along the lines of music, I noticed something else, too. In “Den,” one of the film’s vignettes, a bare-chested barbarian dude must rescue a soon-to-be-sacrificed maiden from an evil cult. The ceremony is led by an evil queen — also bare-chested, of course — and her outfit get-up has a familiar-looking symbol blocking the view of her hoohah.

(image has been modified to prevent you from being scandalized.)

This was the best image of the ceremonial thong I could find, but I think you can make out enough detail to note how much it looks like the Radiohead “evil teddy bear” logo.

Right? Like, normally when confronted by an alleged pop culture connection like this, I’d say “Oh, those look similar, in a general way.” But these two look similar to the point that I’d actually bet that Heavy Metal influenced the Radiohead logo. I wish I could find out for sure, but my attempt at research yielded only that the bear logo was designed by Thom Yorke and artist frequent Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood. Beyond that it’s hard going, since any search terms that could lead me to an answer — “heavy metal,” “radiohead,” “queen,” etc. — also turn up thousands of shitty music sites. All I can say for now is that it doesn’t seem out-of-the-question that Yorke or Donwood would have seen Heavy Metal and used it as inspiration, given its status as a cult film existing at the exact intersection of music and weird art.

I guess I can just hope that someone Googling their way here might be able to point me in the right direction.

Previous assertions of my visual literacy:


  1. Before I read on, I immediately saw it as a Hidden Mickey... Also considering the placement and comparison to other animated films at the time (i.e. they were all aimed at kids), it could be taken as kind of subversive...

  2. A very good point I wish I'd thought of. It seems entirely within the spirit of this decidedly not-for-kids movie to stick a twisted, meaner version of the Disney logo. And it looks almost as much like a Hidden Mickey as it does the Radiohead logo.

  3. I also thought of the Mickey thing. Really great find, I wonder if you are the first to notice? Or if maybe there is yet a third thing that both the Radiohead logo and this were based on?

    This also reminds me of something I noticed that immediately made me think of your blog, because I could see it showing up on here as something you were trying to puzzle out: In the intro of the TV show House, why is there a shot of two guys canoeing down a river in a sequence otherwise made up entirely of stylized medical drawing animations? (and a shot of the cast, but that makes sense.)

  4. Glen: Yeah, I'd noticed that too. Very strange.

    As I remember, some of the early episodes of House --- though not the pilot --- had opening credits that used lots of shots of the hospital and surrounding areas. However, as the opening was truncated in later episodes --- and in all reruns --- only the shot of kayakers in the water remained. It doesn't signify anything in particular nor does it mean anything to Jennifer Morrison's character. Wikipedia tells the story a little differently: "The producers originally wanted to include an image of a cane and an image of a Vicodin bottle, but Fox objected. Morrison's title card was thus lacking an image; an aerial shot of rowers on Princeton University's Lake Carnegie was finally agreed upon to accompany her name."

    But there you go.

  5. I've just noticed this in the movie, after watching it a few times. It couldn't be a coincidence.