Archive for October, 2007


Is Gloomy Bear Camp?

October 25, 2007

Following from the discussion in my earlier post about camp being a subcultural adoption of a waning aspect of mass culture, I found myself thinking about Gloomy Bear, a popular character and plush toy by Japanese designer Mori Chack. Gloomy is a cute pink bear who is covered in blood and eats people.

Obviously this is done in reaction to the cuteness of Hello Kitty and the rest, but it isn’t really a parody as we would understand it in the West. Chack sells these in toy stores by the thousands.

These are consumed with an awareness of irony and yet a genuine embrace at the same time. They’ve been popular in Japan for six years — the slow growth cycle must mean something — and are now showing up in the US. Is this camp? Is this a marker that real cute manga animals are outmoded? Or is it just a just a minor jab at the juggernaut of mainstream Japanese popular culture?

Maybe the clue is with Mori’s description of Gloomy. The orphaned bear cub is found by the blond Pitty Boy, who raises him, but when Gloomy grows up, his animal nature comes through and he attacks and eats Pitty Boy. Who is Pitty Boy in this metaphor?