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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?

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3 comments

  1. My boyfriend loves Gloomy bear stuff. We have stuffed Gloomy arms with claws that you can actually wear; all visitors to our place end up putting them on and fighting each other. I think it’s hilarious.

    I never knew much about the origin of Gloomy bear, and I certainly never thought about the implications of his popularity or the metaphor of the story. This was a really interesting article!


  2. my exgirlfriend loves gloomy bear
    she has a plush of him. i think its cute


  3. (;
    I love gloomy bear. My room is full of him,
    but I never thought about alot of things in this article.

    It was very interesting. Thumbs up to you(:



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