[Interview] Talking the ‘Hyper-Gremlinization’ of Reality With the Director of the Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies
On Dec. 3rd, 2017, a Twitter account called the ‘Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies’ went live. Within 24 hours its eighth tweet had over one thousand favorites. And no wonder. The Institute was burning it down.
This was an account putting more thought and study into Joe Dante’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch than anyone else ever has or probably should, and what it was discovering was the spiritual precursor to the absurd times we live in now, captured on celluloid all the way back in 1990.
If Twitter is your thing and you have any kind of appreciation for The New Batch, following this account is a dive into a rabbit hole of existentialism, philosophy and Gremlins you should experience yourself. But I wasn’t content with that. I wanted to know more about the Institute’s goals, findings and future.
So I set up an interview with its founder, the Director of the Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies.
Bloody Disgusting: What exactly is the Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies? What is its mission?
Director: We are a scholarly organization dedicated to the study of Joe Dante’s 1990 masterpiece Gremlins 2: the New Batch. Despite the rumors, we are definitely not three Gremlins in a trenchcoat swindling funds from a major university.
Bloody Disgusting: That’s—um. What is the scope of your study? Is it exclusively the film, or does it also include the novelization, which delves into the species’ extraterrestrial origins?
Director: The novelization is not canon. I claim this obsession with backstory and lore is counter-intuitive to the dream-logic that a film like Gremlins 2 – and indeed other fantasy stories – requires to function. The audience thirsts for lore, for rationalization; it flows from the same cultural impulse for control that is epitomized in Gremlins 2’s Clamp Center. The Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies is devoted exclusively to the study of the film, and its mediocre prequel.
Bloody Disgusting: Fair enough. What prompted you to found the Institute? What is it that drives you?
Director: I’m guessing that you, like so many others, have noticed this strange feeling over the past couple of years. Like reality is unraveling, like we are living in an over-the-top parody of past events. This is not something new – clearly these current existed back in 1990 when Joe Dante created the film – but in recent years it has really coalesced into something more tangible and obvious. Those undercurrents have overtaken the mainstream. If you’re familiar with my studies, you’re probably familiar with the name I have for this – Hyper-Gremlinization. The film is increasingly indistinguishable from reality. The contemporary viewer of the film may miss some of the parodies and jokes because these things are now real.
Bloody Disgusting: I have noticed this. I often say “the simulation is broken.” So you think, like Gremlins 2 was a parody of Gremlins, reality has become a parody of itself?
Director: Precisely. That is why I think it’s important to return to Gremlins 2, to drill down past the cartoonish exterior and into the darker themes at its heart. It is a film that ends in slaughter of sentient beings. It takes place in an environment where humans are constantly under surveillance, and have been reduced to little bar codes they wear on their lapels. In the present day, it is easy to laugh at the predicament we find ourselves in – we are living through a Looney Tunes version of Watergate. But much like Gremlins 2, there are very real consequences to this fever dream we’ve collectively experiencing. We cannot let the hyperreality of media anesthetize us into complacency, because there are lives at stake.
Bloody Disgusting: That’s very astute for Definitely Not Three Gremlins in a Trenchcoat. What themes from Gremlins 2 do you think are most relevant to people today?
Director: There is the theme o dehumanization. When the Gremlins threaten to get loose, Dr. Catheter mentions how if they were to eat a child it would be a public relations disaster. Or as the Gremlins wreak havoc inside the building, one character laments is as a “failure of management.” There is this inability to see beyond corporate practices. To the managers of Clamp Center, corporate jargon doesn’t just change the way they speak, it structures their entire worldview. And there is a dehumanization in that. The eeriest line in the film is when Clamp realizes this, and remarks that “Maybe it wasn’t a place for people anyway. It was a place for things. You make a place for things… things come.”
Bloody Disgusting: You bring up Clamp… At the risk of getting political, he’s a clear mash-up of Trump and Ted Turner. How does that aspect of the movie hold up?
Director: Clamp is fascinating because he is a synthesis of Trump and his enemies. He is a Trump that owns CNN. He is a Trump without the offensives, with a kind of boyish charm and a spectacular high-tech building. And I think that makes him more dangerous. People are rather uncritical about their love for figures like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg. What Clamp has created is a tightly controlled environment, socially stratified, and under constant surveillance. And when that is married with control of the media – Clamp owns Clamp Cable Network, or CCN – what you get is the sort of “Reality TV Authoritarianism” you see in countries like Russia or Azerbaijan. Trump can’t bring that to America, he is too vulgar and combative towards the press. But Clamp could. That is why Clamp frightens me.
Bloody Disgusting: The movie itself isn’t too kind towards the news media. Fred is dressed as a literal ghoul while broadcasting the chaos around him.
Director: With Fred, we have a situation where he seems to be standing up for journalistic ethics by broadcasting the truth to the world. However, one could also say that he is vampiric, sustaining his own career off the bloodshed that he is voyeuristically showing the audience. I would say both these are true at once. Even ethical journalism, when contextualized in the delirium of the 24-hour news cycle, can become just another image, another entertainment product, another part of the all-consuming spectacle.
Bloody Disgusting: Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter, which I understand is about to be an actual thing.
Director: I do have a mailing list. It is not for a newsletter, but for the Quarterly Journal of Gremlins 2 Studies, the world’s first – and most likely, last – scholarly publication devoted exclusively to the study of Gremlins 2. If there are any Gremlins 2 Scholars out there, now is a time to come out of the shadows and into the bright light – we are always looking for submissions.
Bloody Disgusting: What’s the e-mail for that?
Bloody Disgusting: You’ve mentioned on your Twitter the possibility of a book. What can you tell us about that?
Director: Here at the Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies, we ascribe to something I call “Gremlins Temporality.” Human time means very little to us. So while I say the book is real and happening, that is the truth. But I cannot comment on when that is happening. It is called ‘Kill All Gremlins’ and I will include essays on the film and an elaboration of my concepts for a Gremlins 3. We are also looking to put out a bootleg audio commentary track, and perhaps a documentary called Hyper-Gremlinization. We’d appreciate it if someone well-connected could convince Adam Curtis to finally answer our calls.
Bloody Disgusting: Well, thank you taking some of your Gremlins Temporality to talk to us. Any last thoughts or comments for our readers?
Director: I’ll end on a topic which I’ve been ruminating over these past few days. Why didn’t the Brain Gremlin give the genetic sunblock to all the Gremlins? Why did he only give it to the Bat Gremlin? This question haunts me, it returns to me in my dreams. Was it a mistake? Was it a knowing resignation to fate? Was it a plothole designed to torment the careful observer into critical thought? I do not know. I implore the readers to watch the film again with this in mind. If anyone solves this riddle, please contact the Institute, we are at a dead end.
Follow the ‘Institute of Gremlins 2 Studies’ here!