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Cephalopods in popular culture

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Cephalopods in popular culture

Cephalopods, specifically pertaining to octopuses, squids, and cuttlefishes, are most commonly represented in popular culture in the Western world as creatures that spray ink and latch onto things with their tentacles without releasing.


The octopus has been used as a (usually negative) metaphor for entity which is perceived as sending out many "tentacles" from one "center" in order to exert power and control. Such metaphors had been used by the opponents of Multinational corporation and also by Antisemites depicting Jews in such a way (for example, in cartoons used to illustrate some editions of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion".


The first cephalopod character to play a title role in an American animated cartoon series was the Hanna-Barbera character, Squiddly Diddly. The cartoon series Oswald revolves around the life of the titular blue octopus and his friends. Cephalopods more commonly appear as supporting characters, or make guest appearances. Examples of supporting characters in cartoons include Occy (Allstar's pet octopus) in Snorks, and Squidward Tentacles from the Nickelodeon series SpongeBob SquarePants. Squilliam Fancyson, is another cephalopod character from the same cartoon. Numerous cephalopods have made cameo appearances in the cartoon series Octonauts. The character Eight-Armed Willie from the animated series Flapjack is another example of a cephalopod cameo. In an episode of the computer animated series The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, entitled "Nightmare in Retroville", the main character transforms into an octopus.


Doctor Octopus and Lady Octopus are two supervillains from the Marvel Comics universe. The former was a scientist who augmented his human body by adding four mechanical arms (bringing his total number of limbs to eight). Another villain is Zitzbath Zark, otherwise known as the Octopus, from the hardboiled comic Spirit. The DC Comics hero Aquaman had a pet octopus named Topo who assisted him in a variety of ways, often taking advantage of his multiple limbs.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is the best known representation of a giant cephalopod in cinema. The story's plot follows a group of humans who travel in a submarine called Nautilus (another cephalopod reference) and encounter a giant cephalopod. At least five film adaptions of the story exist (1907, 1916, 1954, 1985 and 1997) which variously present the creature as a squid or an octopus, or a fantastic combination of the two.

Other films which feature giant cephalopods include It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), Space Amoeba (1970), Tentacles (1977), Warlords of Atlantis (1978), Octopus (2000), Octopus 2: River of Fear (2001) Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006) Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009) and Arrival (2016). The Beast (1996) and Deep Rising (1998) both feature squid.

Octopi have also been depicted in cinema as hybrids, such as in Octaman, which features a mutant humanoid octopus. In the Disney animated movie The Little Mermaid, Ursula (the sea witch) is depicted as a human-octopus hybrid with the torso of a woman and the arms of an octopus in place of her legs. Monster Shark (1984) and Sharktopus (2010) feature fish-octopus hybrids.

An octopus appears in Wake of the Red Witch, Bride of the Monster, and Ed Wood; where it is used as a prop.

Cephalopods have also been depicted in animated feature films for family audiences. Finding Nemo (2003) includes a flapjack octopus among its cast of aquatic characters. Toy Story 3 (2010) features a toy rubber octopus named Stretch (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) and Shark Tale (2004) features an octopus named Luca (voiced by Vincent Pastore). An octopus named Dave (voiced by John Malkovich) is the main antagonist in the 2014 Penguins of Madagascar movie. The Australian animated film Dot and the Whale (1986) features a giant octopus with magical powers.

In the 2015 film Jurassic World, it is revealed that cuttlefish genes were used in the creation of the hybrid dinosaur Indominus rex, resulting in its camouflage ability.


Cthulhu is a fictional deity created by H. P. Lovecraft and first appearing in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu". Cthulhu is portrayed as a malevolent and powerful being that, though for the most part incomprehensible to human understanding, appears to have features reminiscent of an octopus and a dragon. Cthulhu appeared in the three-episode arc of the series South Park that began with the episode "Coon 2: Hindsight". Other prominent examples of cephalopods in literature are the giant squid from Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and the man-eating squid species Haploteuthis ferox from H. G. Wells' short story "The Sea Raiders". In the Harry Potter franchise, a benevolent giant squid lives in the Black Lake, located next to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


The Beatles song Octopus's Garden, the Syd Barrett song Octopus, the Bloc Party song Octopus and the Salmonella Dub song Octopus all incorporate octopuses in their song titles or lyrics. The song Giant Squids by Australian musician Baterz speculates about the lives of the animals. The Australian band Do Re Mi wrote and recorded a song called Cuttlefish Beach which appears on the album Domestic Harmony.

Electronic music

Several musicians, producers and composers of electronic music have names inspired by cephalopods. These include the chip-tune composer Cuttlefish, and the electronic music producers, Tron Sepia (whose name refers to a genus of cuttlefish). Cephalopods are reflected in track titles and the names of several record labels, including: Octopus Records, Octopus Black Label, Black Octopus Sound, Squid and the Stereo, Siamese Squids and Nautilus Recordz. As of January 2016, Beatport's electronic music catalog includes 75 releases which include the word 'octopus' in their title. Some more creative cephalopod-inspired titles include the Spenghead tracks Gargantuan Cuttlefish Liasons and Romancing the Collossal Squid, the latter of which appears on an EP entitled The Cephalopod.

Video games

Octodad, a freeware independent game, and its sequel, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, feature a fatherly octopus as their protagonist. In the Sierra adventure game EcoQuest, the player interacts with an octopus while scuba-diving. After finding the octopus in a den, the player startles it with a mirror and triggers a flight response. The octopus also demonstrates it camouflage and jar-opening abilities.

In the sandbox game Minecraft, squids are passive, non-playable characters that carry obtainable ink sacs. In the media franchise Pokémon, Octillery, Inkay, and Malamar are all cephalopod-like organisms.Splatoon, a game by Nintendo released in 2015, features shapeshifting squid-children as the player characters. Night of the Cephalopods (2008) is a free retro pixel art survival game in which human players must fend off levitating cephalopods. A discussion thread on TONMO.com is dedicated to noting appearances of cephalopod characters in video games.

In Galactopus, a homebrew action game for the Atari 2600, the player pilots a spaceship and battles cephalopods in space.

Other appearances

Paul the Octopus is an octopus that correctly predicted the outcomes of eleven out of thirteen football matches from the UEFA Euro 2008 Championship and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Al the Octopus is the mascot of the Detroit Red Wings.

In the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, "cuttlefish" is the third item on a list that listeners are instructed to memorize.


Cephalopods in popular culture Wikipedia

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