Dissecting the Macabre: Gremlins (1984)

Hey there, Creepy Peeps! This week I’m delving deeper into a Christmas horror-comedy classic, Joe Dante’s Gremlins (1984)! My Dissecting the Macabre video should be up on my YouTube channel right now! You can watch it here:

In my video, I touched briefly on one of the themes of Gremlins which is, at it’s most boiled-down, the fear of the other, or more specifically, the ignorance of Americans. Wow. That sounded harsh.

It can’t be denied though, had Mr. Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) listened to Mr. Wing’s (Keye Luke) warning or had Billy (Zach Galligan) taken the time to find out more about his new pet, a lot of damage could have been avoided. But, of course, we would have a movie if that were the case.


Running through Gremlins is a tale of paranoia over those that don’t look different from the rest of the neighborhood or the other:

At the time of its release, minorities were beginning a bigger migration to the suburbs, and the filmmakers use cute and malicious little creatures as stand-ins for the paranoia faced by suburbanites who were afraid their property values would go down once their neighborhood got a little colorized. Don Siegel gave McCarthyism its pod people in 1956, and in 1984, Joe Dante gave the Boondocks its Mogwai. Gremlins is really a tale of suburbanites freaking out over the integration of the ‘burbs’
— (Copeland, “Gremlins: A Segregationist Nightmare”).

When Mr. Peltzer comes across the Mogwai, all he can think of is how great it would be as a gift for Billy. It could be argued that Mr. Peltzer probably felt that he and his son were smart enough to take care of the creature; they wouldn’t possibly need any advice from Mr. Wing. Even when Billy accidentally allows Gizmo to get wet, and more mogwai grow, Billy doesn’t appear concerned that he broke one of the three rules to owning a mogwai. Billy even brings one to his science teacher, who cares even less about the rules and causes the cute little mogwai to become the mischievous gremlin:

The film’s moral, spelled out by Keye Luke’s wizened old man, is that Billy, and perhaps American culture as a whole, cannot take something sweet and pure like a Mogwai without transforming it, even if just inadvertently, into a Gremlin
— (Scibelli, “The Anarchic Comedy of Joe Dante’s ‘Gremlins’”).

Everyone in Billy’s town of Kingston Falls ignorantly welcomes the Mogwai to their community, without giving any second thought to the creature’s origins or the dangers that can come with owning one:

Inevitably each new person it meets asks ‘What is it?’ yet ‘It’s a mogwai’ is, for whatever reason, all the information anyone needs. Even one extra question might have uncovered the Cantonese meaning of the name, which is, roughly, ‘demon’
— (Donner, “Gremlins [1984], Lookback/Review”).

Overall, because of the ignorance of the Peltzers, the gremlins can run wild in Kingston Falls and cause havoc and destruction. Ultimately, Mr. Wing must come in and take the mogwai back as not a single person in Kinston Falls has proven themselves capable of taking care of a Mogwai. So, the foreign threat is whisked back to Chinatown and all is well again.


There you have it folks, a little bit of my analysis of Gremlins. I know it got a little serious there, but that’s not to say I’m incapable of just watching and enjoying the film. Gremlins is easily one of my favorite seasonal horror movies! What is your favorite Christmas horror flick?

Works Cited

Copeland, Edward. “Gremlins: A Segregationist Nightmare.” Edward Copeland's Tangents, Eddie on Film, 20 May 2007.

Donner, Claire. “Gremlins (1984), Lookback/Review.” Den of Geek, DoGTech LLC, 16 Dec. 2012.

Scibelli, Anthony. “The Anarchic Comedy of Joe Dante’s ‘Gremlins’.” Splitsider, The Awl, 30 Jan. 2013.

Starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holliday, Frances Lee McCain

Stay strange!