The Kraken is this year’s Susan Boyle

How did a tentacled sea beast from "Clash of the Titans" become the breakout star of the spring?

Topics: Clash of the Titans,

The Kraken is this year's Susan Boyle

Hippogriffs are so last decade. Toruks? Whatever. And dragons? Well, they’re all right. But from the moment Liam Neeson commanded, with all the authority of the most badass god on Olympus, a certain tentacled behemoth to go forth, the Kraken became the hottest mythic beast to descend upon our culture since Harry met the Hendersons.

It can’t only be because it’s fun to say “Kraken.” (Although it totally is.)

The makers of “Clash of the Titans” could have had their pick of beasts. Greek mythology certainly doesn’t want for fanciful creatures: You got your Scylla. You got your Charybdis. You got your gorgons and harpies. What Greek mythology doesn’t have, however, is Kraken. Kraken, as every fan of fanciful water critters knows, is Scandinavian. And he’s only been around since about the 12th century. Guess ”Release the hydra!” just didn’t have quite the same ring.

The overgrown cephalopod has turned up in popular culture before. His “huge sponges of millennial growth and height” have starred in a poem by Tennyson. He’s shown up in Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” And, most recently, he flaunted his tentacles in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” But he’s never enjoyed quite the moment he’s having right now.

In fact, despite the impressive star wattage of Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Sam Worthington, it’s the Kraken who’s emerged as the real star of that toga party flick. On YouTube, he’s been mashed up within an inch of his seemingly indestructible life. On “Dancing With the Stars,” he’s been invoked to describe Chad Ochocinco’s paso doble routine. And on the “Clash of the Titans” movie’s own site, visitors can, well, you know.

Traditionally shy and unconventional looking though he may be, the Kraken is this year’s Susan Boyle. He’s the one we identify with, the one we can mold into our own image. Dominating in a marketing meeting today? Letting your kids loose in the playground? Had chili for lunch? You’re not releasing the Sam Worthington, are you? No, that’s 100 percent pure Kraken.

That’s why the big lug — and that instantly classic line about him — have insinuated themselves so quickly into our hearts. Because when Neeson says, “Release the Kraken!” we think, don’t mind if I do. He may have several deadly rows of teeth and consume his own weight in marine life every day since the dawn of time, but darn you, Kraken, you’re also the misbehaving, whupass-opening part inside all of us.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Rose Jay via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Labrador Retriever

    These guys are happy because their little brains literally can't grasp the concept of global warming.

    Hysteria via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    German Shepherd

    This momma is happy to bring her little guy into the world, because she doesn't know that one day they'll both be dead.

    Christian Mueller via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Golden Retriever

    I bet these guys wouldn't be having so much fun if they knew the sun was going to explode one day.

    WilleeCole Photography via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    This dude thinks he's tough, but only because nobody ever told him about ISIS.

    Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    This little lady is dreaming about her next meal-- not Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

    Labrador Photo Video via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Yorkshire Terrier

    This trusting yorkie has never even heard the name "Bernie Madoff."

    Pavla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    She is smiling so widely because she is too stupid to understand what the Holocaust was.

    Aneta Pics via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    Sure, frolic now, man. One day you're going to be euthanized and so is everyone you love.

    Dezi via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    French Bulldog

    He's on a casual afternoon stroll because he is unfamiliar with the concept of eternity.

    Jagodka via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be this care-free? But we can't because we are basically all indirectly responsible for slavery.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>