Day Sixty: ”Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars” from UHF
For the past thirty four years or so, “Weird Al” Yankovic has essentially owned the field of pop music parody. He is not only without equal in this field, he is without challengers. But within this larger framework as America’s unofficial official pop music parodist Al owns a number of smaller, stranger fields as well.
As we have established here in exhaustive, exhausting detail, Al is the king of funny pop songs about food. He’s equally dominant when it comes to making songs about television shows and television characters. And of course no one is better at setting lovely, gentle music to utterly unhinged, psychotic, violent sentiments.
“Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars”, the third track on UHF, highlights an even weirder subset of Al’s life and career: the song that sounds like the audio version of the kind of campy, ridiculous, over-the-top genre foolishness that would be lovingly mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Consider this the third and concluding entry in what I like to call “Creepy” “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Spooktacular Sonic Trilogy of Terror. The trilogy began, of course, with the Satanic evil of “Nature Trail to Hell”, the song that single-handedly led to the formation of the Parents Music Resource Center and Parental Advisory stickers.
Next Al’s warped mind dreamed up “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” from Dare to be Stupid and here he officially concludes the trilogy with “ another creature-feature-style exploration and condemnation of even more fantastical beasties from outer space.
As its title helpfully suggests, “Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars” is about an invasion of hamsters from a planet near Mars. Now, I am a graduate of the Chicago public school system, so I know nothing about anything, particularly where the planets are concerned.
But I do know that the planet closest to Mars is Earth. That means that in this song the radioactive hamsters from a planet near Mars are actually from Earth, unless we assume that there’s a hitherto undiscovered planet that is a potent breeding ground for radioactive hamsters from outer space.
I was confused, so I called up Neil DeGrasse Tyson, America’s official scientist, and asked him about the science on “Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars.” He said it all pretty much checks out, and also that people should be more laid-back about stuff like that. What does it matter whether a movie, television show or song is “scientifically accurate” or not? The whole point is to have fun! And enjoy yourself! With the nice people!
Like the previous two entries in “Creepy” “Weird Al” Yankovic’s trilogy of sonic terror, “Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars” is a whole lot of fun. It’s a kitschy, goofy, over-the-top romp, full of haunted house atmosphere and rocking good times about seemingly adorable but ultimately malevolent creatures who show up on the narrator’s doorstep and, after getting just a little too close to a microwave oven, grew to “40 thousand times their original size.”
Needless to say, that’s a bit of a game changer both for the singer and for humanity. The mutated hamsters descend upon the Earth in cigar-shaped UFOs and, as the singer notes unhappily, “Now the whole wide world is their exercise wheel.”
As with previous entries in “Creepy” “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Super Creepy Thriller Chiller horror theater, this gleans humor from the incongruous juxtaposition of the fantastical and the mundane. So while the narrator desperately hopes that scientists and the government and the National Guard and all the respectable people can do something about this rodent menace, he seems as worried about the property values in the neighborhood as he does about the very real possibility that humanity will not survive its clash with the titular monsters.
If “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” is like Mars Attack in song form, then“Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars” is more like Gremlins or Gremlins 2. As with Gremlins, the song begins with something almost oppressively adorable, in this case a hamster, and follows them as they go from cute and cuddly to a violent threat to society’s orderly functioning and survival.
These radioactive hamsters from a planet near Mars aren’t just disconcertingly, dangerously large. They’re bastards in other respects as well. According to the appropriately concerned singer, they’re “evil and nasty and they glow in the dark” but he grudgingly concedes that they’re nevertheless “really kind of cute.”
The same can be said of “Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars.” If you can ignore a body count probably in the hundreds of millions, it’s pretty gosh darn adorable.
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