Cockroaches That Entertain: A Lunchbox List

Why is it when you mention cockroaches then cockroaches start coming out of the woodwork (ya, pun intended - cheap laughs are still laughs and I'll take all I can get)? Of course, my method in informing Ashley of her near death experience at the hands of our cockroach-in-the-night has only made her so skittish, she now sleeps with a loaded 38 special under the pillow, and claims she will shoot me in the right calf if I ever pull something like that again. Point taken.

Since that particular incident Ashley was approached by a large 3-inch monster while in the bathroom who tried to sell her crack. Then last night while she sat at the computer - yep. you guessed it - another roach ran up to her hoping to check his email. "What do they want?" she kept asking and I explained how, now is the time of year when bugs seek out new water sources. "That and they like big-breasted women," I joked as she reached under the pillow.

In any case, I started to think about it, and really, cockroaches have played an important part in entertaining us through movies, TV and books (and my blog of course). Here's my list of the Top Ten books, movies and TV shows where cockroaches entertain us.

10. The album Infest from the band Papa Roach features a large roach on the cover (Music). - Papa Roach? Roach on album cover? Ohhhh, I get it.

9. Enchanted features the magical Princess Giselle using her voice to summon various creatures from New York City to help her tidy the apartment she is staying in, including many cockroaches (Movie). - If Disney can't make rats cooking fine cuisine look cute why did they think they would succeed with cockroaches?

8. In the television show "King of the Hill", the character Dale Gribble has been shown as a breeder of cockroaches. He attempts to breed a colony of Madagascar hissing cockroaches to do his bidding, theorizing that they will believe he is their mother and obey if he is the first thing they see when they hatch (TV). - Dale is not an accurate representation of a Texan in that he is raising a non-Texan breed of roach. Sometimes you can carry satire too far and then it's just ridiculous.

7. Daniel Evan Weiss's novel The Roaches Have No King tells the story of a humanized colony of cockroaches, who swear revenge against their hosts for renovating the kitchen and thus preventing easy access to food supplies (Book). - I've never heard of this book till now, but it's evident that even roaches are being hit hard by the housing crisis now that homeowners are choosing to renovate and increase property value rather than buying new. Cockroach oil is still doing well though.

6. Joe's Apartment — The bugs are cheerful, swinging party-goers who help the titular human hero (Movie). - Where Disney failed to make roaches cute, MTV succeeds by giving them tiny cans of beer and cigarettes and having them through raucous parties. Movie-goers laughed till their sides ached in between hits from their bongs.

5. "La Cucaracha" ("The Cockroach") is a traditional Spanish language folk song (Music). - True story: an ad firm putting together a major marketing campaign aimed at Hispanics pitched this song as the theme music. I asked them if they thought anyone would draw comparisons between cockroaches to immigration? "Huh?" They didn't get it.

4. Revolt of the Cockroach People, an autobiographical novel by Oscar Zeta Acosta, cockroaches are used as a metaphor for oppressed and downtrodden minorities in US society in the 1960s and 70s, particularly Mexican-Americans (Book). - for the movie they plan on using "La Cucarcha" as the theme music.

3. Men in Black — A giant cockroach-like alien's actions threaten to lead to the destruction of the Earth (Movie). - if Vincent D'Onofrio is a method actor, I wonder what he did in order to learn the essence of his character?

2. X-Files episode "War of the Coprophages", cockroaches are seen to group together to murder people. The character Dr. Berenbaum (based on the University of Illinois entomologist) suggests that it is actually swarms of cockroaches that are responsible for most UFO sightings because they can generate an electro-static field which can be illuminated dependent on atmospheric conditions. In one of the scenes, a cockroach that escaped can be seen crawling over the camera, making it appear that the viewer's television has become infested. Though the shot was not planned, the producers decided to leave it in the episode (TV). - don't laugh, they are also responsible for crop circles, the mysterious mutilation of cows in North Dakota, and the assassination of JFK.

1. Franz Kafka's story The Metamorphosis, the character Gregor Samsa awakes to find himself transformed into a giant insect, often interpreted as a cockroach. Actually, the type of bug into which Gregor transforms is not specified, though it is referred to as "vermin" and the little physical description offered could match either a cockroach or beetle. This novel has been parodied in various ways, including at least two other published works: Marc Estrin's 2002 Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa, where Gregor Samsa prospers despite his transformation, becoming an important figure in society, and Tyler Knox's 2006 noir comedy Kockroach in which a cockroach wakes up one morning as a man and becomes a leading gangster in Times Square during the 1950 (Books). - As a Lit Major, I had to read this major work, and my professor didn't appreciate me showing up to class with a can of Raid... Ok, that's not really funny but neither is Kafka.

Other notables

Damnation Alley — A post-apocalyptic Salt Lake City, Utah is infected with a four-inch long, flesh-eating mutant variety (played by the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach). - honestly, I could care less about the cockroaches (unless they were polygamists too), I would just like to see what post-apocalyptic Utah looks like.

Bug (1975 film) also starred Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, this time able to produce fire from their abdomens, wreaking havoc. - they were defeated by unknowingly ingesting concentrated doses of Prilosec... problem solved.

The album Lonesome Crowded West published in 1997 by American indie rock band Modest Mouse contains a song titled Doin' the Cockroach. - why?

International pop superstar Madonna has famously quoted, "I am a survivor. I am like a cockroach, you just can't get rid of me." - and like roaches we just learn to live with you by trying to imagine you aren't really there.

Along with rats, cockroaches are frequently seen infesting various locations in Steve Purcell's comic book series Sam & Max, and one storyline features a race of gigantic cockroaches living on the moon. - thus proving cockroaches can live anywhere.

Creepshow — Swarms of them terrorize a cantankerous and verminophobic old man. - the old man was the goofy dancing guy from the Six Flags commercials

Godzilla vs Gigan, both King Ghidorah and Gigan are controlled remotely by Nebulans, an alien race of giant cockroaches that inherited a waste planet after the dominant species on it polluted it into oblivion. - Green Peace plans on using Godzilla to step on George Bush who they claim is being controlled by an alien race of cockroaches running Haliburton

In the 1983 film Scarface, Tony refers to Gasper Gomez and the Diaz Brothers, rival gang leaders to Frank Lopez, as cockroaches in one of the film's most famous lines: "I'll bury those cock-a-roaches." - fine by me, take Madonna with you while you're at it, Tony "Say goodbye to my little friends!"

* descriptions of listed items courtesy of Wikipedia (and some geek that actually researched the subject of Cockroaches in Pop Culture). The commentary is all me.

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