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As Know Your Meme explains,

"Release the Kraken!" is a catchphrase and image macro series based on a memorable quote uttered by Zeus in the 1981 fantasy adventure film The Clash of the Titans as well as the 2010 3D remake. Despite the dramatic delivery of the line in the reboot, the quote was perceived as unintentionally funny and quickly became a target of image macro jokes on the web. […]

The first Urban Dictionary entry for the phrase "Release the Kraken" was submitted on March 31st, 2010, defined as "to pwn or to kick the ass of whomever you're releasing the kraken on." Throughout the first week of April 2010, the phrase was dubbed the latest meme by various tech and internet news outlets including Geekosystem, Vulture, Now Public, MTV and Mediate among others. In December, the phrase was listed in TIME Magazine's Top 10 Buzzwords of the Year.

Recently, this phrase has acquired a political second life, as a way of promising to reveal evidence of massive fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Given that the cinematic Kraken was the key destructive force in a failed satanic plot , the current political usage is either deeply ironic or deeply subversive.

An 11/17/2020 NYT story by Davey Alba, "‘Release the Kraken,’ a catchphrase for unfounded conspiracy theory, trends on Twitter", quotes lawyer Sidney Powell in an 11/14/2020 Fox Business Network interview with Lou Dobbs, to the effect that "the president’s team had voluminous evidence that it planned to release to overturn election results in key states", and

“I’m going to release the Kraken,” Ms. Powell said.

Powell repeated similar claims, using the same expression, in an 11/19/2020 press conference with Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis — and Ellis tweeted that the press conference had actually released the beast:

Powell used the expression again in a lengthy 11/21/2020 Newsmax interview. All this stuff got enough push-back that she was banished from the president's "elite strike force":

And apparently today is the day:

Let's leave aside the various ways that the Clash of the Titans movies merged a Norse sea monster into a Greek myth, and take the movie plots at face value. In (the 2010 version of) this universe, the Kraken is a monster created by Hades, the lord of hell. Humans start to withhold their worship, threatening the gods' power, and Hades tricks Zeus into letting him use the Kraken to bring the humans to heel by destroying their cities, while planning all along to overthrow Zeus and take over heaven.

So the Kraken is an evil monster, created by a Satan-equivalent figure and used by him in a civilization-destroying plot against a God-equivalent figure.

In the (2010) movie's own words:

NARRATOR: The oldest stories ever told are written in the stars.

Stories of time before man and gods, when Titans ruled the earth.

The Titans were powerful,
but their reign was ended by their own sons,
Zeus, Poseidon and Hades.

Zeus convinced his brother Hades
to create a beast so strong it could defeat their parents.

And from his own flesh,
Hades gave birth to an unspeakable horror: the Kraken.

Zeus became king of the heavens.
Poseidon, king of the seas.
And Hades, tricked by Zeus,
was left to rule the underworld in darkness and in misery.

When the city of Argos starts to abandon its worship of the gods, Hades appears, threatens them with the Kraken, and demands the sacrifice of Princess Andromeda:

HADES: In 10 days, when the sun is eclipsed, I will unleash the Kraken.

Argos will be swept from the earth, and all of you with it.

Unless you sacrifice the princess you so foolishly compare to the gods.

Only her blood will sate the Kraken, and Zeus, who you have so offended.

The Kraken is duly unleashed, and as it starts to destroy Argos, Hades confronts Zeus:

HADES: Argos has fallen.

Do you feel stronger, brother?

You thought the Kraken would bring you their prayers.

But the Kraken is my child.
It feeds only me.

ZEUS: I command Olympus. Remember who you serve.

HADES: I serve myself.

I have since you cheated me.

You sent me to the underworld to be hated, while you basked in their love.

ZEUS: We need the love of humans.

HADES: No, you need it. I survive on their fear.

Your reign is over, brother Zeus.

You'll watch while my blessed avenger devours their hopes.

And then finally you'll know my pain.

So in Sidney Powell's universe, who is Hades? Who is Zeus? What is Argos? Who is Andromeda, and who is Perseus?

I suspect that she's just using a memetic expression, and these are some of the many questions that she hasn't really thought through. At least, I hope so 😅



  1. Michael D Sullivan said,

    November 25, 2020 @ 8:07 pm

    Ironically, on Sunday, November 22, the New York Times actually released the KRAKEN for real … in the crossword puzzle.

  2. D.O. said,

    November 25, 2020 @ 10:22 pm

    Well, in some of her other utterances Sidney Powell promissed something "Biblical". If she is running out of powerful destructive metaphors, I can suggest "thermonuclear". But that's so 20th century of me.

  3. Yerushalmi said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 2:25 am

    The Commentary Magazine podcast pointed out that Powell probably didn't think the metaphor through, considering that the Kraken is the bad guy, and also loses.

    [(myl) Not just "the bad guy", but the key destructive force in a satanic plot. And the Kraken also loses, there's that — but satanic plotters always expect that this time will be different.]

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 6:32 am

    A different generation — I know of the Kraken only through "The Kraken Wakes", John Wyndham, 1953.

  5. Theophylact said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 10:43 am

    Also the title of a China Miéville novel, i>Kraken.

  6. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 12:51 pm

    Perhaps not by coincidence 2010 saw not only the 3D remake of the movie, but the market debut of "The Kraken" as a brand of spiced rum that I believe has had some sales success with The Young People. That may have contributed to the meme-eligibility of the phrase.

    (I saw the original movie back in 1981. I remember it being bad but I have forgotten all the dialogue and pretty much all of the plot, not having the right personality to have ironically embraced it as kitsch.)

  7. Ben Zimmer said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 2:10 pm

    It's worth noting that "the Kraken" has recently been given a positive spin with the announcement that the name would be used for Seattle's new NHL team.

  8. Vireya said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 3:00 pm

    To Australian fans of Shaun Micallef the phrase "release the Kraken" should be followed by the song "Hey Mickey" and a man in a strange octopus suit appearing out of a cupboard.

    The humour mightn't translate but there are YouTube clips of this happening from 2012 to 2020.

  9. Brett Altschul said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 3:02 pm

    While I know that the "Release the Kraken" image meme is specifically associated with the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans, I want to point out the primary villainous deity in the 1981 original is the sea goddess Thetis, not the much-maligned Hades. Thetis's motivations are also much more conventional ones for Greek gods—revenge for mistreatment of her son, and then pique for having her beauty compared unfavorable to Andromeda's.

  10. KeithB said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 5:00 pm

    I thought the recent revival of the meme was due to _Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest_.

  11. butcherpete said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 8:42 pm

    No Kraken shall be found till sought by name, Malcolm Lowry

  12. Adrian Bailey said,

    November 26, 2020 @ 9:00 pm

    This is one of those names whose pronunciation has been opaque – to me at least. I usually say "krahken" but I notice it's "krakken" on the embedded recordings, and "krayken" would also seem to be possible.

  13. Andreas Johansson said,

    November 27, 2020 @ 12:59 am

    @Adrian Bailey:

    FWIW, the Scandinavian original is closest to "krahken".

    It's incidentally the least intimidating monster-name ever, meaning someone who's weak or ill.

  14. Athel Cornish-Bowden said,

    November 27, 2020 @ 2:25 pm

    Philip Taylor: Me too. I'm surprised that people are looking for references much more recent than 1953. Really literate people will look back as far as Tennyson, or even earlier. (I confess, though, that I learned of the Tennyson poem by reading the Wikiparticle about John Wyndham's book.)

  15. chris said,

    November 28, 2020 @ 3:45 pm

    Well, in some of her other utterances Sidney Powell promissed something "Biblical".
    Surely in that case she ought to have released the Leviathan?

  16. Andrew Usher said,

    November 28, 2020 @ 10:28 pm

    Adrian Bailey:
    I'd never known a fixed pronunciation either, though I think I've heard 'krakken' and would use it. Actually, one of the recordings uses 'krakken' and the other 'krahken'; since all the voices are 'British' accents, I don't think this is an American/British difference.

    I'd rather see it fully anglicised to 'kray-ken', though.

    k_over_hbarc at

  17. Philip Taylor said,

    November 29, 2020 @ 1:35 am

    I've never known it, nor thought of it, as anything other than / ˈkrɑː kən/.

  18. KeithB said,

    November 30, 2020 @ 9:45 am

    @Athel Cornish-Borden:
    We are not looking for references to Kraken, but to "Release the Kraken!"

    For the Record, the Kraken also appears in Atlantis: Milo's Return, the sequel to Atlantis: The Lost Empire, but since no one saw it, it is hardly likely to be a meme generator.

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