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As depicted in the 1984 Joe Dante film Gremlins and its 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch, the word mogwai is used to describe a rare sentient being as that is furry, cute, and very curious.

There are "rules" for keeping a mogwai; "Don't get him wet" as, when exposed to water, it immediately reproduces more of its kind asexually by budding from its back; "Keep him away from bright lights....especially sunlight" Sunlight will kill a mogwai and bright light is known to hurt it; and the most important rule "Don't ever feed him after midnight" because if it eats food after midnight, it will create a cocoon, going through changes and become a ferocious, reptilian monster called a gremlin. Gremlins are ammonia-based lifeforms. Gremlins are bigger than mogwai and considerably more vicious and deadly (possessing fangs, claws, and, possibly, a higher intellect). They are governed by the first two rules of owning a mogwai; however, eating after midnight has no effect on them, and any spawn they produce immediately start out as gremlins. Mogwai creatures are mean-spirited and mischievous, with Gizmo, Billy Peltzer's pet mogwai as a rare exception.

The level of maliciousness in the personality of mogwai and gremlins vary. Stripe (the main antagonist of Gremlins), Brain (one of the gremlins turned intelligent in Gremlins 2), and Mohawk (one of the primary antagonists of Gremlins 2) are exceedingly violent and show great delight in hurting others. Others, like the flasher and many of the "bar patrons" from the first movie, just delight in scaring people, causing hijinks, and general destruction. All mogwai (including Gizmo) are energetic and extremely curious, the latter quality often getting them into trouble.

Mogwai/ gremlins are also pack minded, following a leader who is dominant but also has a quality that differentiates them from the others of their kind. Examples of this come from the primary mogwai/gremlin leaders: Stripe, Mohawk, and Brain. Stripe and Mohawk both had a strip of fur the others didn't, and were more violent and more dominant than their brethren. Brain was originally a normal gremlin but after his mutation with the brain hormone became much more intelligent than the rest of his kind and replaced Mohawk as the leader.

Little else is revealed about the mogwai's biology. In Gremlins 2 Gizmo is taken to a laboratory, where the scientists speculate that mogwai are rodents. However, when confronted with gremlins, they believe that the gremlins are reptiles or viruses. The scientists also note they are uncertain as to whether Gizmo's cuteness is genetic. They also explain Gizmo's fear of bright lights by calling it an allergy.




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