Sunday, January 15, 2017

Human Sacrifice and Execution in the 1920s

There is more fiendishness and murderousness in this series on human sacrifice and execution in Weird Tales. In the previous series, the fiend or murderer attacked a woman who might somehow resist. Here, she is helpless. You can interpret this situation sexually, just as in the previous series. There is even a name for the desire to have sex with a sleeping or helpless person. It's called somnophilia. Bill Cosby, whom we loved so much when we were kids, has been accused of raping women after having drugged them. Some people think that he is a somnophiliac. Not long ago, I watched Mother, Jugs & Speed from 1976. There are scenes of drug use and of somnophilia in that movie, and you just can't watch it in the same way now as you might have then. I suppose this desire to put women into situations where they are helpless has to do with the viewer's (or participant's) feelings of inferiority or a lack of confidence, sexual ability, or sexual experience, or his attempts to avoid rejection or humiliation. Anyway, here they are, the covers of the 1920s showing human sacrifice and execution. In this first installment, all of the victims are women.

Weird Tales, September 1925. Cover story: "The Gargoyle" by Greye La Spina. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch.

Weird Tales, November 1926. Cover story: "The Peacock's Shadow" by E. Hoffman Price. Cover art by E. M. Stevenson.

Weird Tales, February 1927. Cover story: "The Man Who Cast No Shadow" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C. Barker Petrie, Jr. I assume this is an image of sacrifice: the woman is helpless and tied down, while the man holds a knife. That makes three knives in a row.

Weird Tales, Ocober 1929. Cover story: The Woman with the Velvet Collar" by Gaston Leroux. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. Here the weapon of choice is not a knife but a guillotine blade. I remember in the movie The Da Vinci Code that the blade is supposed to be a masculine symbol and the cup a feminine symbol. So far in this series (and in the previous one), that seems to be true, at least for the male symbol.

To be concluded . . . 

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rogue One and "Escape"

I have been thinking about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and of a few more things that bother me about the movie. I have a friend who is a big fan of Star Wars movies. I asked her what she thought of Rogue One. She said it bothered her that there are so few female characters. It's true, there are few, but I pointed out that the lead character is female. That didn't do much for her (my friend), though. But is the female lead, Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, really female? Or is she just a male character cast as a female, as is so common in movies, television, comic books, and fiction these days? Worse yet, is she not even a character but just a plot device disguised as a character?

Forest Whitaker plays a character (or plot device) called Saw Gerrera in Rogue One. (His name is an obvious pun on the theme of war.) In the movie, he is referred to as an extremist and is looked down on by the Rebellion. I thought that was odd. Is that the intrusion of contemporary politics into a movie about a time long ago and a galaxy far, far away? There seem to be parallels in the movie between Gerrera's group and Muslims on Earth and between the attack on the convoy and a terrorist attack in the Middle East of today. Just what are the moviemakers getting at? Wouldn't it be better just to leave out things like that?

Speaking of the attack, why didn't the Empire just fly their shipment out of the city? Why did they have to transport their kyber crystals in overland vehicles? In too many science fiction movies, science and technology are used in the same way magic is used in fantasy: what the wielder of magic (or technology) can do with his abilities is essentially arbitrary. Gandalf can do all kinds of things, but he can't levitate himself out of the pit when he falls in with the Balrog? The Empire can fly a moon-sized space station between galaxies, but it can't lift off from the surface of a planet with a shipment of kyber crystals?

The way the Rebellion makes important decisions is downright laughable. Everybody gets together in a big room, they all get to put in their two cents worth, and there isn't any order or organization to their meeting. It's just a bunch of people shouting at each other. It's like a bunch of students sitting around in a lounge or a dorm room and talking about a problem. I suppose these scenes (there's one in The Force Awakens, too) are supposed to let us know that the Rebellion is democratic and inclusive, unlike that nasty, oppressive Empire. I'm skeptical, though. I doubt that a democratic structure, which tends to become no structure at all and very quickly a mob, has ever led to victory in war. I'm pretty sure only a hierarchical structure is capable of that.

The Rebellion seems to be pretty timid and tentative before being forced into the final battle. Keep in mind that Rogue One takes place very shortly before Star Wars. However, the rebels in Star Wars are not the same rebels as in Rogue One, and they didn't get that way because of the events in Rogue One. They were hard, tough, determined, and courageous long before the opening scene of Star Wars.

Finally, it's pretty obvious that women and minorities are the good guys in Rogue One and that white men are the bad guys. Well, whatever. It's their movie, and I can't say that really bothered me. What bothered me more is that Darth Vader seems smaller. Yeah, David Prowse no longer plays the character, but they could have at least found someone with shoulders to (literally) fill the role.

* * *

There is a good commercial playing on television right now. It's for PlaySation Vue, and it's called "Escape." You can watch it by clicking here. I don't know how aware the makers of the commercial are of science fiction and dystopian literature. I wonder if these images and ideas are actually a part of the collective unconscious or of the zeitgeist of today's world. But the commercial begins like The Matrix and ends like THX 1138 or Logan's Run. "Escape" depicts a corporate dystopia, the great fear of at least one-half of the political spectrum in this country. I'm skeptical of the prospects for a corporate dystopia. I even have doubts about the plausibility of the conventional political dystopia. But this is a good commercial, and if there is anything like a corporate dystopia in America today, it surely has to do with cable television. (Just ask my sister, who has encountered men like Spoor and Dowser lately in her dealings with the cable company.)

Copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fiends and Murderers of the 1940s and '50s

There was less murder and fiendishness on the cover of Weird Tales in the 1940s and '50s. That might be because the editor was a woman. Maybe she didn't want any more of that menacing and threatening of women. As you can see, none of the following four covers fits easily into this category, at least at first glance. I have read The Damp Man series, though, and I can tell you that the title character is the very definition of a fiend.

Weird Tales, January 1942. Cover story: None. Cover art by Gretta. This cover, by Joseph C. Gretter, is kind of a throwback to the 1920s or '30s. This was a time of transition in Weird Tales. Gretter, an artist of those decades (though he later assisted on Riley's Believe It or Not!), seems to have been a fill-in artist, and this was his only cover for "The Unique Magazine."

Weird Tales, March 1944, Canadian edition. Cover story [?]: "The Valley of the Assassins" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by an unknown artist. I'm not so sure about putting this cover in the category of fiends and murderers. The man on the right kind of looks like one of the undead. Or maybe he's a sorcerer of some kind. Anyway, here it is. You'll see this cover again.

Weird Tales, May 1949. Cover story: "The Damp Man Again" by Allison V. Harding. Cover art by John Giunta. That's the Damp Man himself, a real creep and a fiend.

Weird Tales, March 1950. Cover story: "Home to Mother" by Manly Wade Wellman. Cover art by Lee Brown Coye. The figure on this cover looks like he could be a murderer or fiend, but he could be just another one of Coye's decrepit souls.

Now it's on to Human Sacrifice and Executions.

Text and captions copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fiends and Murderers of the 1930s

The fiendishness and murderous continued into the 1930s in Weird Tales. I count five covers with this theme from that decade. Fiends and murderers seem to prefer knives, but there is hypodermic needle in the first picture and a snake, seemingly from a bottle, in the fourth.

Weird Tales, May 1930. Cover story: "The Brain-Thief" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf.

Weird Tales, October 1932. Cover story: "The Heart of Siva" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, March 1932. Cover story: "The Black Gargoyle" by Hugh B. Cave. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, February 1936. Cover story: "Coils of the Silver Serpent" by Forbes Parkhill. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, May 1937. Cover story: "The Mark of the Monster" by Jack Williamson. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

To be concluded . . . 

Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fiends and Murderers of the 1920s

I have started this year writing about the undead and the dead. The dark tone will continue for a while, beginning today with the first of a three-part series on fiends and murderers on the cover of Weird Tales. I'll try to find a way to brighten things up in the next few weeks, although I still want to find out and write about the origins of zombies in American popular culture.

When I was in South Korea, I was a member of the 36th Tactical Fighter Squadron. We were called the Flying Fiends. Our unit patch showed a creature wearing an old-fashioned aviator's helmet. Some of the guys called him "the slobberin' dog." I thought then that a fiend is simply a monster of some kind. Then my friend Joe told me that he looked it up and that a fiend is a sexual deviant. I just looked it up again. My dictionary says that a fiend is "a diabolically cruel or wicked person" or "an evil spirit." That doesn't get away from the depiction of fiends on the cover of pulp magazines, including the seven covers on display here. Each shows a man attacking, threatening, or abducting a woman. The sexual connotations are unavoidable. I tend to think that my friend Joe was right and that a fiend is sexual deviant or a sexual predator on women.

Showing or telling about women in peril is as old as storytelling, of course. It gives men and boys a chance to imagine themselves as rescuers of women. Pulp magazines, however, emphasized the sexual aspect of women in peril. (Maybe that gave men and boys a bit of a thrill or even a chance to imagine themselves as the tormenters of women.) They also emphasized sexual deviancy and sexual violence, including bondage, sadism, torture, and sexual mutilation. That was the hallmark of the weird menace pulps of the 1930s. But as the covers below show, there was fiendishness and murderousness in pulps before that. I count seven such covers of Weird Tales from the 1920s. Four are obviously in this category. Three are less certain. Unfortunately, I haven't read any of these cover stories, so I can't say for sure.

Weird Tales, April 1926. Cover story: "Wolfshead" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by E.M. Stevenson. You have seen this cover before--pretty recently in fact. Here it is again. Robert E. Howard was all of twenty years old when this cover was new.

Weird Tales, May 1926. Cover story: "The Ghosts of Steamboat Coulee" by Arthur J. Burke. Cover art by Andrew Bensen. Here the tables are turned and the fiend or murderer has the knife.

Weird Tales, September 1926. Cover story: "The Bird of Space" by Everil Worrell. Cover art by E.M. Stevenson. I included this cover with vampires and bats, but I don't know that the fiend here is a vampire. Maybe he just looks like one.

Weird Tales, July 1927. Cover story: "The Return of the Master" by H. Warner Munn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. I think that's a man scaring the woman. I'm not sure. And he may or may not be a fiend. I have included this cover here just to be sure.

Weird Tales, January 1929. Cover story: "The Black Master" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Here again, I'm not sure that the man is an actual threat to the woman. He may be rescuing her. Here it is, though, just to be on the safe side.

Weird Tales, July 1929. Cover story: "The Corpse-Master" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Where is the fiend? Sneaking into the picture on the left. I'll have to add this cover to my list of dwarf covers. And he's green. Note that there are three "masters" in a row.

Weird Tales, December 1929. Cover story: "The Mystery of the Four Husbands" by Gaston Leroux. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. This is the third ambiguous cover. I'm not sure that the man is a bad guy. The woman may just think that he is. Of course his bringing a knife to her bed might have something to do with it. Anyway, I just want to say that Hugh Rankin could really draw women. In their stature and allure, they remind me of Roy Crane's women in Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy.

To be continued . . . 

Text and captions copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Pavane pour une infante défunte

Before I let go of 2016, I have to remember a princess. Carrie Fisher died on December 27, bringing to an end a dream of life. I first saw her in Star Wars in 1977. Like boys everywhere, I fell in love with her. She was very beautiful, and though she was young, she was also tough. She could handle her words and, when needed, a blaster. She was a princess but you could also very easily imagine her as a senator and someone high up in an organization devoted to freedom in the galaxy. Girls loved her, too, my youngest sister among them. I drew a picture of Princess Leia for her on her school folder. There were two more movies in the series. There should have been more and they should have come earlier. Too many years passed before Carrie Fisher was once again in Star Wars, and by then there was a new cast and a new spirit. She will be in Star Wars again but I can't help but think she will haunt the movie rather than star in it. There have been and will be attempts to digitize her, but you can't digitize life, or beauty, or romance, or dreams.

I saw Carrie Fisher in life, once, in 2015 at a comic book convention in Indianapolis. I saw her from a distance, but I can say at least that I saw her. On the night before she died, we went to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at the theater. If you don't want to know something about the movie, stop reading now, but her likeness is in it, a likeness lacking in life and spirit to be sure. Hers is the last character to appear on screen. The next morning, Carrie Fisher, the real person, was gone. A strange valediction.

The subtitle of the movie is accurate, I think: it is a Star Wars story, told in the same universe of course but also in the same spirit, though somewhat darker in tone than the original. There are problems with it. Most can be overlooked. An obvious one that can't be is this: If you can cast a shield around a planet, why can't you cast a shield around your shield generator? A more subtle problem: More and more movies are being made by people who seem to have grown up playing computer games rather than reading literature or watching movies. The computer game aesthetic is more and more in film. There are contrived complications, objects to procure, puzzles to solve, obstacles to jump over or through, mazes to traverse. (One of the obstacles in Rogue One reminds me of the "choppy, crushy things" in Galaxy Quest. When your movie evokes memories of a science fiction parody, you could have a problem with your screenplay.) In Rogue One, there are even digitized human characters, just as in a computer game. They are creepy and lifeless and distracting. I stopped listening to the dialogue when they were on screen. There is also a problem that has plagued science fiction since its beginnings, namely, the use of characters as mere plot devices rather than as representations of genuine human personalities. There is no one in the movie with the personality or allure of Carrie Fisher or Harrison Ford or even Billy Dee Williams or puppet master Frank Oz as Yoda. The exception might be the robot K-2SO, a kind of cross between Mr. Spock, R2-D2, and Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Finally, as in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the lead character--in fact the strongest character and the driver of the action--is a woman. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It only shows what has happened in our culture since 1977 (forty years ago!). Then it was a boy who lived on a backwater planet, worked as a farmer, drank blue milk, watched his parental units die at the hands of the empire, and set off on a quest to avenge them, learn about the force, have a great adventure, and destroy the Death Star. Times change.

* * *

On New Year's Eve, we saw Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. From watching the preview, I thought it would be some kind of conspiracy movie. It's not. (I told you to stop reading if you don't want to know about the movie.) Instead it relies on two science fiction tropes: flight from an overpopulated planet and a meteor strike in deep space. The first is ridiculous. Unless something really changes, we're going to be rushing towards each other on an underpopulated planet rather than rushing away from each other on an overpopulated one. The second one is ridiculous, too. Both tropes, however, are used to set up a situation of "what if?", which is what science fiction is about, and in that, and in the intriguing situation, the gorgeous design, the fine special effects, and the perfectly fine performances by the four main actors, Passengers is worth a couple of hours of your life.

Copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Retreat of the Totalitarian Monster

Take a deep breath.

Now begin reading.

I like to listen to Mountain Stage, a radio show that originates in the Mountain State of West Virginia. On a Saturday night a few weeks ago, I thought about West Virginia and about fantasy and science fiction. More than a few writers for Weird Tales were born in, lived in, or died in the state. Fitz-James O'Brien received his mortal wound in what is now West Virginia, not long before it was admitted to the Union. (West Virginians can proudly claim theirs as the only state to secede from the Confederacy.) As I thought about West Virginia, I remembered a science fiction or fantasy story I read many years ago. In it, a man living in a West Virginia holler gets fed up with Hitler. In a mad vision, he gets in his car and drives to Nazi Germany to deal with his country's most hated foe. I wish I could remember the author and title of that story.

We had an election not long ago. If you remember, it was a little contentious. Only one state (Wyoming) had a wider spread, in terms of the percentage of the vote, separating the winner from the loser than did West Virginia. The loser has since gone home. Like a sasquatch, she is sometimes seen in the woods or on a hiking trail. The winner of the race is moving into the White House this month. In other words, person for person, West Virginians did more for their country than almost every other state did on November 8, not necessarily by voting for one candidate but by voting against the other so decisively. They helped to assure that she--an unindicted criminal, an aspiring tyrant, and one of the most mendacious and corrupt presidential candidates in American history--was flushed down the toilet along with her equally mendacious and corrupt husband. They also helped to prevent at least one constitutional crisis by denying her the presidency.

Two thousand sixteen was a bad year in general for Western-style tyranny, meaning tyranny of the leftist-socialist-statist variety. The United Kingdom voted in favor of its own sovereignty and independence in June. An unhinged socialist was defeated in the American presidential primaries earlier that month. (Small comfort there considering who defeated him.) We can hope that another is nearing the end of his reign in Venezuela. Still more are set to go down in flames in 2017.

Fidel Castro died last year, too, at an entirely too-advanced age. He was praised and his loss lamented by what Lenin is supposed to have called the useful idiots of this world. They are idiots, so of course they are incapable of understanding even the simplest of things, one of which is that Castro, like tyrants everywhere, was a monster. Here is an excerpt from an article called "Credulous Western Dupes and Castro" by John Fund, posted on November 27, 2016, on the website of the National Review (here):
Lastly, for all of Castro’s ranting about the exploitive nature of capitalism, it takes a truly mercenary mind to come up with the schemes his regime employed to garner hard currency--from drug-running, to assassinations to, well, vampiric behavior. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported in 1966 that 166 Cuban prisoners were executed on a single day in May of that year. But before they were killed, they were forced to undergo the forced extraction of an average of seven pints of blood from their bodies. This blood was sold to Communist Vietnam at a rate of $50 per pint. Those who underwent the bloodletting suffered cerebral anemia and a state of unconsciousness and paralysis. But that didn’t stop the executions; the victims were carried on a stretcher to the killing field where they were then shot.
One of the themes of this blog is the manifest monstrousness of human beings in general and of totalitarian leaders in particular. People can be monstrous as individuals, as we all know. People involved in mass movements, of which totalitarianism is the all-too-common end point, practice a special kind of monstrousness, though, one backed by political or intellectual ideas that not only justify their actions but actually require the totalitarian and his minions to murder, starve, torture, imprison, or, as in Castro's case, drain their life's blood from his fellow human beings.

Richard Matheson, a teller of weird tales, doesn't get much credit for an innovation in popular culture: In his novel I Am Legend (1954), he invented the zombie horde, what we might recognize now as another kind of mass movement. Matheson didn't call them zombies. He used the word vampires instead. It was George Romero in Night of the Living Dead (1968) who turned the zombie, previously a solitary slave created by a fellow human being, into one of a mass of men infected by an indifferent pathogen. Richard Matheson's hordes of vampires were the direct inspiration for Mr. Romero's hordes of zombies, which have come down to us in the present day in movies and television shows such as The Walking Dead. More on that in a bit.

Even before I Am Legend, there were writers who recognized that zombies might represent certain political ideas. I don't usually provide links to videos, but here's an excerpt from the 1940 film The Ghost Breakers, starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard:

Here is a transcript of the exchange:
Lawrence [Bob Hope]: You live here?
Montgomery [Richard Carlson]: Yes.
Lawrence: Well, then maybe you know what a zombie is.
Montgomery: When a person dies and is buried, it seems there are certain voodoo priests who . . . who have the power to bring him back to life.
Carter [Paulette Goddard]: How horrible!
Montgomery: It's worse than horrible because a zombie has no will of his own. You see them sometimes walking around blindly with dead eyes, following orders, not knowing what they do, not caring.
Lawrence: You mean like Democrats?
That exchange may have been written by the screenwriter, George Marshall, but the punchline could easily have come from Bob Hope himself.

Even before that--long before that--there were suggestions of the monstrousness of the tyrant. Here is a quote from the eighteenth century:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
Note the word swarms, more or less equivalent to hordes or masses. Note especially the purpose of sending those swarms out into the world: to harass and eat out the substance of the people. Sounds a lot like a horde of zombies (or vampires or orcs or any number of monster types). The quote by the way is from the Declaration of Independence, written by the founder of what is now the Democratic Party. History is nothing if not full of ironies.

Now back to The Walking Dead. Before I go on, I have to admit that I'm a minority of one: I'm the only person in America who has never seen The Walking Dead. I can't really say much about the show. What I can say is what I have said before, that zombies in the Matheson/Romero mode can be interpreted as representing the great masses of men, or at the very least the fallen nature of man. Those great masses may be men living in a primitive state of nature, or men as ciphers in a contemporary mass movement, or anything in between. Whatever they are, zombies are monsters. They can also be used to symbolize men, who, too often, when they assemble into masses, act as monsters.

So in Castro we had a totalitarian monster acting as a vampire. He was also the leader of masses, or what he hoped to turn into masses--great numbers of people rendered without identity or autonomy and driven by a ravening desire to devour the free people of the world. In short, zombies. It didn't work of course. Nor has the leftist-socialist-statist program worked anywhere, although it often holds on for decades, in the process laying waste to people's lives. Anyway, that leap, from zombie horde to mass man and back again, is one I have sometimes made in this blog. Is it too big of a leap? Maybe. But I'm not the only person to see zombies and the zombie story as symbolic of things in the real world.

I recently read an article by Sean T. Collins called "The Shameful Fascism of The Walking Dead." It was posted on the website The Week on December 17, 2016, here. It's not a very long article; it will take you only a few minutes to read. What you'll find soon enough is that the author of the article sees The Walking Dead as fascist and more or less representative of America under our current president-elect. That's a fair enough interpretation. After all, I have made my own interpretations here and elsewhere. To each his own. I should add that my interpretation of the zombie horde doesn't necessarily clash with that of Sean Collins. He sees the show's human characters as fascists. I see zombies as representative of mass man, a category that includes communists and socialists. Fascism was a reaction to communism. The two go together. From the 1920s into the 1940s, they were locked in mortal combat. However, I don't see the human characters in a zombie story as representing fascists for a simple reason: they are free individuals acting freely--though not always admirably--in a state of nature, thus in the absence of a controlling State.

In his article, Sean Collins writes a good deal about the characteristics of fascism. His emphasis is on "a triumph of will" and "show[s] of force." What he leaves out is that fascism is a statist political system and a form of totalitarianism. That is its essence. Or, in Mussolini's words: "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." One characteristic of a post-apocalyptic setting is that there is no controlling State. At best, people are reduced to tribal living. In addition, fascism arose from and was a variation on socialism. In other words, it was just another mass movement, equal and in opposition to communism but not very much different from it or any other totalitarian system. (All leave a trail of blood.) If the human characters in The Walking Dead are fascists, then the conflict in the show is between two mass movements--opposing movements to be sure but mass movements nonetheless. So do the human characters in The Walking Dead exhibit the qualities of a mass movement? Are they driven by an intellectual or political idea? Are they burning with a holy fire? Do they wish to be subsumed by their movement? Do they yearn to surrender their individual identities and their autonomy to their cause and to an overarching State? More to the point, are they willing to die for it? Or do they wish to live as free, autonomous, and individual human beings, or failing that, to die so that others might live?

I can't say that the human characters in The Walking Dead represent free people. Again, I have never seen the show. But I can't see zombies as representing free people in their struggles against fascist oppressors, either. That would be an absurdity. Yet here is Mr. Collins' expert, Stephen Olbrys Gencarella of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst:
"The zombie trope in the United States emerged with the zombie-as-slave phenomenon around the turn of the 20th century, when American capitalism and colonialism led to ethical conflicts about labor and human rights." 
I'm not sure how historically accurate that assertion is. As I understand it, the idea of the zombie entered American culture in the 1920s and early '30s, not at the turn of the century. (I'm not sure when the first zombie story was published, but it seems to have been contemporaneous with the rise of fascism, i.e., in the 1920s.) As for that business about "American capitalism and colonialism"--well, that's typical leftist claptrap that can be disposed of without further regard.

Dr. Gencarella goes on, citing Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead as examples of a shift in the so-called zombie trope:
"[M]any zombie flicks of the late 20th century could be seen as critiques of consumerist desires, or calls for cooperation between disparate groups."
In his view, The Walking Dead
"is part of another shift, post-9/11, in which the ghouls fill in for presumed 'outsiders' to the nation--but a nation that is limited only to a worthy few." 
I have heard that argument before, that the humans in The Walking Dead are part of "a worthy few." You could fairly say that the creators of The Walking Dead have cast the zombies as representing people you're allowed to kill without compunction. Still, that doesn't get away from the idea that zombies are a mortal threat to humanity, not only because they want to kill humans but also because to die is to become a zombie. The comparison of zombie hordes to mass man seems to me unavoidable, for men who take part in mass movements, whether it be fascism, communism, or radical Islam, seek recruits before dead bodies. The bodies pile up only when people refuse to convert. The difference here is that to die is to become one of the enemy. The only alternatives are to live or be eaten, or to destroy yourself or be destroyed before you can be converted. In any case, to see zombies as people--especially to see them somehow as victims of a fascist movement afoot among the human characters--is to identify with them, or at least to have some sympathies with them. It is, more or less, a wish to see human beings destroyed or rendered into an undifferentiated, soulless mass, because that is the zombies' goal, or more accurately, the goal of the pathogen that animates them. That is also of course the goal of the totalitarian leader in control of a mass movement. There is of course one other alternative to interpreting the zombie story: that it is a simple entertainment and that if there is any symbolism at all, that it represents the human condition in the harshest of all possible worlds.

Not long ago I asked the question: Whom do leftists root for in movies and television? For people or for monsters? I sense now as I did then that they may actually identify or sympathize with the monsters rather than with the people. The admiration leftists express for men like Fidel Castro, whom we know to have been a monster, leads me to believe that their identification or sympathy with monsters extends into the real world. What they don't seem to understand--Sean Collins seemingly among them--is that the real fight in this world is not between fascism on one side and leftism or socialism on the other. It is a neverending fight between freedom and tyranny. Fascism and leftism or socialism are essentially the same thing. Both are for the all-controlling State and against the individual and his free exercise of his unalienable rights. For as long as leftists detach themselves from that reality, their thinking will be stunted and their cause will continue to see defeat as it did so well in 2016. If it weren't for all the pain they cause in the process, I might wish them to go on in their detachment from reality. In any case, here's to further retreats by the aspiring tyrants among us and to the further expansion of the cause of freedom in 2017.

Happy New Year!

A drawing by Hungarian cartoonist Victor Vashi, a refugee or escapee from the two great socialist-statist systems of the twentieth century, nazism and communism. Vashi drew cartoons of both. This drawing, showing a Soviet officer as a kind of monster perched on a midden of skulls, is from Red Primer for Children and Diplomats (Viewpoint Books, 1967), published on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. This year, 2017, will mark the centennial of that revolution, one that carried communists to power so that they might commence a century of political murder. I have no doubt that leftists in the West will celebrate that centennial and lament the passing of their creed.

Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley