Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Exorcists

Remember fallout shelters and hiding under a desk in elementary school during an air raid drill? There’s always a cloud hanging over human life. In the 50’s it was the specter of the Bomb that surfaced in Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach (1957) and even more famously in the Kubrick masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove (1964). Then there was AIDS which spawned its own literature and filmography. Today it’s ISIS whose message spreads virally on the internet and also whose ideas are planted like sexuality in latency and then bloom in troubled adolescents with the onset of puberty. If an atom bomb is the igniter on a fusion explosion, the hormones are what finally sets off the explosion of fundamentalist fervor that turns a quiet young Tunisian into a mass murderer of innocent tourists. The forces that have created this virulent mutation of Al-Qaeda have taken years to coalesce, but the full-blown epidemic is fairly recent. The infamous video taped beheading of James Foley featuring the masked executioner with the faintly cockney accent occurred less than a year ago. How will this affect the imagination say of Stephen King, who wrote a novel which is a virtual treatise on the plague, The Stand (1978)? Will this nameless threat that takes on a name as it enters a proxy become the basis for remakes of  Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) or George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968)? Indeed, robotic humans whose emotions have been erased or zombies seem to be good descriptions of the effect of  extreme zealotry on the human consciousness. John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) should be studied by intelligence services who are seeking to ferret out human time bombs planted by ISIS and other terrorist organizations--and also by novelists and screenplay writers who attempt to exorcize our current devils through art.

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