By Ron Mwangaguhunga
As we move uneasily through this season of Election and Halloween as well as All Souls and All Saints, the veil between the living and the dead is now at its most narrow. It is perhaps instructive in this season to be a little reflective about the apocalyptic tone of all and everything nowadays.
Clearly we are in the midst of a post-apocalyptic TV renaissance. Some of the finest examples of this chilling genre, suffused with icy elements of dystopian-realism are, in no particular order: Black Mirror, Mr. Robot and The Leftovers. Two television shows I personally admire the most are the ratings record-breaking Walking Dead and The Strain. Both shows fearure guts galore but also reanimated corpses, perfect metaphors, one cannot fail to note, for the zombie banks which depressed Japan two decades ago, ravaged the global economy in 2008 and that now haunt the shell-shocked European landscape still.
Things Sci-fi, visions dystopian as well as this whole post-apocalyptic gamut overwhelm not just our televisions and mobile devices. Twenty-two of the highest grossing domestic horror films of all time on the big screen have occurred since the Great Recession of 2008. That number shouldn't be entirely surprising, however. Films that most accurately reflect the political and economic realities of their age generally do well at the box office. The horror genre, as an art form, reflects the country’s psychic trauma. The Exorcist, according to that little theory, is perhaps the most magnificent artistic representation of post-Watergate America.
To find the reasons for the horror/dystopian/post-apocalypse saturation one need only look to our most recent economic trauma. The last time the horror genre in particular was so culturally relevant in these United States was during the 1980s, at the height of Ronald Reagan’s then-astonishing budget deficits. Is there, one might ask, some direct mathematical correlation between our collective national financial peril – underemployment? The industrial and manufacturing job suck? Our alarming budget deficits? – And our felt-need as a people for sanguinary satisfaction? Is there some phantom algorithm that could solve the link between Trump and gore?
That brings me to the goriest of all blood sports: Election 2016. It takes a strong stomach to handle this hot mess. In the gladiatorial fundament this year we have Donald Trump representing the freakishly Third Reich-Ian alt right and, on the other, more Establishmentarian side, another Clinton in that dynastic, power-hording succession. Charmed, I’m sure (Averted Gaze). In this most unusual and unprecedented of elections – when was the last time the Grand Old Party chose a previously unelected businessman to represent the party nationally – we have been “treated” to an ugly, low-rent reality TV show with Weiners and (Billy) Bushes aplenty. Even The Learning Channel, which always stoops to conquer (Exaggerated cough), would pass on this … probably.
What about Bernie? It is no surprise then that Mr. Robot (catchphrase: “Our democracy has been hacked”) was and is so popular still with the Bernie Sanders demographic. Bernie, to pure to be a winner, reminds me most of the quintessential farmer Hershel Greene of The Walking Dead, killed (of course) in Season Four. The virtuous death of Hershel, however, was executed slowly. In Season Three, he had his leg amputated on the grounds of the old pig-with-a-pegleg joke: you don’t kill a good pig like that all at once. Evil Corp might as well be Goldman Sachs (wink, wink) where Hillary Clinton gave three closed door speeches at $225,000 apiece (nod, nod).
Finally, no figure in the history of American politics embodies so perfectly the sleaziness of the post-apocalyptic landscape more than the Dickensian-named Trump. If this were indeed a musky, unholy, catastrophic Walking Dead-like scenario Trump would clearly be a regular old “Immortan Joe,” with an assortment of wives and grasping heirs to take up the cause after he ascends to the chrome-plated afterlife in Valhalla. An so let us all hope, hand-on-heart and tongue-in-cheek, that one dynastic Establishmentarian defeats the wretched right-wing Great Beast that riseth up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, hoping to establish his own dynasty. Apocalypse, apocalypse forever!
Ron Mwangaguhunga is a Brooklyn based writer focused on media, culture and politics. His work has appeared in Huffington Post, IFC and Tribeca Film Festival, Kenneth Cole AWEARNESS, NY Magazine, Paper Magazine, CBS News.com, and National Review online to name a few. He is currently the editor of the Corsair.
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