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Myths of the 21st Century

Prior to the American missile strike in Syria, Star Wars: Rogue One (A Jihad Story) was playing in the press cabin of Air Force One. The Metro UK article does not make it clear if the President was actually watching the movie. However, the power of popular culture over the political sphere is immense.

Thermidor editor PT Carlo previously wrote on the pro-Jihadi subtext of the latest Star Wars entry, noting: "Rogue One is mostly a vehicle for Neoconservative propaganda which preaches the necessity of working with Jihadist groups to further the goals of Neoliberal Hegemony." Having seen it myself, Rogue One is otherwise unremarkable except for the pro-rebellion overtones. It's never very clear why the rebels are fighting the Empire, other than that they are vaguely bad. Part of this is due to lazy writing, but that writing intentionally--or maybe unintentionally--delivers the message that rebellion is usually justified. The imagery of hooded insurgents fighting on desert planets is not accidental.

While PT Carlo's essay explored the implications of Rogue One, other media franchises help set the tone for the new administration. The Hunger Games series of books, and later movies, were made during the Obama years. In typical fashion, the main cast of characters form a rebellion against an oppressive system. At least for Hunger Games, the character motivations are easier to understand, given that the titular games are effectively a kind of child sacrifice to the fictional, post-apocalyptic Panem government. The books and movies came out at the start of the Obama administration in 2008.

My generation (and the middle-aged women who also read these kids' novels) would never make the connection between the reckless previous administration and the totalitarian aspects of the novels and movies. This is not surprising given the age of the readership and who Obama was. However, the series still reinforces the constant revolt against higher authority. It builds up the narrative of left wing "anti-fascists", who are funded by the establishment they claim to counter.

Harry Potter has become another media franchise brought back from the dead (the last book came out in 2007 and the last movie in 2011) to push a similar theme of vague "good" versus "evil." The actual story of Harry Potter is not as important as its cultural repercussions--Harold Bloom wrote the best take down of any claim the books had to literary merit.

Throughout the election JK Rowling compared Donald Trump to Voldemort and adult liberals kept making allusions between politics and the series. More recently, students at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government launched a "resistance school" to counter the Trump administration. They themselves to the teenage wizards of the novels who form "Dumbledore's army" to fight the dark wizards villains.

The group is not officially affiliated with Harvard, yet this is the university that produces the leaders that run the United States. Their literary frame of reference is to a series of children's books. Both Star Wars and Hunger Games are children's entertainment. Superhero movies have dominated the box office--again, this is kids' stuff. Fine if you are a kid, a bit different if you are a student at the Kennedy School of Government.

The alt-right is not exempt from this behavior. All someone has to do is see the obsession with anime on far right Twitter. Anime and manga are kids' cartoons. The double-think to call Modernist art degenerate and then watch these shows is bizarre, but not all that surprising. Schizophrenia is a common feature on both far right and left.

The saddest part is that the modern right/left battle is represented not by Das Kapital and Mein Kampf, but Harry Potter and Neon Genesis Evangelion. These are the foundation myths of postmodern, 21st century right and left.

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