Gilgamesh slayed the great beast Humbaba. Persephone was abducted by Hades. Anubis weighs hearts at the threshold of eternity. There is great meaning to be gleaned from each of these mythological still shots, a meaning that does not depend on historical veracity, on whether they actually happened, or happen.
Oh, and here’s another one: Han Solo shot Greedo. First.
Again, myth matters. But modern myths may matter even more as we head into the heart of the 21st century and beyond. Homer had little use for sonic screwdrivers or tricorders, but it’s hard to imagine life in the pending centuries without some form of information magic wand—apologies to Thor’s Mjölnir.
Not all modern mythmaking is techno-laden, however. Neither the heroic brotherhood of Samwise Gamgee nor the swashbuckling courage of Reepicheep nor the scholarly witch-withal of Hermione require power couplings and warp drives. Even so, while no whirring T.A.R.D.I.S can ferry anyone to a point in space-time to witness their esteemed constitutions, these characters of true character are real in every ethical sense though they be composed merely of words.
Through myth—and without ever having to go quail hunting with Dick Cheney, thank the Force—we can experience the full spectrum of spite, from Uncle Vernon to Emperor Palpatine. We can also study more complex fallen states, from bully Cousin Eustace’s brief tenure as a dragon to Anakin Skywalker’s decades-long redemption that, to tell the tale, requires many a’ yellow word scrolled across an intergalactic background.
Of course, exemplars of goodness also fill the pages of contemporary myth, from the eye-twinkling sagacity of Gandalf and Dumbledore to the preternatural purr and irresistible ruff of Aslan. And the angel on the shoulder is sometimes no less complex a figure than its opposite-end demon: case in point, a space pirate with a knack for setting Kessel Run records, a conflicted Klingon or Vulcan here or there, not to mention an archaeology professor with a bullwhip e’er in pursuit of that which belongs in museums.
Speaking of which, let’s doff our fedoras to Rowling and Lucas and Moffat and Lewis and Tolkien and Rodenberry, etc., et al, for tapping Joseph Campbell’s cosmic axial tree and lighting our moral way. Because of these storytellers, we remain wary of white witches handing out Turkish delight on wintry eves. More importantly, we can tell the difference between trying and doing and know full well that “wars not make one great.”
That said, something that simply blows my Muggle mind is how we collectively have no difficulty sorting Jedi from Sith in a Cineplex, yet cannot make such critical judgments when it comes to real-life political characters. I have yet to hear a single person extol the virtues of a Ferengi or Dalek, yet roughly half the U.S. population is prepared to vote for a Republican candidate who not only embraces Gordon-Gekko-“greed-is-good” capitalism but does so while drinking frothily from the teat of the global military industrial complex.
Seriously, spend a minute contemplating the fact that there is almost no possible way, period, in which Donald Trump, Ben Carson or any other current Republican Presidential Candidate could ever be portrayed as a hero in the fictional worlds of Star Wars, Narnia, Star Trek, Middle Earth, Dr. Who, and Harry Potter. (Hell, I’m not even sure there’s a space zany enough for the villainy of Ted Cruz other than Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) In other words, in our most significant mythological cosmoses, we know right from wrong, Civilization from Barbarism. But when it comes to the real world, half of the population is sorely lost in space-time.
This, of course, leads me down an irresistible lexical path. Just as a caricature blows up a person’s physicality to more precisely identify his or her warts and beauty marks, so putting the presidential candidate front-runners in their modern myth places helps us realize just who the hell we might be on the verge of voting for. Sorry, I simply could not resist the Dark Side:
Donald Trump: Grand Nagus of the Ferengi Alliance (Star Trek)
Ben Carson: Gungan theologian/historian (Star Wars)
Marco Rubio: Young Conservative (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Ted Cruz: Some yet unwritten End Times fiction series by Tim LaHaye
Jeb Bush: Trade Federation Viceroy (Star Wars)
Rand Paul: Gilderoy Lockhart redux (Harry Potter)
John Kasich: every gray suit Governor in the Empire (Star Wars)
Carly Fiorina: Ab-Fab BFF of Jadis the White Witch (Narnia)
Chris Christie: Hutt crime lord (Star Wars)
Rick Santorum: Weeping Angel (Dr. Who)
Bernie Sanders: 42 (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Like I said, Myth Matters.
Vote, but vote wisely. And know where your towel is. Always.
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