The Kids are NOT Alright

As the times change new social constructs are implanted. It is expected that the youths of a culture are to be the ones who carry on the new social order – and the elders are left in the past with their “traditional” views.

Now, during the Satanic Panic there was a fear that the new social order would be chaotic due to the new found love of Satan across the United States. In film and TV there was a complete demonization of youth culture in order to keep it at bay. The demonization can be seen in films like The Lost Boys. This is one of my personal favorite 80s movies. It’s about a family who moves to Santa Carla California after the divorce of their parents. The two new boys are nice, attractive young boys. The typical American “ideal” teenagers. Then the older brother, Michael, gets in with the wrong crowd – Vampires!

These vampires aren’t your typical Bram Stoker representations. They’re Jim Morrison loving punks. They turn Michael into a vampire and he becomes one of them. Then, it is up to his little brother, Sam, and the Frog Brothers (comic book loving weirdos) to kill the head vampire and turn Michael back to normal.

Objectively this film is about vampires and the battle for good over evil. But with a deeper reading you can see the message the mainstream media was sending to the youths of the time. Good will always prevail. Many other films and stories of this time had a similar meaning – this is hegemony in action. Hegemony takes the subculture of a time and either incorporate it into the mainstream, or demonizes it enough to “other” it. That was one of the main actions the “morally correct” media industry utilized to combat the emerging subculture.

Parody Films

In 2017 Netflix releases an original movie starring Adam Scott called Little Evil. This story is essentially a new age version of the classic horror flick The Oman. It’s about a man who marries a woman who has an eight year old child. Throughout the course of the film the wife urges her new husband to bond with the child. Through this bonding the new father discovers that the child might actually be the spawn of Satan.

Now this film is actually a good example of how ridiculous the mainstream representation of the “evil satanic cult” because it is a parody. The whole purpose of this film is to make fun of itself. Everything in it is a joke, even the little boy who is the spawn of Satan is comical. When a film trope is parodied that means that it has been overdone so many times that it is no longer scary. Take this classic horror monster for example: the Mummy. When Mummy movies were first made in the early 20th century they were serious and they sold tickets very well – they were a spectacle. But then, they were remade again and again so they lost all the aspects of it that made it a horror film, this is not a parody, however.

Little Evil takes the classic story line of a woman joining a satanic cult and carrying Satan’s child and turns it on it’s head. It’s goal is no longer to scare the audience. It wants to make them laugh at this preposterous idea. Since films like The Oman and Rosemary’s Baby debuted in the 60s and 70s, this story line has somehow prevailed even though there have been countless remakes of the stories. That’s because of the fear that American culture has put on these stories. It’s a direct result of the Satanic Panic that Americans are still so afraid of the “satanic cults” (that don’t even exist).

Why Do We Watch Satanic Movies?

While some films were critical to the media’s portrayal of Satanism during the Satanic Panic, films in the post-satanic panic period still hold remnants of the past. Horror films today still heavily misrepresent Satanism and the people who follow this religion. For example, Ti West’s horror film The House of the Devil (2009) actually takes place in the 80’s during the Satanic Panic.It’s about a college student who agrees to “babysit” one night, only to find out she’s watching an elderly woman. After getting through her initial discomfort, she agrees to help since she needs the money. As the evening unfolds she realizes she’s in the house of Satanists. She even stumbles across a ritual sacrifice!

I have been a fan of horror films since I was six years old and watched Jeepers Creepers for the first time. Since then it has been a dream of mine to write/make horror films. I wrote horror film. Having no formal training in horror prior to this, I wrote what I knew – which is all derivative of the Satanic Panic hysteria. The story I wrote not only associated witchcraft with Satanism, but it portrays both as evil and corrupt.

Why is it so easy for us to continuously make these films? Well, people watch them. A horror film about Satanism sells. It’s because, in America anyway, Christianity is a hegemonic structure. When Satanism popped up in the 60s and 70s and actually gained a following, it had to undermine the legitimacy of that religion. If movies about Satanists are constantly being made and it makes them look bad, so be it. That just means that less people will be converted to Satanism and the fear they have from this new religion will make them more devout.

The Phantom of the Paradise

Brian DePalma’s 1974 glam rock opera The Phantom of the Paradise is a good example of a film that represents Satanic Panic values. The movie is about a songwriter/musician named Winslow (William Finley) and how the elusive record producer Swan (Paul Williams) steals his music and turns it into Rock n’ Roll. Winslow, a music puritan, is upset that his music is being tarnished by being associated with rock music, tries to get it back. He breaks in to Swan’s mansion and gets caught, during his escape he falls and lands his face in a record press – horribly disfiguring him. He disappears.

But at the opening night of “The Paradise,” Swan’s rock n’ roll music hall, when the beloved rock band The Juicy fruits is to perform the rock opera Winslow wrote – there is an attack by a man known only as the Phantom. Swan realizes it is actually Winslow and manipulates him into finishing the opera under the pretense he will let Winslow’s love, Pheonix (Jessica Harper) sing it at The Paradise. All of this was, of course, a lie. Winslow discovers that Swan, a man who has never been photographed, who does not appear of television, who is rarely seen by anyone other than his cronies, has actually sold his soul to the devil. With this knowledge, Winslow is able to defeat Swan, but he dies in the end as well.

This story is such a good example because when rock music was emerging in the 60’s and 70’s it was greeted with a seemingly perpetual disdain from the older generations. Rock music was about sex, drugs, and partying and the morally superior of the time were worried it would corrupt their children. In an effort to ban the music media coverage began to claim that the music was Satanic. The Phantom of the Paradise is representative of these beliefs for several reasons.

  1. Swan actually sold his soul to the devil to be young and talented and famous forever.
  2. The rock music scene is riddled with “loose women” and orgies, according to some scenes of this film.
  3. There is a lot of talk about drugs and how that is a common norm within rock groups.

Winslow’s fight to get his music back is an allegory to the good and the evil. The good is Winslow with his beautiful piano compositions, the evil is rock music and the spectacle of the rock performance.

What is the Satanic Panic?

The “Satanic Panic” was an era in the 1980’s and 1990’s where the media became enthralled with newly formed Church of Satan (due to the publication of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible) and the risk of Satanic values infiltrating suburban neighborhoods. During this time, family values were changing; more women were in the workforce, and because of that children were being placed in day cares and preschools during the day.

There was a sharp rise in accusations of child abuse and molestation during the Satanic Panic. In 1980, social workers would read the fictional “memoir” Michelle Remembers as their training. Books like Michelle Remembers, written by a woman claiming to be a survivor of Satanic ritual abuse, arose in the media. On top of that children were made to testify against daycare workers and were lead into giving certain answers in court trials by their parents and lawyers.

On top of the political chaos, musicians and filmmakers took complete advantage of the turmoil and using it to market to rebellious teens and youngsters. Because of this widespread theories about Satanic messages in rock music arose. Twisted Sister’s front man Dee Snyder was sent on trial for the lyrics of his songs because he was being accused of having sadomasochistic lyrics riddled throughout them, when in actuality they were about a surgery.

By far, my favorite thing to come from the Satanic Panic, is this news broadcast about a woman’s Satanic Toaster: