Earlier this month Stephen King’s The Dark Tower hit cinemas to a resounding chorus of uninterest. We’re soon going to be treated to another attempt at bringing IT to the screen, and there is the ever present possibility that a production company somewhere intends to create a campy, largely unengaging adaptation of a lesser King novel like Gerald’s Game or Duma Key. It seems nary a year passes without audiences once again falling under the spell of mild interest that news of a fresh Stephen King movie or shitty television show usually conjures, but how is it that one author has managed to so overwhelmingly capture the public imagination? Think about it, the 1990 version of IT was almost inarguably a bunch of complete shit, yet Tim Curry’s Pennywise the Clown endures as a classic character in the “Grisly Child-Murderer” canon. How can this be? Why is it people still get (sort-of) excited even though the last good King adaptation was, what, The Green Mile? That was ’99 for Christ’s sake.
Hi folks, in case you hadn’t guessed it’s your family Doctor: Dominic Ray Weinstein! Ha ha, just kidding of course. I have a doctorate in postmodernist theory so would never be a family phsyician, due to lacking the necessary expertise. Also, I know that the concept of the family unit is inherently oppressive, and I’m super against that. What I can prescribe, aside from over-the-counter medication and narcotics I purchase from a man called Damo who lives above the chippy, is a healthy dose of social commentary! To be taken roughly once-a-week and administred via the visual cortex, on an empty stomach or at least 30 minutes after a meal if you really must. Keep out of reach of children and do not operate heavy machinery for 2-3 hours after ingestion. May cause irritability, inflamation and an inescapable awareness of the futility that is existence.
So how does King do it? Well, I have discovered that his pop-culture immortality is due to his aforementioned Magnum Opus IT. This singular piece, the crowning jewel in the jewelled crown that is King’s bibliography, was released in 1986. As you may recall from my earlier posts I have pin-pointed the high-watermark of western society as the 1980’s, but I was not aware that IT would so resonantly lend credence to my theory: we will never surpass the pop-culture of the 1980’s and should in fact stop trying. IT is King’s greatest work due to the villain, “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”, better known to you or I by a far more insidious moniker:
Is it all falling into place now, dear readers? Do not worry if you are incapable of connecting the dots, I am extremely well read and shall do it for you. Besides, if you were all capable of reaching the same complex and thought-provoking conclusions as I there would be little point to this blog! Feel no sense of shame at your less impressive wealth of knowledge, some people are put on this earth to do the thinking, others to ensure that these far more valuable “thinkers” have food, electricity and a healthy Patreon subscriber base.
Pennywise is a direct metaphor for Capitalism, of this there can be no doubt. Think: Pennywise targets children, they are its primary victims and even those that survive its destructive influence are warped by it for the rest of their days. Now turn on your television (I cannot because it is 2017 and, like most intellectuals, I watch all my shows on a 5 inch smart phone screen), go to the Disney channel, or Cartoon Network or Fox Kids if that’s still a thing, and watch. Odds are within the first 30 seconds you will see advertisements for at least 12 products, whether you start watching during the commercials or the actual programme makes precious little difference. As we all know, the end goal of Capitalism is to kill everybody on earth, but only after torturing them in an excruciating manner for as long as possible. Even the most ardent Rothbardian will admit this. Of course, to maximize “profits” (in the economic and sadistic sense) one must get at ’em young.
This is why they give out toys with Happy Meals, why banks now feature cartoon characters in their advertisements and why you can sometimes find the Superman logo on ecstasy. It is as the warrior poet Allen Ginsberg once remarked, “We’ll get you through your children“, however Ginsberg was talking about benevolently indoctrinating children with postmodernist ideology, rather than maliciously offering them goods and services they desire. But that is precisely what makes Pennywise so terrifying: he offers Georgie that dope ass parafin boat he thought was lost. He promises to give Ben “fat” Hanscom one of his magical wind-defying balloons, and presents Eddie with the knife he eventually uses to stab his overbearing bitch mother to death. Like Capitalism, Pennywise offers the children (and that one gay guy) of Derry what they believe their heart desires. But there is always a price, and that price is not based on the Labour Theory of value.
For some it is a one-off bulk payment, Pennywise catches them and pulls their arm or head off and they die at a young age. Infant mortality. I wonder if we can think of something else that has caused more infant mortality than any social system or eldritch spider monster could dream of… Oh yeah, that’s right: Capitalism. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, I could potentially get them, but I’m pretty certain that the mortality rate has risen in at least twelve countries over the past 300 years. Also, while the proportional amount of dead kids has in all likelihood gone down since the year 1400AD, the total number of dead kids worldwide is almost certainly much bigger. At a certain point to even suggest that Capitalism has failed is a denial of reality bordering on the Nazi-esque; Capitalism is not failing, it is succeeding. Succeeding in its true goal of killing children for shits and giggles, just like a certain Dancing Clown.
But what of those who survive, against the odds, to adulthood? Like the grown-up versions of the Losers Club they forget the false promises, the frivolous cruelty, and ‘move on’ with their lives. Yet once again Stephen King, with a scholarly understanding unparalelled since Marx himself, shows us the truth of our supposed liberation from childhood evil. Capitalism is entwined in our lives, an inescapable reality that we may feel is wrong but cannot quite recognise until it is too late. This is why, when an ardent Anti-Fascist champions the minimum wage while tweeting on an iphone and drinking starbucks, they are not being ‘hypocrites’. They are so traumatised that they are unable to recognise the darkness which casts a shadow over their entire being. Like the adults of Derry, they are unable to see what is directly in front of them literally every single day of their lives.
Consider the paralells:
The Losers Club forget that one another even existed until they receive Mike’s phonecall.
The wretched of the earth had forgotten the spirit of Communist social arrangement until Marx’s wake-up call.
Is it a coincidence that Mike and Marx are both four-letter words that begin with an M? No, 100% definitely not. It was intentional.
The lives of the adult Losers Club, like ours, seem all well and good until they are reminded that there is another way to live. Yet the discovery of this higher path is too much for some, the Fascists of the 20th century were unable to process Marx’s revelations just as Stanley Uris could not accept what had happened to him as a child. In both cases it led to madness and suicide, Fascism destroyed nations while Stanley painted the bathroom with his wrists. Yet stronger individuals rose above primal fear, refused to give in to the spectre that had dominated their way of being. Despite knowing that every single previous attempt to kill Pennywise, including their own, had failed disasterously, the Losers tried again because “hey, maybe this time it will work!”. Remind you of a certain ideology?
This is where we come to the crux of the argument, the reason that Stephen King’s largely hit & miss catalogue has become so cherished by so many. It is rare that you will ever see me defend the almost entirely relative concept of truth, however there must always be an exception to the rule. King bottled that exception before unleashing it upon an unsuspecting populace, a populace that had come to believe the niggling discontent in the back of their mind was simply meant to be there:
Pennywise the Clown is Capitalism, the true villain of our lives we fear too much to recognise, yet it can be killed. In the end, it is defeated, not by private police forces or recreational nuclear warheads, but by belief. Once the children and adults do not fear Pennywise, when they no longer believe in him, he loses his power over them. Then, understanding the power of belief, they create weapons against him using their minds. This, my friends, is how we will defeat Capitalism, how we are defeating it. We believe it can be done, we invest all our thought and emotion into this belief and everything will turn out ok.
King’s novel resonates so deeply with the human condition because it speaks the truth of the human condition: it reminds us to be terrified of our foe while doing everything we can to kill it, regardless of the consequences that such an action may incur. By the end of the novel Derry has a bright future ahead of it, freed from the oppression of Pennywise. Perhaps, sooner than we think, our world will also throw off the shackles of an unnatural and manifestly evil presence.
Heavy stuff huh dear readers? Don’t worry, you’ve got a while to digest this meal of the mind before I prepare the next dish. Catch you on the flipside,
Dr D. R. Weinstein