Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia (2016)

Wrapping up this week on moral hysteria is a recent book, Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 80s, a collection of essays edited by Kier-La Janisse. Two chapters focus on D&D: one broadly, the other more specifically on the intersection of D&D and religious comic propagandist Jack Chick (I covered his famous D&D comic, Dark Dungeons, in a previous post). Other topics include heavy metal, cartoons, Satanism, LSD, horror movies, home video and looks at similar panics in Canada, the UK and Australia.

There is a certain smugness here, the kind of self-assured affectation that the winner displays after the war is over, but the book does a great job of uncovering the reasons for the panic and conveying the strangeness of the time. There’s something pressing here for modern audiences, though. Looking back from 2016, much of the anxiety of the late 70s and the 80s seemed obviously ridiculous. From 2017, though, in a political climate with many similarities to the 80s and an inside out religious moralism again on the rise, we might do well to mark the lessons of the past, as it suddenly seems all too possible that it could return.

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