Carpenter’s The Thing and Politics of Paranoia

In the thirty-fifth episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast, Christopher Olson and I welcome friend of the podcast, and unofficial third host, Joe Belfeuil to discuss the influential horror film that is John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).

In this episode, the three discuss how the narrative and craft of the film has inspired a new breed of horror film-makers; from the aesthetics of paranoia to the themes of grappling with unexpected threats, Carpenter’s seminal film has led to many imitators and even some worthy successors. Films like It Follows ape the style of Carpenter without understanding the substance underneath, while directors like Edgar Wright understand how the style and the substance have to work together.

The trio also consider the political messages of the film, for how the film reflects on and even critiques fears of the Other and how people should handle their fears by being vigilant instead of paranoid and dangerous to themselves and others. The historical period of the Reagan administration is compared to the unfolding Trump administration for similarities in thematic content, demonstrating how relevant the film remains to this day.

As a personal aside, I edited this piece on the last day of January, 2017, after the Trump administration had been in office for 12 days, and after emotionally and cognitively processing all of the turmoil the administration had caused thus far. We had recorded the conversation a month earlier, before the inauguration and the turmoil that followed, and at the time we had no idea of what would follow. Hearing us discuss the power of vigilance and communal action as the way to counter paranoia about an “other” infesting a community seemed, to me at least, to reflect the growing resistance movement, but also the reflect the tensions that were sure to come because of this movement clashing with people who support the President.

I do not know if you will take away the same thoughts when you listen, but I would be very interested to hear your thoughts. As always, you are encouraged to become a part of this conversation by visiting any of the podcast’s social media sites. You can also talk with Christopher Olson on Twitter (@chrstphrolson) and at his academic blog seemsobvioustome.wordpress.com. And you can talk to me here and on Twitter (@mediaoracle).

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