January 30, 2021
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Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

Internet as the Hellmouth

So in one of my Metaphorical Epiphanies it occurred to me that the Internet has become exactly like the Hellmouth from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, spewing up different types of monsters and toxicity every week. I had a sneaking, strong, suspicion that the idea would prove to be what I call "Someone Else's Dog"-- that a quick Internet search would establish that 517 other people had already had the idea. That happens. But this time not. Or possibly the 517 people were pushed down to the 32nd page of my Google search by Buffy fan sites, songs and baseball teams named Hellmouth?

Tiny candidates

In the Buffy episode "Fear Itself", a horrible scary monster, Gachnar, whose arrival has been heavily teased, finally emerges and proves to be just a few inches high. Buffy easily crushes him under her heel.

Josh Hawley reminds me of Gachnar, heavily teasing his own Trumpiness but only inches tall. There is a general "Trump Effect", almost like a meteorological or physics rule, that anyone who sucked up to Trump for years doesn't look the least bit Presidential, because, you know, people sort of expect a little independence, autonomy and judgment in a President.

Kelly Loeffler

I hadn't really set out to relate every item to Buffy, but this is fun (its 1:35 a.m. on a Saturday and I can't sleep). How about ex-Senator Loeffler as....Anya!!!! Someone working so hard to be performatively human, even adopting the fads and freakishness of the people around her in order to succeed.... Without a personal code of ethics, having wielded extraordinary power in the past (why wasn't being worth $800 million good enough?) Loeffler, like Anya, can never quite connect. Ha.

Pardons as spells

A recurring Trope on Buffy (and in the whole genre of course) is when spells don't work at all, or have unexpected consequences. IRL, so-called "performative" phrases have similar issues ("You're under arrest" only is self-executing if stated by someone with the proper mana, not for example by your annoying twelve year old neighbor). What are the necessary elements for a "Pardon Spell" to work? Is there a certain ritual of drafting, printing and signing something before noon on January 20? If Trump whispered in the bathroom mirror, "I pardon Rudy, Ivanka and Barechested Viking guy", is that Performative? I watched an unsettling interview with Michael Cohen on MSNBC in which he insisted that Trump has "pocket pardons", which will emerge later as needed.

Epistemic Nightmares

"Epistemic" is my shiny new word of the month. All fantasy and science fiction shows regularly have the "epistemic nightmare" episode, in which the cast believes in some illusion from which they must break out by the end. (Plotlines which turn up regularly on television dramas are a highly interesting topic. I believe every Star Trek show also had the "plague episode", in which everyone is completely cured of a terrifying disease by the 50th minute, with no ongoing consequences--something I have been thinking about a lot in Coronavirus Time.)

Almost every episode of Buffy involved some kind of Epistemic effects. For one thing, Sunnydale was full of "normies" who denied monsters existed, even when they saw them. But there were also many episodes in which individual characters had false beliefs, or were sucked into imaginary or alternate worlds. For example, in "Normal Again", "A demon doses Buffy with a powerful chemical that causes her to hallucinate, convincing the Slayer her parents are alive and Dawn never existed".

Our world is experiencing a powerful and potentially lethal Epistemic Nightmare affecting almost half America, in which Donald Trump looks heroic, intelligent, handsome and decisive, the other more than half of America whom Trump insulted and threatened, does not exist, and the Coronavirus is a myth.

And it all came from the Internet/ Hellmouth.

Oh, and, and, and, by a "Good Typo" I created a perfect Buffy monster: "Epistemoc". (I'm glad that wasn't Performative.)