Tuesday, 6 May 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Dystopia: The Culture Industry's Neutralization of Stephen King's the Running Man

"...almost two decades before programs such as "America's Most Wanted" and "COPS" appeared, King offered a predictive and trenchant critique of reality police television shows. Second, influenced by Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, King both employed and modified the dystopian convention of using a dialogue between the protagonist and a member of the ruling elite to demystify and interrogate structures of power. Third, The Running Man ends with an incredibly ghastly scene: an eviscerated protagonist flying an airliner into a high-rise office complex. In rendering this scene, King did not merely make his audience queasy and eerily foreshadow the events of September 11, 2001. He also rewrote one of the seminal episodes of American literature: the evisceration of the waist gunner Snowden in Joseph Heller's Catch-22.

In Part II, I examine the ways in which various iterations of The Running Man have thematically moved away from King's novel. First, King's celebrity prevented the work (originally published under a pseudonym) from being viewed fully as a dystopia. His status fixed The Running Man in a constellation of horror novels and movies. Second, the 1987 movie adaptation of The Running Man transformed a Vietnam-era protest novel into a Reagan-era star vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura. Finally, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon attempted, in 2001, to turn the material of The Running Man into the very thing that it predicted: a reality television show called "The Runner," which featured a nationwide manhunt and huge cash prizes. Thus, within thirty years of its writing and less than twenty from the date of its publication, The Running Man became--in the words of Syme--not only different from what it once was but actually contradictory".
"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Dystopia": The Culture Industry's Neutralization of Stephen King's the Running Man. Contributors: Douglas W. Texter - author. Journal Title: Utopian Studies. Volume: 18. Issue: 1. Publication Year: 2007. Page Number: 43+.

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