‘Stranger Things’ reminds why ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ is still considered a satanic threat

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Season 4.

“The devil has come into America.” At the end of a cafeteria table at Hawkins High School, Eddie Munson reads an article from Newsweek magazine about Dungeons and Dragonsa famous tabletop role-playing game invented in the 1970s. “First perceived as a harmless role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons now worries parents and psychologists, he says in a serious voice. Studies have linked gambling to the development of violent behavior, adding that it promotes Satan worship, ritual sacrifice, sodomy, suicide and even… MURDER!”

The teenager sticks his tongue out as if he were Ozzy Osbourne, causing his table to laugh. Portrayed by Joseph Quinn, Eddie is the leader of the Hellfire Club, a league of D&D players. [le diminutif de Donjons et Dragons, ndlr] to which three of the four original heroes belong Stranger Things. On a song by The Cramps, one of his lieutenants in his leather jacket says: “Society has to blame something. We are an easy target.” Eddie rampages, climbs the table and kills “forced conformity” imposed in his breast. A conformism that orders to prefer science, parties and basketball to the game that fascinates him. “It’s what kills children! It’s the real monster.”

At the time of the backlash from the excesses of the sixties, when some conservatives still sought to ban rock music, Eddie’s position was widely shared by his peers. “I love this passage”comments Joshua Hanna, author of The satanic panic in the USA. “Many D&D, heavy metal, and even hip-hop fans understood that they were seen as black sheep simply because they deviated from the norm. To them, the censors were the real monsters.”

satanic antics

Eddie won’t laugh for long. In this Season 4, an evil being nicknamed Vecna ​​wants to open corridors between his infernal world and the small town of Hawkins. You have to watch the series to understand, but to do so, Vecna ​​infiltrates the minds of depressed teenagers before murdering them.

His first victim, Chrissy, is “most beautiful girl in high school” and of course are dating Jason, the captain of the basketball team, who wears Lacoste polo shirts over beige pants. Tormented, Chrissy feels like “to lose one’s mind” and contacts Eddie to obtain psychotropic drugs that will calm her down.

Unfortunately for the metalhead, it is in his trailer that Vecna ​​decides to strike and kill the poor girl. When the Hawkins cops aren’t very smart, they leak the information and Jason concludes that Eddie is responsible for his girlfriend’s death. Because his mangled corpse is found on his carpet, but not only. Wild with rage and grief, the captain seeks to find meaning in that which has nothing. He reunites his teammates and explains: “Eddie Munson. He’s part of this sect of insane Satanists, Hellfire.

In 1972, a book titled “Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth” documented a growing interest in Paganism and Wiccanism.

Present in the room, Lucas, one of the original heroes, tries to explain that it’s just about kids playing D&D. But the basketball team is like a cult, of which Jason is the guru. He doesn’t want to hear anything. “I’ve read that if a bad person plays this game, it can destroy them. They mistake fantasy for reality, and innocent people die. It’s happening all over the country. It’s an epidemic. And Eddie […], he got lost. It is possible that he still believes in his game.

Since we fear “that he still kills”, it must be stopped at all costs. Friends are easy to convince because they have “read things about it”things like the ones Eddie reads out loud, which may seem absurd, but stick to the reality of the times.

Suicide and pain

In 1974, Newsweek already published an article making accusations “sects” to mutilate cattle in the Midwest and Great Plains. Author of Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the MediaBill Ellis, like Josh Hanna, is one of the many academics who have studied what is called “satanic panic”a moment in the American novel when many members of the public saw the devil everywhere.

According to Hanna, some fundamentalist theologians began to worry about a rise in the occult as early as the late 19th century.e century. In 1972 a book entitled Satan is alive and well on planet Earth sparked a growing interest in Paganism and Wiccanism. “Some, especially young people, incorporated elements of role-playing into their practice of these religions, Hana explains. D&D was naturally seen as an extension of this threat.”

Pulling believed that D&D also promoted homosexuality, cannibalism, rape, voodoo, prostitution and demonology.

The controversy surrounding the game began in earnest in 1979. In August, 17-year-old James Dallas Egbert III disappeared from his college campus after leaving a resignation letter. His parents hire a private investigator, William Dear, who discovers that the teenager is a fan of D&D, a game he knows nothing about, but which he quickly thinks is responsible for his disappearance.

“70s D&D books are very scary”, admits Joseph Laycock, who published in 2015 Dangerous games – what the moral panic over role-playing games says about play, religion and imagined worlds. “There were big demons on the front and if you tried to read them it was confusing. If you were told it was an evil game, I understand you might believe it.

Finally, Egbert, hiding with friends, died not in 1979, but a year later, after his third suicide attempt. The police reports will try to explain his gestures with terms like “depression”, “loneliness”, “drugs” and “parental pressure”, without ever referring to any role playing. The case nevertheless caused quite a bit of talk and inspired a book published in 1981, mazes and monsters, later adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks.

red alert

Two years later, another suicide added fuel to the fire of “satanic panic”. After her young son decided to end his life, a certain Patricia Pulling founded a pressure group called BADD, for Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons. Joseph Laycock, who studied the two cases, claims to have found “many other elements that could have led to suicide. But for the parents it was certainly comforting. They thought they couldn’t have done anything about it. That it was because of the game. Pulling unsuccessfully sued the D&D editors.

According to Laycock, the studies referred to in Stranger Things existed. “But they didn’t make any sense. They weren’t led by academics. Patricia Pulling once said in an interview that 8% of the people in Richmond, Virginia were Satanists. The reporter asked where she got her numbers and she said, “4 % of adults are satanists and 4% of children are too. That’s 8%.”

The D&D defense had to claim that it was because of the game that their customers had robbed a gas station or killed their parents.

In addition to the phenomena Eddie cited, Pulling believed that D&D also promoted homosexuality, cannibalism, rape, voodoo, prostitution, and demonology. This is the kind of thing that could be read on the leaflets she gave to the media, churches, schools and police units that invited her to speak about “The Dangers of D&D and Satanism”.

Laycock adds: “She also teamed up with a psychologist who wanted to ban the films. He said a quarter of the films contained a rape scene. He later lost his license to practice because he sexually assaulted his patients.” According to the historian, the “Satanic Panic” consisted mostly of followers and people “very disturbed”.

Those who believed that D&D players were confusing games and reality were, paradoxically, those who struggled to distinguish between reality and madness. Some fake experts like Patricia Pulling have also allowed themselves to make their own money from the panic. At the time, on the preposterous grounds of paranoia, a legal technique was pushed, the “Dungeons and Dragons defense”, which consisted for lawyers of ensuring that it was due to gambling that their clients had robbed a petrol station . or , in one case killed their parents. This line of defense never worked, but Pulling charged $1,000 (currently €1,000) for his testimony. Of time.

A religious phenomenon

Stranger Things doesn’t dig deep enough into Jason’s personality for us to be sure he suffers from mental illness. On the other hand, we know that he shares a key parameter with the real apostles of the “satanic panic”: religion. During a public meeting, the captain of the basketball team grabs a microphone to address his fellow citizens. He explains that the corpses covering Hawkins’ floors are the result of ritualized sacrifices, then orders a manhunt citing the Bible.

A Virginia attorney general candidate based his entire campaign on banning D&D from public schools.

According to Bill Ellis, such meetings took place. Others were held in schools and churches, where some pastors regularly spoke about D&D. Joshua Hanna assures that there is no doubt about the central place religion has had in the “satanic panic”. He talks about a TV program where a young pastor invited young people to research the music they liked. Finally, one of them denounced the evil aspects of rock i “a speech reminiscent of giving goosebumps that of Jason”, he assures. “To the religious right, anyone who deviated from their ethics was a Satanist.”

Joseph Laycock adds that the panic was born within groups “evangelicals, Mormons and sometimes Catholics”, before the phenomenon spread to the public sphere. Politicians debated the issue, and a candidate for Virginia attorney general based his entire campaign on banning D&D from public schools. If we remove the killer bats, this season 4 is over Stranger Things is, according to Laycock, quite realistic. “And then you have to remember that the ‘satanic panic’ never really ended. It is not a phenomenon from the 1980s. You could even say it’s worse than ever.”

On July 11, an attack smashed a monument known as Stonehenge of America». Kandiss Taylor, a one-time candidate for governor of Georgia, had stated on several occasions her intention to tear down the building, which she considered satanic. “It was erected in 1980 and nobody blew it up then, Laycock concludes. Politicians are instrumentalizing “Satanic Panic” right now. It is even more dangerous than the era portrayed by Stranger Things. We still have to worry about that today.”

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