“American Horror Story: Cult” And The Revival of “The Year Of The Mask”

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So the title sequence for American Horror Story: Cult has hit the internet—on the total solar “Great American Eclipse” natch—featuring gore, clowns, and menacing figures wearing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton masks.

So are we going through another Year Of The Mask, aren’t we? Like, “Year Of The Mask 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Damn.

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Has “The Year Of The Mask” Ever Really Ended?

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And so this heavily-armed guy claiming to be the comic book character The Punisher strolled into Phoenix Comicon last Thursday to assassinate the Green Power Ranger.

This is the world we live in, folks, a world where our popular culture and our reality is getting increasingly “confused”; where a person can wake up one morning and decide they are the “avatar” for the Punisher and get into a situation where he is doing cosmic battle with a Power Ranger. Personal mythology, pop-culture mythology, and an unsuspecting world fuse together to create a new, strange landscape.

When I wrote The Year Of The Mask, which was an exploration of how pop-culture—especially comic book culture—started creating this “new landscape” right around the time of the Aurora “Dark Knight” shootings, I conceived this period of time as being “finite.” Hence: giving it the duration of a year. But now I’m not so sure about that.

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The Year Of The Mask: Geek Will Eat Itself

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Look at it: A world built on fantasy. Synthetic emotions in the form of pills. Psychological warfare in the form of advertising. Mind altering chemicals in the form of food. Brain washing seminars in the form of media. Controlled, isolated bubbles in the form of social networks. Real? You want to talk about reality? We haven’t lived in anything remotely close to it since the turn of the century.
—Mr. Robot, “Mr Robot”

At the end of March of 2013, I resigned from my job as editor/writer of a “geek culture” website for one of the biggest entertainment conglomerates in the world.

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The Year Of The Mask: Iron Man 3 And The Conspiracy Connection

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“On The Run” Tony Stark doll with sunglasses, hoodie, backpack, and improvised explosive

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No more false faces… You said you wanted the Mandarin? You’re looking right at him! It was always me, Tony, right from the start! I AM THE MANDARIN!
–Aldrich Killian, “Iron Man 3”

Welcome to the penultimate post of The Year Of The Mask.

I thought there was no better way to round out this series than the movie that, in my opinion, “ties it all together”—the zeitgeist, at any rate—Iron Man 3. Though I have been largely focusing on the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, it is Iron Man 3, released in May 2013, that represents the true nexus-point between Geek Culture, the conspiracy fringe, and world politics.

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The Year Of The Mask: The Ballad Of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

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“what is the new hotness?”

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Now, this bomb is armed! This bomb is mobile! And the identity of the triggerman is a mystery. For one of you holds the detonator! And we came here not as conquerors, but as liberators to return control of this city to the people. And at the first sign of interference from the outside world, or for those people attempting to flee, this anonymous Gothamite —this unsung hero—will trigger the bomb. For now, martial law is in effect. Return to your homes, hold your families close, and wait. Tomorrow you claim what is rightfully yours.
—Bane, “The Dark Knight Rises”

do yourself a favor, go watch the batman #tooreal.
—Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after watching “The Dark Knight Rises” (3 days after the Aurora theater shooting)

The Year Of The Mask has not just been about the intersection between politics and comic book culture, and the ouroboros of fantasy and reality…it has been about how the media (intentionally) creates clicks out of horror and (unintentionally, but perhaps even more destructive) creates “folk heroes” out of murderers. James Holmes had his “Holmies.” Chris Dorner had his Facebook support pagesChris Dorner had his Facebook support pages.

And The Dark Knight Rises fan Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? He had Rolling Stone.

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The Year Of The Mask: President Two-Face

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Our foe did not come only to destroy our things or our people. They came to desecrate our way of life. To foul our beliefs. Trample our freedom. And in this, not only did they fail, they granted us the greatest gift—a chance at our rebirth. We will rise renewed, stronger, and united. This is our time. Our chance to get back to the best of who we are. To lead by example with the dignity, integrity, and honor that built this country. And which will build it once again. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
—President Benjamin Asher, “Olympus Has Fallen”

The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.
—Harvey Dent, “The Dark Knight”

And the Great American Movie continues, set off by The Dark Knight in 2008, followed-up by The Dark Knight Rises in 2012…and just keeps going…and going…and going…

By 2013, as The Year Of The Mask continued, what was previously only “comic book kid stuff” started to become the honest-to-gods template for ideology, politics, and even international relations. And one of the most successful movies of that year would, in its way, give the tragic Harvey Dent/Two-Face storyline the sort of happier and more idyllic ending the nation needed.

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The Year Of The Mask: A Real American Hero?

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In the immortal words of Jay-Z: ‘Whatever deity may guide my life, dear lord don’t let me die tonight. But if I shall before I wake, I’d accept my fate.’
—Roadblock, “GI Joe: Retaliation”

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
—Christopher Dorner, manifesto

COBRA IS REAL!!!
—Alex Jones

Only days after a blackout at the Super Bowl  in which the super-villain Bane was invoked on social media as possibly being the cause, the news lit up with another mass shooting spree. This time the suspect was Christopher Dorner, 33, an involuntarily dismissed Los Angeles police officer. Feeling that his termination from the force was unfair, he did what any American would do…declare “unconventional and asymmetric warfare” on the LAPD.

Oh, fuck…here we go again.

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