I had no idea what the Netflix miniseries Wormwood was about before I watched the trailer…but as I watched the protagonist talk nervously about LSD and then dive out a window, it all suddenly became very clear. This was about Frank Olson, a bioweapons expert who in 1953 allegedly threw himself out the window of the Statler hotel in New York City.
In short, is there an “Outsider Art” designation for books? Because Thanks For The Memories by Brice Taylor would certainly fit into that category. Raw, repetitive, disturbing, and vast, it has all the aesthetics of a Henry Darger piece; comprehensively illustrating an incredibly paranoid and sinister world.
Claiming to be the true story of a young woman born into a massive MKUltra/celebrity sex & espionage conspiracy, the 1999 book has seen somewhat of a new life with the recent “Pizzagate” business. It also is very representative of the “MK-Girls” archetype I discuss in this post—“Go Ask Alice: The Trouble With Uncle Charlie”—so that might be a good thing to read to contextualize this book & review.
Your work has been a gift to mankind. You shaped the century.
—Alexander Pierce, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
That something called “MKUltra” existed is not under debate.
But let’s face it: the very name has become part of our “tin foil hat” mainstream lexicon, the use of which sets off “red flags” (if you will excuse the possible pun) every time it’s mentioned as a sort of “crazy-person” fallback talking point.
And yet, MKUltra folklore is inextricably wrapped up with one of the most currently popular characters in movies and comic books: The Winter Soldier.
I had originally planned to write a post today about the character Winter Soldier as a MKUltra symbol, but got distracted by a random viewing of the 1985 comedy Real Genius. This movie reminded me of the flip-side of the MKUltra’ed soldier/assassin theme, the “softer side,” if you will: that of the young “real genius” who gets recruited by the government as to exploit their prodigious skills.
And the reason Real Genius “flipped switches” for me is because I also watched Captain America: Civil War for the first time a couple of days ago, and found out (admittedly, quite to my nerd-tinged shock) that Peter Parker—Spider-Man—is essentially an intelligence asset in that movie. Parker is a “Real Genius,” literally pulled out of school by his rich handler (Tony Stark, “Iron Man”) to risk his life out in the field.
There is a whole genre of conspiracy-lore that I call, for lack of a better term, “MK-Girls”—narratives concerning women who are allegedly born into/recruited/exploited/abused and otherwise turned into “sex slave assassins” by a secret society/the Illuminati/warlocks/CIA/etc. The prefix “MK” refers to Project MKUltra, an actual CIA “mind-control” project (the full extent of which remains unclear, though obviously heavily-speculated on).
My goal with this post is not to “prove” whether the “MK-Girls”—and the related “Uncle Charlie” archetype—are real. But rather, it is simply to explore this enduring narrative, and its reflections in pop-culture. When the same story gets retold over and over and over again, you have to ask: why?