Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, glancing through social media in my spare time, the mind wanders, and you start to think about things, make connections you might not have previously made.
In 1974 a very strange science fiction movie titled Zardoz was released. It was directed by John Boorman, and starred Sean Conney & Charlotte Rampling. Spotting a photo on my Facebook feed of someone’s kid cosplaying as Conney’s character complete with an accompanying Zardoz prop head (yes really) got the wheels turning. It suddenly occurred to me that Zardoz is actually an extremely accurate commentary on 21st Century America.
Here is a bare-bones description of the movie’s set-up…
In a post-apocalyptic future the Eternals, a group of wealthy, powerful elites ensconced in their remote luxurious estate, create a fake god with which to control the rest of the population, who are known as the Brutals. This deity, Zardoz, looks like a fearsome giant flying stone head. It spreads the message to the masses that sex is evil and killing is good. Zardoz commands a group of Brutals known as the Exterminators to give to it all of the food they have collected. In exchange for this food Zardoz provides the Exterminators with an unlimited supply of firearms which they use to terrorize & subjugate the rest of the population. Zardoz promises the Exterminators that when they die they will be transported to a heavenly Vortex and live forever.
And, really, when I see all of these supposed “protestors” armed to the teeth storming state capitols demanding an end to the shutdown, they seem hell of a lot like the Exterminators. In spite of their supposed “populist” message they are actually serving the wealthy elites who want to reopen the economy at any cost in order to maximize their profits. These “protestors” are totally willing to sacrifice themselves, their families, their neighbors, and everyone else on the twin alters of unregulated capitalism and Christian fundamentalism, just so long as long as they can have all the guns they want and lord it over the rest of the working class, along with the promise that when they die White Heterosexual Republican Jesus will greet them in Heaven with open arms.
Of course Zardoz can be read as a warning about any sort of blind, unquestioning religious faith that asks you to sacrifice both your livelihoods and your lives to a god and its supposed human representatives. Nevertheless, the movie feels especially on-target for what is taking place right at this very moment here in the United States. So I guess John Boorman is actually a prophet.
It’s worth pointing out that the name Zardoz is an in-story clue that this supposed deity is actually a fake, a sham. We eventually learn that “Zardoz” is short for “Wizard of Oz.” I just wish more people would heed the movie’s warning. Please, please DO pay attention to the man behind the curtain. The great and powerful “god” is really an all-too-mortal charlatan.
3 thoughts on “Zardoz: a Metaphor for America in 2020”
Zardoz is America in every year. Violence is good, sex is Evil is the most American thing, at least seems so from my European eyes.
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In that sense, Zardoz was even more ambitious for John Boorman’s career at that time than Deliverance. I’ve only seen it once. But it’s another unforgettable example of how the early 70s were a most course-changing time for the science fiction cinema.
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Thanks for your comments, and for reading my blog posts. I appreciate it.
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