On Thursday, July 30th, we were pleased to host the launching of Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s, a fascinating, comprehensive text edited by Paul Corupe and Kier-La Janisse.
The event was kicked off by Rick Trembles, who gave an exclusive reading of his comic, given to the first 50 buyers on the book's Indiegogo campaign. It was a play on Christian pamphlets left in the subway, but in this case an expose of Proctor & Gamble soap ads' subliminal Satanic messaging.
Janisse's first run in with Satanism was as a child, when she wanted Crest gel toothpaste (her regular Colgate hadn't caught up to the gel craze yet) and was told that she wasn't allowed, as Crest was a P&G brand and proceeds would go into supporting Satan.
North America was primed for a satanic panic by the 1970s, during which the occult and alternative religions (read: cults) flourished. Paganism, Wicca, and cults like the Source Family were very much at the forefront, and people were inclined to believe that even their neighbours could be closet occultists, setting the stage for the hysteria that would grip the 1980s.
Horror movies, B movies, and paperbacks began to exploit people's fascination with these subcultures and project their paranoia onto them through popular culture. Real controversies like teenaged murders and suicides, and the McMartin Preschool Scandal (where children were reportedly abused in 1983) fed into the notion that Satanists were corrupting all that was good in pure in America. The threat of Satanism was so a part of the era's zeitgeist that all manner of youth culture staples, from heavy metal to Dungeons & Dragons, were accused of inciting devil worship (to the point where a mother who had lost her child to suicide started an organization to combat the role playing game, giving it the singularity terrible name of BADD—Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons).
The book also covers the backlash against the panic, and the advent of Christian rock—the religion's response to an unacceptable genre. Janisse's fabulous presentation spanned the entire decade, letting Ralph Elawani and Kurt Halfyard end the evening with talks about Quebec's version of satanic panic and the panic-parodying 1989 film The 'Burbs, respectively.
Thanks to everyone who came and made the event great, and if you didn't make it out, swing by the store to get your very own copy of Satanic Panic!