Monsters are everywhere. In movies, books, songs, and any other media you could imagine. These monsters can hide in our periphery, always hiding just out of sight, beneath just enough cinematic subtlety, that they evade our attention. One of the most recent depictions of a particular kind of monster has reared its head in media; Nazis. Of the Seven Monster Theses written by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, the seventh thesis: The Monster Stands at the Threshold of Becoming is the most accurate comparison to Nazis. These particular monsters are “our children”. They are a result of our culture and social structures. Cohen also states that the monster is hidden deep in our minds, always to return. Tales reminiscent of white supremacy are cautionary because of this fact. White supremacy is an excellent example of this thesis, especially when considering the recurring resurgence of white supremacy groups such as Nazis or the KKK. From the video game Wolfstein to the Call of Duty minigame, “Nazi Zombies”, Nazis have been featured as a monstrous villain worthy of defeat. However, some fictional versions have been a bit more subtle.
According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, “White supremacy operates on the belief that Whites are intellectually and morally superior to all other races.” (p.1). These groups adhere to the idea that peoples of white skin color and white-European descent are superior to all other races. One of these groups were the Nazis, and exist today as Neo-Nazis. Nazi Germany was arguably the most diabolical political ministry in the history of mankind. The political climate following World War 1 was the perfect foothold for the newly-founded national-socialist party to grow into the full-blown empire of Nazi Germany. Following the joining of the future political leader Adolf Hitler, the token ideology of the party was fueled by propaganda and anti-semitic speech that eventually became the cornerstone of Nazism. Many would call Nazis monsters and although that is a finite description of Nazis, it is clear that their renowned hatred for minority and ethnic groups bordered on nightmarish; almost only believable in fiction.
In Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he wrote: “Today our left-wing politicians, in particular, are constantly insisting that their craven-hearted and obsequious foreign policy necessarily results from the disarmament of Germany, whereas the truth is that this is the policy of traitors… But the politicians of the right deserve the exact same reproach. It was through their miserable cowardice that those ruffians of Jews who came to power in 1918 were able to rob the nation of its arms.” This was a direct strike toward Jewish peoples as well as the left and right-wing political parties of Germany at the time. In comparison, the following clip from the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens shows character General Hux of the First Order (a Fascist regime) who gives an eerily similar speech on the destruction of the Republic (the former system of government in the Star Wars universe). Hux speaks with unfiltered malice, stating that the Order of the Republic is an unsound system of government which “acquiesces to disorder”.
The First Order is primarily made up of militant members which were originally kidnapped as children from various planets all reaches of the galaxy. These military citizens are raised from infancy on the belief systems and propaganda of the First Order. They do this most effectively by controlling every piece of information available to children growing up, only ever knowing one “truth”. Hitler had a similar strategy to manipulating the minds of German children during WW2 through the Hitler Youth and other programs to isolate influence over German children.
Cohen writes another monster thesis: The Monster Always Escapes. In this thesis, Cohen writes that the monster will always return. The monster’s description can change, depending on the current time and circumstances surrounding the monster. In the film Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren states, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” This quote not only alludes to the past of the character but also the history of the Empire. Nazis and white supremacists are products of ideologies and movements that manage to stay alive. Although WW2 happened over 80 years ago, neo-Nazis, KKK, and white supremacist groups still exist today, actively and with the same beliefs as their predecessors, as well as the same burning hatred for minority groups.
The KKK is a white supremacy group of the United States and was founded in 1865. During the Civil Rights Movement, their numbers rose to 35-50 thousand Klan members. This group had used, (and also uses today) tactics of violence and acts of terrorism against people of color, immigrants, and other minorities such as homosexuals and transsexuals. They carried torches and masked their faces to hide, all whilst carrying out monstrous deeds reminiscent of the needless violence of the Nazis. These groups have managed to evade detection for over one hundred years and have managed to resurface many times throughout the past century as well, much like the resurrection of fascist ideologies through the character Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, who sought to step into his grandfather, Darth Vader’s footsteps. Another resurrected villain that resembles this phenomenon is Lord Voldemort from the book and film series, Harry Potter.
Lord Voldemort is the primary villain in the renowned series, Harry Potter. This character is a great representation of Monster Theory because he demonstrates characteristics both socio-political and ethically misguided that is prevalent in current society. The character Voldemort begins as just a name at the beginning of the series. Almost just an idea, a thing of the past; Voldemort’s reputation has become a legend, or a ghost story told to young witches and wizards. Some remember the effects of Voldemort’s radical terrorism of non-magic folk and half-bred magic beings, however, after being seemingly defeated years prior, the dread of such conflicts has become a thing of the past. This is very reflective of World War II: one person was able to gain a following of elitist, political, and radical members of an organization aimed at extinguishing a particular group of people. Years following the conflict, though difficult to fully forget, slowly is disregarded over time and seen as a simple cautionary tale of history. However, treating war conflicts with such little respect or contemplation can lead to an uprising of similar radicals and ideologies.
The Harry Potter series is riddled with Nazi symbolism, particularly in the film adaptations. Voldemort brands members of his organization with skull and snake tattoos, the members wear pointed hoods and masks to hide their identities, and the most blatant parallel is the hatred they hold for marginalized groups that do not meet the standards of Voldemort’s ideal bloodline, which is eerily similar to white supremacy. Nazis and Nazi sympathizers are actually quite common in society today. A Nazi rally was just held in August of 2017 in Charlottesville, VA. In Harry Potter, the remaining members of Voldemort’s cause gathered in the shadows to revive the movement of destroying the current government. However obvious, this plan remains unseen by many instructors and political members of the magic world, despite Harry’s attempts to show them the truth. [BARTY CROUCH INTERROGATION SCENE] In this scene in the book, a trial is held against the character, Igor Karkaroff, a confirmed Death Eater. The Head of the Department of Magical Cooperation, Barty Crouch interrogates Karkaroff for information on potential Death Eaters still lurking about following Voldemort’s defeat. Karkaroff is offered freedom from the wizard prison of Azkaban in exchange for information on Death Eaters in hiding. He reveals to the courtroom many wizards who were, or continued to be active in the agendas of Voldemort’s original cause. Many of these wizards monitoring this trial later deny Voldemort’s return, despite overwhelming evidence. They fear his resurgence so fiercely that they would choose to ignore the blatant signs of his return. These characters remained in denial, much like the denial of many U.S. citizens of the return, or resurgence, of Neo-Nazis in America.
In the Harry Potter and Star Wars series, many political members and elite wizards and Jedi are, or were, a part of organizations to overthrow the magic government and restore purity to the wizard or Jedi bloodline. These characters lived their everyday lives as politicians and benefactors, never revealing their secretive meetings or agendas to the general public. This is a very important aspect of both series, especially when considering the many U.S. politicians who have been revealed to be Neo-Nazis, Nazi sympathizers, and KKK members, such as former US Senator, Robert Byrd, who lead a coalition of klan members and became the top recruiter of his klan unit in the early 1940s. He later called the decision “the greatest mistake I’ve ever made.” in his 2005 autobiography, Child of the Appalachian Coal Fields. Byrd himself admitted to his failures and resolved to encourage citizens to never involve themselves with the KKK.
As much as it is important to see the goodness of society, it is also important to consider the insidiousness of the world. It is crucial to look at our history so as to avoid future catastrophes of a similar nature, and through fiction like Harry Potter and Star Wars, we may think to our own histories and strive to learn from our mistakes. Going forward, it should be emphasized that awareness comes first. To be aware of “monstrosities” and allow ourselves to contemplate and critically evaluate our society, history, and cultures will bring us to a greater understanding of the world, as well as, hopefully, a more peaceful one, which doesn’t have to only exist in a galaxy far, far away…
National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, (START). U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Key concepts to understand violent White supremacy. (April 2017).
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf: English Edition. 1923. (p.248) April 27, 2015.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Alabama. Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism and Violence. (compiled by the staff of the klanwatch project) Sixth Edition. 2011.
DutchHPfan1992. YouTube. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Lord Voldemort returns part 2 (HD). Published December 14, 2011. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, (film). 2005.
Sim’s Favorite Scenes. YouTube. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – General Hux’s speech – Destruction Of Republic. Published on Mar 28, 2016. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, (film). 2015.
Blunt, Katherine. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications. Unrecognized Potential: Media Framing of Hitler’s Rise to Power, 1930-1933. Vol. 6 No. 2. (p.1-2). 2015.
Byrd, Robert. Child of the Appalachian Coalfields.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Culture (Seven Theses): The Monster Stands at the Threshold of Becoming. 1996. (p.20).