Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 14

today in Christmas traditions in the Netherlands and Belgium, he was dropped from the St. Nicholas legend in the United States, as Reed says, because of America’s peculiar “racial customs” rooted in slavery. Even President Clift’s’ spiritual transformation, as Reed explains in an interview, derives from African and Afro-Caribbean culture as much as it does from Charles Dickens. “[The] idea of hell and descent and reform…is a feature of African literature…in the African tradition, [the spirits] Esu-Kekere-Ode…have a fight with the chief deity, [and] are forced to live among the dead and become wise.” (Conversations With Ishmael Reed, 365) A list of some of the other characters and plot lines in The Terrible Twos further illustrate the expansive cultural syncretism of Reed’s Neo-Hoodoo aesthetic. Oswald (Ziggie) Zumwalt heads the North Pole Development Corporation, which buys the rights to the character and image of Santa Claus and plans to build a domed city/shopping mall at the North Pole called Christmasland. Disillusioned by the commercialization of Christmas as personified by Zumwalt, Boy Bishop founds the Nicolaites to re-establish the true spirit of Christmas—the virtues of generosity, charity and love--which he hopes to make a guiding cultural creed year-round for all Americans. The central plot line revolves around Nance Saturday, a private investigator who is hired to solve the disappearance of a street hustler (Snowman) who was last seen in the Nicholites’ compound; Nance’s estranged wife, Virginia, is a reporter for WBC, where Krantz formerly worked before joining Clift’s presidential cabinet. Black Peter, the former street performer (ventriloquist) and longtime member of the Nicolaites, grows disaffected by the sect’s Euro-centric theology; he hopes to revitalize the sect by replacing its God, St. Nicholas, with Haile Selassie, the messiah of the Rastafari movement. Flinch Savvage, an American Indian liaison for the North Pole Development Corporation in Alaska, mediates disputes between it and native peoples whose land the corporation has usurped; his girlfriend, Vixen, works for Zumwalt’s North Pole Development Corporation. And Rex Stuart, an alcoholic, out-of-work TV soap opera actor, is hired by the North Pole Development Corporation to play the role of Santa Claus at corporate and public functions. At one such event--a nationally-televised kick-off of the holiday season--rather than the usual Christmas greetings, this Santa gives an impassioned speech criticizing America’s culture of greed and selfishness and calling for a national boycott of Christmas. The Nicholites, it turns out, have surreptitiously replaced Stuart with their own Santa Claus, using him to spread their anti-capitalist message to the masses. 9