Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 17

Published after The Terrible Twos, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) projects 1980s Reagan policies to a future New England in which a totalitarian theocracy has toppled the U.S. government. Unlike other fascist dystopian novels, Atwood’s, now a cable TV series, explores women’s subjugation in a dystopian near-future in which Christian fundamentalists target women’s rights, replicating toward women the violent Nazi repression of Jews and other ethnic groups. Among dystopian novels of the new century, Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (2004) envisions an alternate history in which an anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi president Charles Lindbergh makes peace with Nazi Germany and establishes a repressive state apparatus modeled after Germany’s. This overview of U.S. fascist dystopian fiction includes only the most well-known texts. But, given its striking thematic parallels to The Terrible Twos, one early dystopian work merits special attention, though it’s unlikely Reed knew of it in 1980. In a recent essay, Brooks E. Hefner discusses the little-known fascist dystopian fiction, “The Black Stockings,” by the African American writer William Thomas Smith. Published from June through August 1937 in the African-American weekly newspaper The Baltimore Afro-American, “The Black Stockings” differs from other dystopian fiction of the period in that it “imagines the rise of [U.S.] fascism as rooted almost purely in racial animosity and American nativism, a fear and hatred of others that generates an irrational cycle of blame and resentment.” 6 In Smith’s narrative, “the ‘Black Stockings’ of the title are…an informal [white] militia…[who] wear black stockings over their heads, ensuring anonymity as they terrorize non-white groups.” 7 Their leader, Hugo Heflock, runs for president, and through his privately-owned radio network exploits racist and nativist fears to build broad support among Depression-era whites and eventually threaten the power of mainstream political parties. The anti-fascist resistance coalition in the narrative, the “Sons of Light,” are “a multiracial and multiethnic group allied with the U.S. president and presented as the only hope for preserving American democracy.” Like Smith’s dystopian work, The Terrible Twos similarly identifies racism and bigotry as crucial components of Dean Clift’s neo-fascist administration, as noted in earlier pages. The Nicholites, also a multiracial and multiethnic resistance group, work to undermine the spread of neo-fascist ideology, in this case by appealing 6 Hefner discussion of “Black Stockings” highlights the absence of race in other early anti-fascist dystopian fiction. 7 See Hefner’s summary of the “Black Stockings” plot. 12