Disappointingly, Chelsea Clinton has denied she and her husband practise satanism. Her tweet wishing the folks at the Church of Satan a happy new year should not be taken as endorsement of the dark lord’s manifold heresies.
One hopes that, like her father’s denial of having had “sexual relations with that woman”, Chelsea’s disclaimer isn’t for real. Doesn’t she realise that the radical power of Satan is having a moment unparalleled since Milton unwittingly made him the badass rebel hero of Paradise Lost?
According to the LA Times, “a heterodox generation of new self-described satanists is upending old Rosemary’s Baby and Helter Skelter stereotypes in service of radical politics, feminist aesthetics and community unity”.
The paper sent a reporter to investigate a satanic soiree in a California basement where they found a coterie of artists, writers and musicians who chanted “Hail Satan!”, while someone, unacceptably, played minor chords on the organ.
Satanism is attracting counter-cultural Californians because it is seen as a community-based response to the Trump era. As the paper writes: “Traditionalists might debate if any of it is properly ‘satanic’ at all; this new take is much more feminist than nihilist, flexibly self-aware and better versed in internet culture than orthodox theology.”
Better versed is right. Consider the Church of Satan’s laconic Twitter feed that wryly corrects those taking the dark lord’s name in vain.
Consider, too, the good sense found in the website’s FAQs: “We see the universe as being indifferent to us, and so all morals and values are subjective human constructions” contends the “fundamental beliefs” section, while the “selling souls” section argues: “There are no souls – and nobody to buy them. If you want something out of life, get off your lazy butt and work for it.”
Satanism has been associated with moral panics over witches or the ritual abuse of children during its history, sometimes unfairly. It has also attracted devotees such as Leamington Spa’s most wicked son, Aleister Crowley, who scandalised Edwardian society by claiming to be a master of black magic. Modern satanism, riven between theistic and atheistic sects, may owe something to Crowley, who called himself Great Beast 666 and who made a posthumous appearance on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album cover, but chiefly because he preached free love and drug experimentation.
Satanism’s latest mutation is something else, a contrarian uprising against a patriarchal world order that deserves its comeuppance.
How inspiring to find that in 2018 satanists are more progressive than the Great Beast even now tweeting diabolically from the Oval Office.
This article was corrected on Monday 8 January 2018 to change a reference from ‘strumming’ an organ to ‘playing’ it.
There is something strangely apropos about the group of shows that will be ending in 2018. Along with beloved comedies like Portlandia, Nashville and New Girl, series like Veep, The Americans, Scandal and House of Cards – all of which involve the goings-on of the political caste and have, at some point or another, drawn comparisons to the current administration – will debut their final seasons this year, at a cultural moment when the fecklessness of Selina Meyer and the dealings of Russian counterintelligence groups no longer defy imagination.
That the Trump administration contains echoes of both Veep and House of Cards is now an old adage, but both were some of the most zeitgeist-y shows of the era of Peak TV, and their departures leave a void. So, here are eight of the series concluding in 2018, some that are ending too soon and others well past expiration, and what to expect from their curtain calls.
Veep, whose star Julia Louis-Dreyfus has swept the last six Emmy awards for best actress in a comedy, will bow out with its seventh season, after its anti-heroine Meyer went from vice-president to president to, in hilariously tragic fashion, private citizen. While production on the last season was halted due to Louis-Dreyfus’ breast cancer diagnosis, it’s expected to return sometime in the spring, under the auspices of David Mandel, who took over the show when creator Armando Iannucci departed after its fourth season.
What exactly do we want from the final season of one of the best comedies of the last decade? It seemed for a moment that Selina was done chasing after the Oval Office, having found a morsel of closure in her one-year presidency; but the season six finale suggested otherwise, as Selina announced her desire to run for a fourth time. That sets things up for a political showdown between former president Meyer and that “plus-sized homunculus” congressman Jonah Ryan: seeing the two face off, with current president Montez in the mix, too, would be a fitting finish for a series that in strange ways augured the election of tremendously stupid people to public office. “She’s no longer the president running for president. She’s a person who used to be the president and is now running for president, but that never worked out too well,” Mandel told Indiewire. “It didn’t work out for Teddy Roosevelt, and it has not worked out historically when one-term presidents have tried to run.”
Critical darling The Americans, FX’s cold war period drama following two married KGB sleeper agents played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, will begin its 10-episode sixth and final season in March, wrapping up a run that’s set to be remembered squarely in the canon of this decade’s television dramas. The fifth season was not as well-received as the four that came before it, but as this tale of Reagan-era paranoia comes full circle, you can expect showrunner Joe Weisberg, a former CIA officer himself, to pull off the finale.
In the show’s timeline, 1985, the year Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union, is just around the bend. The show will inevitably grapple with what the political sea change back home means for Philip and Elizabeth, who at the end of season five elected to remain in the States rather than return to Russia. Season six will also expand on the story of their daughter Paige, who as she gets older is beginning to understand more about her parents’ extraordinary line of work.
Showrunners Weisberg and Joel Fields told Deadline the series’ conclusion has been etched in stone for years now: “Our stories sometimes change a lot, we write pretty far ahead and we’ll have ideas written down in pretty extensive thoughtful form earlier on and then some will stay with us. The ending itself has stuck since the middle of season 2.”
In how many more directions can Shonda Rhimes’ jerk us before Scandal ends with its seventh season? It would be unwise to guess, since the ABC drama regularly provides as many plot twists in an episode as some shows do in a season. The role of crisis-management guru Olivia Pope was made for Kerry Washington, who through six seasons has done a real high-wire act of melodrama, weathering death, lies, affairs, national emergencies and, well, scandals. She’ll begin the final season as President Mellie Grant’s chief of staff, but it would be foolish to guess where she’ll end up. All we know, at least from hints dropped by Rhimes, is that season 7 will hold nothing back. “So, next year we are going all out. Leaving nothing on the table. Creating this world in celebration,” Rhimes said in a press call. “We are going to handle the end the way we like to handle the important things in our Scandal family: all together, white hats on, Gladiators running full speed over a cliff.”
House of Cards
House of Cards began filming its final season in October, before the revelations about Kevin Spacey’s alleged history of sexual predation were made public. And so, in a bold and costly move, Netflix decided to scrap the two episodes that had been filmed, plus several other episodes that featured Frank Underwood and were already written, in favor of rejiggering the final season around his wife, President Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright.
Although the wheels fell off House of Cards around season four or five, it was Netflix’s first certified hit as a streaming service and helped popularize the idea of binge-TV. A Spacey-free finale season is not just the pragmatic move for House of Cards, but the right one, too: she didn’t become president until the very end of season five, but Claire Underwood has long been the more interesting and watchable half of television’s most cunning couple. The powers-that-be at Netflix have been tight-lipped about the series finale, but chief content officer Ted Sarandos said he hoped season six would provide “some closure to the show for fans”.
One of the great sketch-comedy shows of the past decade or so, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia, a Peabody Award winner in 2012, will air its eighth and final season beginning in January. Somehow, this show has yet to run out of ways to lampoon Portland’s hipster culture: remember The Deuce hotel, where each room comes with a complimentary turntable? From season one’s “Put a Bird on It” sketch to the great “Did You Read It?”, where Fred and Carrie play spitfire with their knowledge of recent New Yorker and McSweeney’s articles, the show’s satire is shrewd and often absurd, and will be hard to replace once it’s gone.
With a sketch-comedy show, there’s a bit less riding on a season finale than with traditional episodic television, so Armisen’s said he and Brownstein are not planning “to make any big final statements” with season 8. “We tried to keep it like a sketch show and comedy, just because people watch it out of order. Our main goal is to keep it funny and entertaining and relevant, we stuck to that.”
Through six seasons, the last of which premiered this January, Nashville has acquired something of a cult following, which helped salvage the show after ABC cancelled it in 2016. Afterwards, CMT picked it up for seasons five and six, with new producers at the helm and a revived fanbase. Part musical, part soap-opera, Nashville, which follows country music singer Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere, is a fun jaunt, a countrified take on the high camp of Glee. And even though Connie Britton’s Rayna James – the former “queen of country” and rival of Barnes – was killed off in season five, the show has just enough oxygen left to croon for one more season. After fans helped give the show new life, executive producer Marshall Herskovitz told Deadline “we want to return the favor with a final season that celebrates all the joys and passions, twists and turns – and amazing music! – that made Nashville such an exciting journey for the last six years.”
Following a three-year time-jump, the Fox sitcom New Girl (which, like The Big Bang Theory, feels like its been on air for a decade) will kick off its final installment in April after creator Liz Meriwether made a last-second push for an eight-episode seventh season. “I’m so passionate about this show. It’s been my life for seven years. I did feel really good about the end of season six, but I really wanted a chance to say goodbye to the show with a final season,” Meriwether told Entertainment Tonight.
Starring Zooey Deschanel as the peppy teacher Jess, New Girl finished season six with a classic romcom flourish, Jess and Nick (Jake Johnson) playing revolving elevators to the tune of Lorde’s Green Light before the latter professes his love. Since the show so fittingly ended things for its central couple in what was thought to be a series finale, there’s reason to believe they’ll pull it off again in season seven, not just for Nick and Jess, but for Cece and Schmidt too.
Judd Apatow’s Netflix romcom will bow out after its third season, which is set to premiere on the streaming service in early March. This show can be a charmer, exploring relationships through its prickly but endearing leads Mickey, played by Gillian Jacobs, and Gus, played by Paul Rust. After a great first season, Love lost a lot of steam in season two and, as its two leads finally got together, failed to keep pace with snappier, more progressive shows that explore the ups-and-downs of millennial courtship. Love doesn’t exactly reinvent the genre – its female lead is the typical wild child, her counterpart an affable nerd – but it still contains threads of truth among its many contrivances. Speaking about season three, Apatow said, “it’s our sweetest, funniest season and ends our story in a beautiful way,” so hopefully Love will get back to its season one heights.
When a young Tokyo couple called Yaichi and Natsuki got divorced, it was agreed that Yaichi would bring up their daughter, Kana – a decision that makes Yaichi seem like a more than usually modern and sophisticated Japanese man. But this isn’t the whole story. Yaichi has his share of cultural prejudices, or so it seems when a smiling, bear-like Canadian arrives at his door and announces that he, Mike Flanagan, is the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin, Ryoji.
Yaichi hesitates unaccountably before inviting Mike to stay (Mike is in Japan because he wants to see all the places Ryoji told him about before he died). Then he worries that the stranger now sharing his bathroom is about to hit on him: after all, he looks just like his dead brother. How, he wonders, will he explain to little Kana that in Canada men may fall in love and even marry? How, in other words, can he hope to keep the disgust from his voice?
Mike, though, is an unexpectedly easy house guest, even in his grief – and Kana regards both her new uncle and gay marriage as marvellous novelties, things about which she can boast to her friends on the way to school. It isn’t long, then, before the distance between the two men begins to close, their differences lying as much in their attitude to sushi – why do Canadians put tempura in it? – as in anything connected to their sexuality. After all, neither one of them conforms to the old stereotypes, for isn’t it the soft-cheeked Yaichi, rather than the bearded, gym-pumped Mike, who stands in the yard pegging washing in an apron?
Yaichi, almost without realising it, grows protective of Mike, a feeling that’s heightened when the mother of one of Kana’s schoolfriends makes it clear she doesn’t want him around her daughter, and this in turn causes him to rethink what might constitute a family. Finally, he gives in to grief himself, not only for the long-lost Ryoji, but for their parents, too, killed in an accident when they were still at school.
My Brother’s Husband is the work of Gengoroh Tagame, the award-winning manga artist whose cartoons have been translated into several languages, and it arrives in the UK garlanded with praise from, among others, Alison Bechdel. It’s not hard to see why. Not only is it very touching; it’s also, for the non-Japanese reader, unexpectedly fascinating. Gay life remains largely closeted in Japan, and Tagame’s complex but deftly told story – this is volume one; a sequel is forthcoming – seeks to examine the effect such secrecy has not only those who must live it, but also on their wider family relationships. The pain, he suggests, cuts both ways, for while Ryoji found the freedom to express his feelings in another country, all that was left to his brother was shyness, silence and stoicism. If Yaichi envies anything about Mike, it’s his unnerving openness, the sound of his thoughts filling up every room like dazzling sunlight through suddenly opened blinds.
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For more than 50 years, tales of buried gold have sent the curious, conspiracy theorists and treasure hunters to the tiny hilltop village of Rennes-le-Château near Carcassonne in south France. Many have dug or dynamited holes around and under the church of Saint Mary Magdalene, where the mysterious former priest Abbé Bérenger Saunière, who went from rags to riches, is rumoured to have interred a trove of gold coins and jewels before taking the secret of their whereabouts to his grave.
Over the decades, nothing much apart from skulls and bones has ever emerged, but still the gold-diggers with pickaxes and explosives come to Rennes-Le-Château, flouting a 1960s ban on unauthorised digging after complaints the village was fast becoming a “Swiss cheese”. Last week, police were called to investigate the latest bout of vandalism: a large hole under the church wall.
The myth of mysterious hidden treasure at Rennes-le-Château emerged in the 1950s, boosted by this part of the Languedoc region’s colourful history and rumours that it conceals not just pots of gold but also religious relics including the body of Jesus Christ, the holy grail and the ark of the covenant.
The modern treasure hunt has its roots in the 1880s, when Saunière, an impoverished Catholic priest, appears to have come into a fortune that enabled him to throw money around to renovate the church. The clergyman refused to say how he came into his sudden wealth before he died in 1917.
In the 1970s, Rennes-le-Château mania reached its height with treasure hunters using explosives to smash through stone walls, digging into burial areas and sewers and tunnelling into the church before going away empty-handed. Such was the damage done by gravediggers, the then local mayor Jean-François L’Huillier was forced to have Saunièr’s body dug up and reburied. “He’s at peace at last under a three-tonne sarcophagus surrounded by five cubic metres of concrete,” L’Huillier told me in 2004.
Then, just as a kind of peace also descended on Rennes-le-Château, the mystery was resurrected with Dan Brown’s bestselling The Da Vinci Code, whose plot included the claim that Jesus did not die on the cross but survived, married Mary Magdalene and fled to France. One of the thriller’s main characters is named Jacques Saunière.
Rennes-le-Château’s deputy mayor, Marcel Captier, said the latest hole-digging had awakened bad memories of previous attacks by vandals. “Above all, this kind of thing mustn’t start happening again. We don’t want to find ourselves with another wave of treasure hunters,” Captier told Le Parisien.
Most historians have concluded the treasure never existed and Saunière raised money through criminal means, including stealing donations and charging for mass services. Another theory is even more prosaic: a local hotelier, lamenting a lack of guests and his own failure to find any treasure, made the story up.
A criminal gang involved in land trafficking has tortured and murdered a community leader in northern Peru, according to his wife and local villagers who witnessed the killing.
José Napoleón Tarrillo Astonitas, 50, was attacked by four men in his home on Saturday night. His wife, Flor Vallejos, told police he was bound by his hands and feet, beaten with a stick and strangled with an electric cable.
As she was covered in a blanket and forced to listen to her husband’s screams, the attackers told him they had been paid to kill him, Vallejos told a national radio station. A local police chief said a murder investigation had been opened and the killers were being hunted.
A community leader in El Mirador village, Tarrillo, known as Napo, opposed land traffickers who had taken over parts of the Chaparrí Ecological Reserve and were clearing land and sowing crops. The reserve is a wildlife hotspot, with one of the largest populations of the rare spectacled bear in South America.
Vallejos said her husband had received death threats from people within his community for opposing deforestation and land invasions in the private reserve.
“He was threatened two days before he was killed,” says Juan Carrasco, a fellow member of the Muchik Santa Catalina de Chongoyape farming community, in Peru’s northern Lambayeque region.
“He was a brave man and he never lost his nerve. He said we must organise our own patrol to evict the land invaders because the authorities would not take action.”
“This was to be expected,” Ana Juarez, a biologist working in the area, told the Guardian. Juarez claims the murderers are known to the community and were responsible for the brutal killing of three farmers in October 2016 in reprisal for the eviction of land traffickers from the nearby San Francisco de Salas community.
Famous for its spectacled bears, the inspiration for the fictional Paddington Bear, the Chaparrí reserve receives visitors from all over the world. It is considered a model for community ecotourism and generates income for the local people.
The reserve is also home to the critically endangered white-winged guan, a bird once thought extinct. North-west Peru is considered a hotspot for endemic bird species.
Heinz Plenge, a renowned Peruvian wildlife photographer and one of the founders of the private reserve, says the criminals operate with “absolute impunity” and that land traffickers have infiltrated the peasant community which owns the communal land on which the reserve is situated.
The announcement of an irrigation project for the Lambayeque region in 2012, which would place two reservoirs in the Chaparrí reserve, sent land prices skyrocketing, Plenge explains. The project is on hold, but some land prices have risen from $80 to $10,000 per hectare, he says.
“These mafias are trying to grab hold of as much communal land as possible and take over peasant communities which can be easily bought off,” he adds. “These lands are bought up by small operators, but behind them are politicians and very powerful businessmen.”
Javier Ruiz Gutierrez, founder of the Save Chaparrí Defence Front, said the land traffickers are “trying to terrorise the population” so they can clear land for the proposed reservoir, which could transform the reserve into prime agricultural land.
“The absence of an effective government response to environmental crimes exposes local conservationists to intense social pressures, violence, and death threats, which are often carried through,” said Noga Shanee, a local conservationist and founder of the Neotropical Primate Conservation NGO.
“In this case, like in many others, reports were filed to all the relevant authorities about forest destruction and death threats, but were repeatedly ignored,” she adds.
The Guardian has contacted Peru’s national parks authority for comment.