Religious pluralism is a cultural value Americans once took for granted. Their government, which endeavored to be different from the crowns that colonized wide swaths of world under the guise of Christian conversion and conquest declared itself to have established no religion. In this age of increasing restriction on reproductive choice, one group stands fighting the battles of government overreach in every sphere — no matter the social and legal cost. The Satanic Temple, is not without its own internal struggle as it finds its footing in the Trump era as it unfolds in Hail Satan?.
The critical contribution Penny Lane’s lens brings to the canon of 21st century cinema is easily described as an important documentation of a religious protest sect that takes on an increasingly fundamentalist government and American consciousness. Her documentary Hail Satan? chronicles a massive ideological split in a religious institution established to protect the ideas that drive the right to open expression and protest as they have established themselves in the Obama era forward.
The increasing divides between membership are compellingly documented in this film. Those members that are willing to openly depose government for the sake of indigenous peoples’ rights quite violently can no longer sit well with other members whose simple argumentation for First Amendment rights does not fully consider their cause .
These reasons are varied. Post-Eugenics era Roe vs. Wade protections are something the indigenous of the U.S never were fully granted. The Federal Government was more intent on sterilization and adoption programs that erased tribal identities in the 20th century than reproductive choice, and there is reasonable argumentation that state governments have taken up that fight where federal governments have left off.
As Jex Blackmore insists that the cause of freeing the indigenous from factory farm slavery requires that someone to “Kill Donald Trump,” as part of the Resistance movement, the TST Board considers it ill-advised to state that any organization has such a goal and creates increasing distance between themselves and The Satanic Temple, Detroit.
The dangerous implications of such an action are certainly something to separate one’s self from as an organization.
Where the film turns especially interesting is in how it explains that Eisenhower’s “God” is fully described as contrived in the 1950’s, but only Jex Blackmore can speak with any cogent sensibility regarding the religious Right’s literal creation of scores of undocumented slaves in our factory farm system. Hail Satan? describes her radicalism as Lucien Greaves and his coalitions are fighting against the Ten Commandments monuments that rose to popularity alongside the midcentury film starring Charlton Heston, unable to explain what the theology leads to in terms of subjugation of people of color and the indigenous.
The U.S. has quite honestly created untold classes of undocumented workers who are increasingly and alarmingly suffering the fate of slaves in sex-work and food systems. They are treated equally to victims of a Holocaust with all of its neoliberal trappings in most cogent, accepted political arguments— as a property that can be dropped off in sanctuary cities. They are sometimes children.
Satanism, in this context, against “Nazism” is not new— and was very popular in the WWII era iconography found in pulp and comic franchises.
How does a movement to consider the lowest of the working classes that is routinely villainized through fundamentalist perceptions of American Satanisms and made holy through South American Marxist Liberation Theologies actually gain momentum (without threatening real danger to figures of authority)?
It’s hard to say. Penny Lane, perhaps, unwittingly, creates an important window into this argument. How far can any activist go to free a tent city full of the interred? Is the Trump administration right to drop them off in a sanctuary city full of sweatshops? This might be a safer question to ask than “how do we unseat a president representative of every mid-century atrocity committed against a person with indigenous ancestry most quickly?”
Kate Morgan is an award-winning poet, filmmaker, publisher and teacher whose biggest passion in life is tackling the problems of modern slavery. You can find more of her reviews at Film Will Never Be Dead and literature anthologies that take on the subjects of Schopenhauer and the Anti-Slavery tradition at Human Decency is Key. Her anticipated short films are Volvere, Limerent Objects, and Forgive Me, Father. She is a Tarrant County, TX Bilingual Elections Judge and State Convention Delegate. Her poetry and paintings can be found at Avalon Journal, Literary Shanghai, and in Enough/Enough Anthology, Unbelief: Anthology, and Argot Magazine.