In his collection of letters by senior devil Screwtape to his nephew devil Wormwood, C. S. Lewis recorded a conversation 60 years ago which sadly is as relevant today as it was then. Clapham Principal Mark Rodgers give the correspondence a contemporary application:
My Dear Wormwood,
I must say, you’ve outdone yourself this time. Your concern that man will see our true nature and His true nature most clearly through story (they were made to create and respond to the creative, how distasteful!) and in the intimacy of a theatre was well founded. That agent of the Enemy, Mssr. Nolan (oh, don’t you despise his given name!) in his last film blew the cover of your Cousin Slumtripit who is based in that city named after the legion of our Enemy’s soldiers. We didn’t relent when the Enemy tried to keep us from that actor, Ledger, who portrayed Slumtripit. Thankfully, our dear cousin had his vengeance.
But Nolan’s latest film is a threat much greater than his last, and your assignment to neutralize it was a difficult one. You may have felt handicapped by the fact that we can only twist the stories those mortals create, but your spasmodic violence of hatred for the vermin expressed IN a theatre SHOWING the film was just the distraction we needed. Wisely, you have taken my advice, and the humans are now talking about pathology, mental illness, and clinical depression. Make them think about therapy and chemicals, about support groups, pills and programs. About interventions and breakdowns. Let them commission studies. Blame it on parents, bullies and Twinkies.
Throw them off our scent.
Thankfully, the Enemy just retired two of His men who used story to reveal our tactics. Ha! You were too blind to see that the creators of The Andy Griffith Show and Encyclopedia Brown (who He just took to His loving bosom, gak!) exposed us in a different way, reinforcing our and the humans’ natures by implicating their audiences in very mundane ways. Too trite, you thought. No threat.
HOGWASH!!!! I should have devoured you then. It is JUST at this point of personal implication that a story is the most dangerous. Thankfully, Slumtripit brilliantly thought to encourage some of the human “creatives” to craft horror stories and make us appear quite distant from their daily experience. Oh, a few true stories got out of our hands, like the one about Emily Rose. But mostly our work to keep them and their finite minds thinking about vampires and zombies has been successful. And thereby keeping them away from where our work is most effective, in their little white lies and disregard for their neighbor.
But the Dark Knight has come too close to home, and its recent installment too close to the True Myth. The brutes don’t deserve mercy. But he still loved them! Shudder. He came back for them, after they rejected him. He was willing to sacrifice himself for these pitiful humans. And if that wasn’t enough, he even cared for their orphans and the widows. How weak! We devour orphans and widows, as the film plainly showed.
So if Nolan is intent to keep supping with us, as he appears to be, he better learn to use a longer spoon. If he sits too close again, he’ll be our next main course.
Your Affectionate Uncle,
Max McLean, pictured above, stars as Screwtape in Clapham client’s production of The Screwtape Letters. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit www.screwtapeonstage.com.