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Wild in the Streets – When Dystopian Comedy Mirrors Reality

It is odd but in light of where much of Western culture is today, Wild in the Streets seems almost prophetic. For example, at the age of fifteen, Swedish-born Greta Thunberg took her largely ignorant but passionate narrative concerning “climate change” into politics, attempting to sway the Swedish elections. A year later, she publicly scolded world leaders in her 2019 UN Climate Action Summit speech. Now twenty-one, she has an international following successfully demanding governments fall in line with climate change activists’ demands. Lately, she has also come out as an expert critic of Zionism, accusing Israel of “genocide” in Gaza, where of course, Israelis are trying to wipe out the terrorist organization which attacked, kidnapped, raped, and killed Israeli innocents – because Gazan innocents are being hurt or killed.

The 1968 film Wild in the Streets has been described as an “American dystopian comedy-drama film.” In an era of rebellion against authority – the late 1960s – the premise of Wild in the Streets was simple. High school and college-age youth came to believe that they knew better how to run society and government than their elders. The main character, Max Frost, was a budding revolutionary who happened to be a very popular rock star.

Popular rock singer and aspiring revolutionary Max Frost (Christopher Jones) was born Max Jacob Flatow Jr. His first public act of violence was blowing up his family’s new car. Frost’s band, the Troopers, live together with him, their women, and others, in a sprawling Beverly Hills mansion. The band includes his 15-year-old genius attorney Billy Cage (Kevin Coughlin) on lead guitar, ex-child actor and girlfriend Sally LeRoy (Diane Varsi) on keyboards, hook-handed Abraham Salteen (Larry Bishop) on bass guitar and trumpet, and anthropologist Stanley X (Richard Pryor) on drums. Max’s band performs a song noting that 52% of the population is 25 or younger, making young people the majority in the country.

When Max is asked to sing at a televised political rally by  Kennedyesque Senate candidate Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook), who is running on a platform to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, he and the Troopers appear – but Max stuns everyone by calling instead for the voting age to become 14, then finishes the show with an improvised song, “Fourteen or Fight!”, and a call for a demonstration. Max’s fans – and other young people, by the thousands – stir to action, and within 24 hours protests have begun in cities around the United States.1

As the story unfolds, not only is the voting age lowered, but the age to hold national public office is lowered to fourteen. The mandatory retirement age is lowered to thirty and everyone thirty-five and older were to be shipped to re-education camps where they are permanently kept “high” on LSD. While some thought the premise “ludicrous,” others, like Roger Ebert, thought it actually a cautionary tale. Ebert’s review opens with:

Once you’ve experienced a concert by a group like the Beatles or the Doors, the fascist potential of pop music becomes inescapable. There is a primitive force in these mass demonstrations that breaks down individualism and creates a joyous mob.2

Further down, he notes:

“Wild in the Streets,” on the other hand, is aimed squarely at the younger teenage audience that buys records and listens to the Top 40 stations. This audience can believe, if only temporarily, in the greatness of a performer. They can sense what John Lennon was getting at (although he phrased it unfortunately) when he said the Beatles were more famous than Christ.3

Ebert also comments:

It’s a silly film, but it does communicate in the simplest, most direct terms.4

It is odd but in light of where much of Western culture is today, Wild in the Streets seems almost prophetic. For example, at the age of fifteen, Swedish-born Greta Thunberg took her largely ignorant but passionate narrative concerning “climate change” into politics, attempting to sway the Swedish elections. A year later, she publicly scolded world leaders in her 2019 UN Climate Action Summit speech. Now twenty-one, she has an international following successfully demanding governments fall in line with climate change activists’ demands. Lately, she has also come out as an expert critic of Zionism, accusing Israel of “genocide” in Gaza, where of course, Israelis are trying to wipe out the terrorist organization which attacked, kidnapped, raped, and killed Israeli innocents – because Gazan innocents are being hurt or killed.

We can see her point. In WW2, we and our allies refused to attack both Japan and Germany directly, even though they were attacking us, since many German and Japanese civilian innocents would have been killed or injured in the process. Oh wait – that’s not how the war ended.

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