Nobody Won the Satanic Panic

Indeed, it is a golden age for geeks and nerds out there. Certain actors, comedians, and musicians play D&D. Gaming conventions keep breaking record numbers for attendance. The stigma against nerds has lessened. More women are playing RPGs than ever. It seems like parents everywhere what their kids to play tabletop RPGs rather than watch Youtube or play video games.

Who would have thought back in the 1980s this could be possible? Or the 1990s, when conservative America kept pointing at RPGs as a source of moral corruption in our youth?

The turn point came, from what I can tell, around the time Harry Potter became popular and the Lord of the Rings movies came out. Even then, it took a few more years, a decade perhaps, to reach the critical mass we’re experiencing now.

We won, certain grognards from the 1980s proclaim. You have no idea what it was like back then. Book burnings. Articles in the newspaper. Police departments and churches teaming up to expel D&D from their communities.

I experienced, first hand, the Satanic Panic in the late 1990s; the parents of a good friend of mine found and burned his RPG books. The panic continued into the 2000s as I watched college Christian organizations try to force any group they didn’t approve off campus.

So let’s be honest with ourselves: it never went away.

It changed.

The Satanic Panic promulgators switched to other targets in the mainstream media or returned to bashing pro-choice feminists, liberals, the LGBTQIA community. Or they changed their message from overt condemnation to subtle judgment.

Pokemon became a target.

How many times since the millennium have Harry Potter books been burned?

The Geeks and Nerds didn’t win against the Satanic Panic. Rather, the gamers who endured the panic grew up and starting shaping the world to give the younger generation of Geeks and Nerds some shelter, places to congregate, commiserate, and play these games.

That in itself is a major victory.

However, did the infamous Dark Dungeons go away? No. And it was made into a film, which is ambivalent about its satire.

Yet so long as conservative and evangelical pundits publish and proselytize against so-called Satanic materials, there’s always a chance we’ll see a re-resurgence.

One comment

  1. I am old enough to remember when D&D and heavy metal music were hot topics for The 700 Club. Both were supposed to be gateways to all kinds of misdeeds from drugs, to cults, to murder. Console video games were not mainstream yet, so D&D was the game to blame, so to speak.
    I have not watched The 700 Club in a while, but I imagine the show still offers its variety of misunderstood “bugbears” anytime something bad happens in the news.

    Liked by 1 person

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