Alternative Media (Part 12): Needful Things

Well ladies and gentlemen, Halloween is fast on the approach and, after that, will be Christmas again. Before Yuletide season comes along though and floods us with problems like providing gifts for our godchildren, putting up our Christmas lights without getting electrocuted for our troubles and finding legally sold fireworks though, I’d first like to tell you about one of the best horror stories I’ve ever read. Entitled Needful Things by Stephen King, it’s one of the stories I strongly recommend you read before Spooky Season ends and makes way for Glittery Season. While there’s a movie version of this starring Ed Harris and Max Von Sydow (kind of ironic here when you have a guy who plays as Jesus playing the role of the Devil this time around), I would prefer the book as the film doesn’t have the same feel of the book and neither does it fully elaborate on all the inner workings of Castle Rock (the setting of the story) and how it all went to Hell, literally.

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Before I go on, I remember writing an article about Muslims having a different view when it comes to the Devil despite being an Abrahamic religion like Christianity and Judaism. I mentioned that my Muslim friend explained that they normally don’t find our brand of religious horror all that believable or scary as their take on the Devil is actually quite different from our own. However, after lending my friend my copy of Needful Things, he returned the book to me saying that he found it both difficult to put down and seriously horrifying because it does not only play along to Christian standards of religious horror but also that of Islam as the villain of the piece, Mr. Gaunt, wouldn’t be all that different from my friend’s own take on what the Devil would be like if he actually existed.

Anyway, for those not in the know, Needful Things is another of Stephen King’s stories that takes place in Castle Rock, Maine. It tells the story of a new shop opening up in town owned by a mysterious man named Mr. Gaunt. While seemingly pleasant, local sheriff Alan Pangborn finds him somewhat suspicious but decides to let things be. It is later revealed however that Mr. Gaunt is more than what he appears to be as the inhabitants of Castle Rock turn against one another in fits of paranoia, delusion and violent rage.

It soon turns out that Mr. Gaunt is actually an ancient demon who covers what are essentially useless items with an illusion and what could probably be a form of mind-control in order to make them into things that people desire the most. Some examples include an old baseball card that Mr. Gaunt enchants so that it looks like its displaying a famous baseball player even though the actual card depicts a nobody and then there’s the picture of Elvis that makes people think they’re with The King himself even though that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are more examples actually, but I’d prefer it if you read about them yourself rather than me spoiling it all for you.

Overall, Needful Things is very relevant to me because of how some of the things in it, while mostly fictional, is quite prevalent in the Philippines. Of course, it’s a horror story so it’s probably not that bad but I think we can all agree that some of the points in the book are distressingly applicable to what is happening in our country today. Here, let me elaborate further:

Insubstantial But Flashy Illusions

The thing is, in the story itself, everything that Mr. Gaunt sells or offers to people is junk. However, what he does is create some kind of illusion that makes the garbage in his shop look like they’re worth something even though they’re clearly not. In fact, the heroes of the story manage to defeat him by first seeing through the illusion that Mr. Gaunt put over his stuff and seeing them as simply defective products with a veil of magic that makes them look like something they’re not.

As an example of what I’m talking about, take the concept of President Aquino’s “Tuwid Na Daan”. So what has it achieved for us as a nation? Where is it heading? Beyond words and paper, just what does “Tuwid Na Daan” even entail? Unless “Tuwid Na Daan” leads to our people no longer having to work outside the country to give their families a promising future or something similar, I’ll have to agree with a lot of commenters that it’s just an illusion. Because unless it yields actual results or even just a hint of a plan, then it really is just a fanciful dream rather than something that’s supposed to improve the country.

Obsession With Pleasantry And Delusion

Another very important point of the story is how some people are so caught up in their own delusions and pleasantry. In one of the more unwholesome parts of the story, one woman goes on to neglect her children all because of her obsession with Elvis. Never mind that one of her sons seems to be considering suicide. As long as there’s Elvis (or the illusion thereof) to keep her company then everything will be alright.

The sad part is, as Ms. Ilda states in some of her articles, a lot of Pinoys really aren’t all that different. While I laud and praise those who can separate themselves from the own shallowness of regular programming, it’s sad to note that some people have forgotten their real priorities in life as well and simply live for nothing but the worthless trash on TV these days. It’s like, for a lot of people, it’s no longer important if people are starving to death or that the Lumads are being butchered like animals; as long as there’s AlDub and Pastillas Girl, everything is alright in the world.

Paranoia And Protectiveness

Lastly, another thing in the story that I find frightening is how protective the people are in the story when it comes to their delusions and illusions. When someone who isn’t affected by the illusions of Mr. Gaunt notice that the stuff people buy from Mr. Gaunt are just a load of junk, said buyers often fly off into a rage not wanting to see their bought items for what they are. They even outright refuse to bring them out for fear that other people will notice the flaw and thus break the illusion of their prized possession.

Similar to the people of Castle Rock under the thrall of Mr. Gaunt, typical Pinoys are all too eager to defend their illusions and delusions. They often come up with the most nonsensical of explanations why their “idols” are being attacked such as some of us being jealous of them or being hired to do so. The list just goes on and on and their logic just gets more and more ridiculous as they go on. It’s amazing how some of them seem to become almost violent in defense of their obsessions even though it’s clear from the get-go that they’re just grasping at straws.

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I’d like to think that Needful Things is just a story but from everything that’s happened, is happening or may happen in the Philippines, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Mr. Gaunt did in fact exist and that he uses the Philippines as his vacation spot. It’s utterly amazing how some people are all too willing to sell their own souls around here just to be happy and, at the end of the day, just see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear and think what they want to think. As a side note, we like to call ourselves “Christians” and all that but would we really recognize the Devil for what he really is and what he intends for us if he was well-disguised and would we recognize Jesus as a savior if ever he came to destroy the Devil’s illusions and save our souls in the process?

Advanced Happy Halloween readers…

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4 Comments on “Alternative Media (Part 12): Needful Things”

  1. So this is where that shop in the show “Rick and Morty” got its name. Great episode. Really sets Rick’s character in stone especially on how he dealt with the devil. (It’s really worth watching.)

    But back on topic. The difficult part of on showing pinoys of their outdated thinking and cult like reverence to their idols is that they never considered the possibility that they are wrong. Trying to convince them almost never works because they’re too blinded. If anything, they’ll deeply entrench themselves. I know this because I tried it. Making them question things themselves is the way to go because it shocks them when they make the discoveries themselves.

    Anyway, keep it up. This site serves as a lighthouse in the dark stormy sea of unintelligence known as Philippine media.

  2. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me;” fool me thrice, shame on us. Therefore, Filipinos should be ashamed of themselves and each other.

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