A History of Evil in Popular Culture

What Hannibal Lecter, Stephen King, and Vampires Reveal about America

by Sharon Packer and Jody Pennington, Editors


An argument can be made that the concept of evil haunts the soul of America.

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Cover image for A History of Evil in Popular Culture

July 2014


Pages 825
Volumes 2
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Popular Culture/General
  Popular Culture/Film

Evil isn't simply an abstract theological or philosophical talking point. In our society, the idea of evil feeds entertainment, manifests in all sorts of media, and is a root concept in our collective psyche. This accessible and appealing book examines what evil means to us.

Evil has been with us since the Garden of Eden, when Eve unleashed evil by biting the apple. Outside of theology, evil remains a highly relevant concept in contemporary times: evil villains in films and literature make these stories entertaining; our criminal justice system decides the fate of convicted criminals based on the determination of their status as "evil" or "insane." This book examines the many manifestations of "evil" in modern media, making it clear how this idea pervades nearly all aspects of life and helping us to reconsider some of the notions about evil that pop culture perpetuates and promotes.

Covering screen media such as film, television, and video games; print media that include novels and poetry; visual media like art and comics; music; and political polemics, the essays in this book address an eclectic range of topics. The diverse authors include Americans who left the United States during the Vietnam War era, conservative Christian political pundits, rock musicians, classical linguists, Disney fans, scholars of American slavery, and experts on Holocaust literature and films. From portrayals of evil in the television shows The Wire and 24 to the violent lyrics of the rap duo Insane Clown Posse to the storylines of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter books, readers will find themselves rethinking what evil is—and how they came to hold their beliefs.


  • Includes the insights of scholars from widely different academic fields to inspect evil from various points of view, giving readers a broader perspective on the topic
  • Compiles expert opinions from American, American expatriate, European, Asian, and Middle Eastern contributors
  • Covers the portrayal of evil in many different forms of media—film, television, music, art, video games, literature, poetry—as well as in politics, current events, and the legal arena
Author Info

Sharon Packer, MD, practices psychiatric medicine in New York and is assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY. Her published works include Praeger's Dreams in Myth, Medicine, and Movies; Movies and the Modern Psyche; and Superheroes and Superegos: Analyzing the Minds Behind the Masks as well as Cinema's Sinister Psychiatrists: From Caligari to Hannibal. She received her medical degree from University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago and is board certified in psychiatry.

Jody Pennington, PhD, is associate professor in media and culture studies at University of Aarhus, Denmark. His published works include Praeger's The History of Sex in American Film; the book chapter "Don't Knock the Rock: Race, Business and Society in the Rise of Rock'n'roll" in Taking Sides: Clashing Views in United States History; and the article "The Good, the Bad, and Halloween: A Sociological Analysis of John Carpenter's Slasher." Pennington holds a doctorate in American studies from Aarhus University, Denmark.



"The essays are scholarly but accessible. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers."Choice

"The two volumes are best suited for an academic setting, high school and up. This is definitely a collection that will start some conversations and get people to think about evil and its presence in our society in ways they have never thought before."ARBAonline

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