Back in 1979, horror master Stephen King published a book called The Dead Zone. Now that book comes to the forefront again, after people pick up similarities between a character in that book and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Not only has The Dead Zone been a published novel, however, as it also morphed into a full-blown movie and a TV series.
Populist demagogues like He Who Must Not Be Named aren’t a new thing; see THE DEAD ZONE, published 37 years ago.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 15, 2016
As a brief intro into the story, meet Johnny Smith, a kid who suffers an injury while ice-skating, which gives him an uncanny ability to win at the wheel of fortune in a local fair. A few years later Johnny is involved in a serious car accident and ends up in a coma for four and a half years. When he finally comes around he discovers he has special powers that allow him to see the future. He goes on to help the police in solving various crimes.
Now meet Greg Stillson, a young door-to-door bible salesman, suffering from severe emotional issues and dreaming of greatness. This nasty piece of work, among other things, kicks an aggressive dog to death. He later goes on to become a successful businessman and the elected mayor of Ridgeway, N.H. Later still, Stillson manages to win an independent campaign for a seat in the House of Representatives, mainly by blackmailing a local business to help raise campaigning funds for him.
Our Johnny also gets an interest in politics and attends a rally for Stillson. On touching Stillson’s hand, however, Johnny gets a horrific vision of an older Stillson as U.S. president, causing a massive, worldwide nuclear conflict.
It is what happens at Stillson’s political rallies that has got people comparing him to Donald Trump.
What happens in King’s version of a political saga is that Stillson takes to the stage wearing a “hi-impact construction worker’s helmet cocked at an arrogant, rakish angle on his head.”
While it’s not a red made-in-China cap reading “Make America Great Again,” Stillson’s explanation for his helmet is as weird as anything The Donald could come up with.
“You wanna know why I’m wearin’ this helmet, friends ‘n neighbors? I’ll tell you why. I’m wearin’ it because when you send me up to Washington, I’m gonna go through ’em like you-know-what through a canebrake! Gonna go through ’em just like this!”
Reportedly, Stillson then went running up and down the stage like a bull, yelling as he went.
He later closed the rally by grabbing a whole load of freshly boiled hot dogs, throwing them into the crowd and yelling, “Hot dogs for every man, woman, and child in America! And when you put Greg Stillson in the House of Representatives, you gonna say [sic] HOT DOG! SOMEONE GIVES A RIP AT LAST!”
As reported by the Dallas Morning News, rather like Donald Trump, Stephen King‘s political hopeful also peddles promises, not actual plans, and is an expert at hiding his ignorance by using a loud and brash voice.
Stillson promises a dry and arid region that he will make rain if he’s elected. Donald Trump promises that if he’s elected, America will win so much her citizens will “get sick of winning.”
Referring to the Mexican border, Trump promises to build a wall to keep the illegal immigrants out and somehow will get Mexico to pay for it.
In the pollution-ridden region in Stephen King’s novel, Stillson promises “to send all the pollution right into outer space! Gonna put it in Hefty bags! Gonna put it in Glad bags! Gonna send it to Mars, to Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn! We’re gonna have clean air and we’re gonna have clean water and we’re gonna have it in SIX MONTHS!”
Stillson gets the public to love him because, let’s face it, he’s funny, but he says things people want to hear. The Donald works the same way. In Stillson’s world, nobody seems to have a worry in the world about the man, except, of course, poor Johnny.
— Danny Taggart (@DTaggart64) March 16, 2016
To make a long story short, Johnny has many visions along the way, which allow him to save people’s lives and make positive changes. However, he also finds that the cause of his visions is a deadly brain tumor and that he only has a short while to live so he vows to sort out the Stillson problem once and for all.
As seen in the film version of The Dead Zone, when Johnny (played by Christopher Walken) attends a Stillson (played by Martin Sheen) rally, he tries to shoot Stillson dead to prevent the prophesied nuclear holocaust from ever happening, but he misses and is seriously wounded by Stillson’s bodyguards. However, in the process he does manage to reveal Stillson for what he is, as the presidential candidate takes a child and holds it in front of him as a human shield.
This inhuman act causes him to lose both his popularity and the race for the White House. Johnny’s final vision before he dies doesn’t show him the dreaded World War III scenes he saw before.
— Phil (@PhiIIip_Thomas) March 13, 2016
Stephen King himself said in a recent email to the National Memo that he’s seen the comparisons drawn between Donald Trump and Stillson on Twitter and that it always makes him smile.
“Trump is an American ‘Tell it like it is’ populist in a long tradition of them.
“Although [Trump] came from money rather than sharecropper poverty, people vote for [people like him] because they speak in the vulgate of the common people, and because they want to paste mainstream politicians in the eye. Trump is the voice of anger and racism. The anger won’t get him in trouble, but the racism guarantees he won’t be elected.”
While Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone might seem to be prophetic in tone, the fear is that King’s thoughts that Donald Trump won’t get elected may not be quite so farseeing.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]