Eyes blinded, staring through darkness. Arms outstretched, clutching at thin air. Aimless steps, surging forward into the unknown. This is what the characters of The Mist TV show endure on a weekly basis; unfortunately, this description also applies just as readily to the millions affected by the hostility of our modern political climate.
Regardless of your political affiliations, the subtext hidden in The Mist has become more topical than ever before, something which show runner Christian Torpe is keen to explore in his adaptation of the story for TV.
What Is The Mist Really About?
The Mist has always been about far more than just some gross monsters hiding in plain sight. In fact, director Frank Darabont was acutely aware of this when he first adapted Stephen King's story back in 2007, unforgettably destroying audiences with that twist ending.
Speaking to Pop Matters, Darabont explained that the crux of The Mist revolves around something far more universal:
"It’s about what people are capable of when they are influenced by lack of reason and fear.”
When Stephen King originally wrote The Mist as a novella back in 1980, he couldn't have possibly known how relevant this story of a community besieged by fear would become. Unfortunately, the scare tactics employed by the religious zealot, Mrs. Carmody, are all too familiar for citizens across the world right now, who are making political choices motivated by fear.
Why Exactly Has The Mist Become So Timely?
Although Hollywood was initially reluctant to support Darabont's adaptation of The Mist, it's become more and more clear as each year passes that the underlying message of the story has become more pertinent than ever. It's been decades since we last saw fear used to manipulate the masses on such a scale, but these days, Mrs Carmody's exploitative tactics are seen on our real-life screens far too regularly now.
Back when Darabont's movie was first released, actress Marcia Gay Harden described her character in ways far more prescient than we could have ever imagined in 2007.
Harden explained to Pop Matters that:
"Mrs. Carmody is a fear-based leader... and fear-based leadership allows people to put aside ethical behavior and commit human atrocity in the name of God, freedom, democracy or safety. It’s a destructive path. And we’re living in it right now, in a way.”
Just as the giant monster movies of the '50s reflected our fear of nuclear war, modern iterations of The Mist reflect contemporary concerns regarding where society will go next. Darabont's movie arrived just a few short years after the events of 9/11, where fear of terrorism had reached heights never seen before in the public consciousness, ingrained forever by the Patriots Act and other legislature designed to fight the war on terror.
Fortunately for us, show runner Christian Torpe understands that these fears have only been compounded further in the years since the movie adaptation of The Mist was released. As a result of this, the TV version of The Mist will be the most topical yet, taking time out to explore the kind of choices that people make under duress.
How Does The Mist TV Show Tap Into These Topical Concerns?
In the press notes for The Mist, Christian Torpe reveals why Stephen King's story is so personal to him, detailing the ways in which panic has taken hold of his life over the years. However, Torpe is quick to point out that such fears extend their reach beyond the individual, affecting us all as a society in collective terms that could consume entire nations.
Describing fear as the dominant feeling in the world right now, Torpe explains how:
"King’s novella is about the connection between fear and religious fanaticism. In developing it for TV, my hope was to expand on the notion and develop a story not just about religious fanaticism, but about the radicalization that seems to be taking place on all fronts of political, religious and private life today – not just in the States, my native Denmark as well. Exploring this radicalization and the personal, political and religious fear that drives it is my intention with this series."
While Mrs Carmody won't appear in Torpe's version of The Mist, it's clear that the TV show won't shy away from the issues that her character raises, instead facing them head on through the interactions shared by the entire ensemble. In the first episode alone, racial conflict, homophobia and the darker implications of a patriarchal society all raise their ugly head in the town of Bridgeville. What's most shocking of all, though, is that this all happens before the titular mist even rolls into town.
Clearly then, fear of what lurks in The Mist is rather misguided. Instead, Torpe's show is determined to illustrate exactly how fear itself can destroy, following the central cast in their struggle to survive the terror that's turned the town's inhabitants against one another. Given the political unrest that's typified the news of late, it's hard not to see how the divisive reaction to Brexit, Trump's election, and a whole host of other global developments won't be mirrored in the various ways which the folk of Bridgeville cope with the mist's arrival.
It's no wonder then that author Stephen King has given The Mist his seal of approval, grouping the upcoming TV shows alongside the likes of IT and Mr Mercedes this year as some of his best adaptations yet. After all, the King of Horror isn't exactly shy when it comes to sharing his own political views, tweeting his outrage at the current state of the US government with gleeful abandon.
Speaking to The Washington Post before the 2016 US election had come to an end, King revealed that:
"A Trump presidency scares me more than anything else."
Although it's painfully ironic that the legendary master of horror saw his own nightmares come true, King was quick to explain exactly what he felt propelled the votes that led to Trump's victory — and it all boils down to one thing:
"The key chord to all of this is fear. We're afraid the government is going to take away our guns, we're afraid that Mexico is going to invade the United States, we're afraid of this, we're afraid of that, we're afraid of taxes, we're afraid of transgender bathrooms — the whole thing."
There is hope though. Sure, the movie adaptation of The Mist did end on a searingly depressing note, reminding us that if we succumb to our own fears, then we will become our own worst enemy and ultimately destroy ourselves.
However, by its very nature, the TV version of The Mist will carry on moving forward, providing Torpe with the opportunity to delve into how we can overcome our fears of the perceived unknown and progress towards a more optimistic way of thinking. Perhaps we could even learn a thing or two from how the denizens of Bridgeville react to their fear, teaching us how to one day clear the mist from our own eyes too.
Do you think The Mist successfully taps into our real-life fears? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and remember to check out the Spike TV premiere when it airs on 6/22/17.