Tuesday, August 13

Elvis Presley has become a sort of deity for some people who believe that he is still alive and well and is probably knitting sweaters somewhere. Elvis's image has been marketed ad infinitum, lilke most of today's current religions.

Excellent Guardian essay on the cult of the Dead Elvis. The article traces the rise and fall of what many (white) Americans consider their once and future king. The hysteria reaches a new height this year, on the 25th death anniversary of the King. Believers flock to Graceland and pay tribute not to a pop star but to celebrate their faith:
What happened here? How can it be that the young Elvis who burst on the world in the 50s, all raw sex and danger, and the sorry Elvis of his last days have morphed into this third being, not quite a god, but more than human - a figure who, according to Charles Reagan Wilson, a history professor at the University of Mississippi, 'blurs the boundaries between the supernatural and the sacred'?

In England, the notion may seem bizarre. But in America, and elsewhere around the globe, it's a vision shared by millions. By the standards of Elvis worship, Death Week is not an aberration, merely the most dramatic demonstration of just how deep and wide his power goes.
It has always fascinated (not to mention boggled) me why people --mostly old than young, and more white than black, and sometimes the Japanese, but the Japanese have a different world altogether-- preferred to deify the sad, bloated Elvis rather than the young and raw incarnation. The article explains that the pilgrims at Graceland don't want to see the "symbol of life eternal." They don't come there to see the shag carpet, the army of television sets. They want to head straight to the bathroom where their king died on the throne, blood and dignity splattered on the walls:
In death, as in life, this is a story about innocence. Elvis lost his, and so did America. Youth, vitality, belief, they have all withered and died, and what now is left? Impersonators.
Death becomes Elvis, who for some is still alive and knitting sweaters on the planet Pluto.

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