Babyboomer Mythology and Stephen King's It:
An American Cultural Analysis 1.

Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Spring 2008, Volume 7, Issue 1


Susan Love Brown
Florida Atlantic University

Every age thinks its battle the most important of all.
-Heinrich Heine 2.


When baby boomers came of age in the United States in the sixties, they brought to the elements of American culture their own peculiar twists. Casting off the hypocrisy of their elders, baby boomers attempted, through cultural and political protest, to right the wrongs their youthful visions perceived. The vanguard of this massive generation (those born between 1946 and 1950) affected a shift in values within American life, abandoning the "giving-getting" paradigm of the parental generation and adopting the "self-fulfillment" paradigm of its own (Veroff, Douvan, and Kulka; Yankelovich 9). As they grew into full adulthood, they saw their own past as one of glorious protest and rebellion, recreating the ethos of their country's revolutionary founding. But as baby boomers reached middle age and looked back, they began to view their own past not simply with nostalgic longing but in mythological terms as an origin story, and these historical fictions began to work their way into the collective representations of the nation. An elaborate codification of this mythological past is rendered in the four-hour television movie, Stephen King's IT.

As Dundes tells us: "It is the removal from reality to fantasy which allows the human spirit free rein to portray its spiritual struggles and play out its moments of anguish" (50). Origin stories locate a people in time and provide an explanation for their existence. But they are also mirrors into the culture of the people who compose them, even though those mirrors often distort reality. The distortions themselves tell us how collective representations help us to resolve or fail to resolve contradictions in our culture. As Luhrmann says: "The themes and actions of any creation myth reveal issues central to its culture" (335). Stephen King's IT brings into question the underlying motives of the boomers themselves and the connection between them and the rest of American culture, connections which they sometimes consciously deny.

After the fashion of all children, the boomers believe that they alone are privy to the presence and cause of societal evil and that they alone can see it and eliminate it. Reconciling the ideals we have been taught with the realities of life as actually experienced is the project of maturation. But this tale also purveys the vivid memories of fear and pain engendered by the unacknowledged "bad" that lurked behind the "good" in the childhood and young adult lives of boomers – the threat of nuclear war and the literal carnage of a foreign war whose two-dimensional television images were unlike anything seen before by these innocent eyes.

In the course of this narrative, the painful denials and implicit weaknesses of American culture manifest themselves, especially in regard to the seven major characters: Bill Denbrough, a boy who stutters and who is filled with guilt over the death of his little brother; Ben Hanscom, a fatherless, overweight boy living off the charity of an unkind aunt; Beverly Marsh, a motherless girl whose father is poor, alcoholic, and abusive; Eddie Kaspbrak, a fatherless, overprotected, hypochrondriacal boy with psychosomatic asthma; Richie Tozier, a "hyperactive" boy who jokes as a defense and wears glasses; Mike Hanlon, a black boy interested in and trapped by history; Stan Uris, a fiercely rational Jewish boy whose unwillingness to believe the horror that he sees because it seems irrational makes him the most vulnerable of the group.

Each of these children represents someone who has not quite realized the American dream because of some physical or social handicap. Alternately referred to as "the lucky seven" by themselves and as "the loser's club" by their enemies, these disadvantaged American "others" become the mythological substitutes for the privileged, middle class boomers who were the actual precipitators of the sixties protests and changes. Through these "others" the "democratization of personhood" that occurred in the sixties and seventies in the United States is incorporated into the myth (see Clecak 9), and America is reconstituted as the land of opportunity through their struggle and victory. In their joining together, the seven replicate the importance of peer association to this generation and its mystical power (Dundes 135). The movie shrinks the coming-of-age boomers to preadolescent children to symbolize their innocence and naiveté when they confront the evil for the first time in 1960. It is out of the innocence of these years (located in time by the portraits of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice-President Richard Nixon on the schoolroom wall) that the awareness of evil grows. The children believe what they see and set out to confront it directly, unlike the adults around them. But because they are only children, they do not understand the full extent of the evil they face, and their failure to stop the evil completely can be forgiven. The tremendous feat accomplished by these seven children also reveals the deeply engrained future-orientation of American culture with its emphasis on youthful success (Dundes 69-85). Later, when they return as adults in 1990, Pennywise will tell one of them, "You're all too old," even though they are only middle-aged by then.

Time is also condensed in this myth to encompass both fifties fears and sixties realities. As I will show, the evil that takes on monstrous form in IT can be traced to specific occurrences in the American experience: the Cold War with its threat of nuclear annihilation and the Vietnam military action with its direct threat to the lives of the boomers themselves. Both of these occurrences stand counter to the idealistic vision of the world held by baby boomers (Jones; Light; Mills; Russell; Strauss and Howe 299-316).

Through the telling of a tale of horror, Stephen King's IT symbolically recreates the original struggle of vanguard baby boomers against the evils of adult society. Boomers think they have destroyed the evil after their initial confrontation, only to discover upon reaching middle age that they must confront it again. The first part of IT relates the pure origin tale, and the second part grapples with the incongruities between the tale and boomer realities.

Part I: The Origin of Babyboomer Protest and Its Youthful Victory

The world in which real boomers grew up was one of rising affluence, great social cohesion, and lofty social ideals, such as liberty, equality, and justice for all (Strauss and Howe 299-316; Strickland and Ambrose 533-585). But the underside of this world began to seethe to the surface in the mid-fifties with the threat of nuclear disaster and the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the South. These events stimulated an awareness among boomers that there was a disparity between the cultural ideals they had learned and the world as it really was. Because the parental generation seemed oblivious to this disparity, the boomers thought themselves to have insights that older people lacked. The boomers took their material well being for granted and assumed that it was possible for everyone to have what they had, leading to a particularly democratic outlook. But the coming of the war in Vietnam just as boomers were coming of age reinforced the feeling that some monstrous evil lurked behind the scenes ready to snatch their lives away. As Jones notes: "In the end, they were as marked by Vietnam as their great-grandparents had been by the Great War....It was a war the baby boomers hated. To them, it seemed as if the adult generation was solving the problem of its noisome presence by sending them straight from the schools to the battlefield" (106). This evil is captured symbolically in IT. What the children actually see is a clown, Pennywise, a being who is supposed to be benevolent, but who chides them, manipulates them, scares them, and masks the true evil. The clown is the establishment disguised – unserious and unthreatening on the surface but deadly in reality (Magistrale 185-186).

The movie begins in the present day (1990) with the murder and maiming of a child, which, as Magistrale notes (184), is a signal of the child abuse in King’s novel that will be given even more graphic play in this television interpretation. Present at the scene of the crime is Mike Hanlon, the last member to join "the lucky seven." He is now the town librarian and the only one of the group not to leave Derry, the town where they all spent their childhoods. He is also a black man. As such, he is the keeper of history, and he is the only member of the group who has not forgotten the past. He finds at the murder scene a photograph of Bill Denbrough's brother, Georgie, who was similarly maimed and killed thirty years earlier. This temporal incongruity alerts Hanlon to the fact that the evil has returned to Derry.

The town of Derry is a microcosm of the United States, and the bad things that happen there are characteristic of both the ordinary malfeasances of life (prejudice against people for being poor, black, Jewish, female, or somehow less than physically perfect according to some ideal American standard) and of the extraordinary and unfathomable evil that kills and maims its most vulnerable members, but about which the adults are oblivious. Only the seven seem immune to the evil by virtue of some spiritual connection that even they do not understand. As Hanlon telephones each of the other six to summon them back to Derry, we learn through a series of flashbacks, who they are, how each of them first encountered the evil, and how they came together as a group and defeated It. We also learn how their handicaps became strengths as they encountered the ordinary evils of Derry.

The ordinary evil takes the form of a slightly older boy, Henry Bowers, who is a greaser in a leather jacket. With his two friends, Bowers torments and terrorizes the seven youngsters whom he dubs "the loser's club." Bowers, the fifties version of the juvenile delinquent, represents both the disdain that Americans hold for those who do not meet their standards and the invalidity, and sometimes the immorality, of those standards and how they become perverted into the banal evil of everyday existence. Bowers chides the other boys and lauds his imagined superiority over them by calling them "girls" and "babies" and hurls whatever epithets ("nigger," "Jew," "sissy") come to mind. He represents the kind of American male who accomplishes his goals through the illegitimate use of force and whose success depends on the numbers of his accomplices and the weakness of his opponents. This ordinary evil lurking within the American way of life, left unacknowledged and untreated, can be diverted and used to serve the greater evil that lies beneath the surface.

The extraordinary evil takes the outward form of Pennywise, the dancing clown. He is both the agent of death to those unlucky enough to be his victims and the agent of terror to the members of the "lucky seven," whose minds he attempts to manipulate in order to diffuse the inexplicable power that they seem to have as a group – a power that is a danger to the evil itself. Pennywise rises up out of sewers and drains, implying both his subterranean and unclean origins. The actual monster, of which Pennywise is merely a manifestation, is not seen (Magistrale 184-185). Furthermore, adults seem completely unaware of Pennywise and his evil deeds. "They act like it doesn't even happen," one of the children comments, reminding all vanguard baby boomers of the seeming lack of concern for both the suffering of minorities made clear in the fifties civil rights movement and the high death toll of an undeclared and largely unacknowledged war in Vietnam. Grownups do not believe – not in the existence of the very evil before their own eyes and not in the ideals that can vanquish it. To boomers, it is incredible that adults watched their children get maimed and disappear without reacting more decisively against the cause of these tragedies. Adults are untrustworthy; they are part of the evil. The seven must confront Pennywise themselves, together.

Pennywise's red hair and nose are constant reminders of the bloody consequences of an encounter with him. His name is a reminder of the saying "pennywise and pound foolish," which takes on an eery connotation in the wasteful destruction of children's lives in which he engages. Pennywise is symbolic of the wanton destruction of young lives that occurred during the Vietnam era. The body parts he leaves behind are the symbols of the maiming that occurred among soldiers, leaving even those who survived figuratively dead and incomplete. The disappearances of Derry's children remind us of those who went away and never returned – those whose disappearance is without explanation – those "missing in action.” The awareness of blood, televised into American homes during the Vietnam era, weighed heavily on the young people who saw but could not comprehend the carnage they witnessed. These images work their way into IT through the blood that appears indiscriminately – seeping out of photo albums, running out of drains, and bursting out of balloons, splattering the innocent children in their own homes without a single adult noticing it. Indeed, blood-red clothing is worn at different times by the seven children, and one of them lives in a blood-red house. Likewise, the children are haunted by the voices of the dead ones, calling to them from the depths of the unknown – "We're all the dead kids." These episodes weigh heavily on the seven and lead them into depression. But this depression is temporary, and their concern eventually leads to action, and from that action rises their identification as a group and their salvation.

Their first awareness of their own power as a group comes when they build a dam together and gain mutual satisfaction from this collective accomplishment. Their joint strength is reconfirmed in the confrontation with Henry Bowers and his confederates, who chase Mike Hanlon, the young black boy, into a quarry where the other six have gathered to share their strange experiences. Mike asks the group for help, and they give it, a development reminiscent of the whites who joined black civil rights protesters. Having assembled piles of rocks to protect themselves against Bowers, they stand together and defeat him. The cries of the retreating Bowers – "I will bury you!" "I'll kill you all!" – are a haunting reminder of the constant threat of annihilation arising from the Cold War, serving as a backdrop to babyboomer childhood with its air-raid drills and images of Nikita Khrushev pounding his shoe at the United Nations. Mike Hanlon, the last member to join the group, functions as its memory, its historian, and its conscience. As they go through Mike’s scrapbook of old Derry photographs, they learn of the violence and disaster that afflict Derry every thirty years – approximately the length of a generation.

When the seven decide to destroy the evil in the sewer, they themselves are pursued into the sewer by Bowers and his two friends. The Bowers trio is not held together by any spiritual ties; they are merely a symptom and instrument of the greater evil that exists. Even so, they have no protection against that evil. Bowers is paralyzed and awed by It. His hair turns pure white – a transformation that associates him with adults – and he becomes the prime agent of this evil, taking responsibility for its crimes.

As Pennywise grabs Stan Uris and prepares to kill him, Stan, believing in his own rationality rather than what he sees, is more vulnerable than the others. But Stan is saved by Eddie Kaspbrak, whose placebo asthma inhaler, deemed "battery acid," melts Pennywise. Beverly Marsh uses a slingshot and strikes at Pennywise with the silver earrings belonging to Richie Tozier's mother. The seven children, having used their magical weapons, are convinced that they have killed the monster and rid themselves and the world forever of its violence and mayhem. But they gather outside the sewer and swear to return if the monster is not really dead.

The story of their generational origin could have ended here in triumph. But if idealism and protest against evil represent the crucible out of which babyboomer solidarity was born, then the belief that the evil had been conquered was the cause of its temporary demise. The second part of Stephen King's IT is symbolically ambiguous, mimicking the ambiguity in the lives of real baby boomers as they themselves entered adulthood. What does not become evident until the middle of Part II is that the seven have been "cursed" somehow for their original exploit. Only their return to Derry as adults can rid them of this original curse, but Mike’s call to duty turns out to be lethal to some of them.

Part II: Confronting Evil Again as Adults

With the normalizing of the Cold War, the passage of civil rights legislation, the war on poverty, and the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, the fears and violence in American life subsided. The establishment authorities lost their power to inspire, and baby boomers began to take their places as functioning adults. Americans wrestled emotionally many years with the consequences of Vietnam, and they did so by first denying and forgetting. During that time, boomers matured, became established in their careers, and began taking over the responsibilities of the nation.

But all was not well with the members of this generation. Despite their idealistic vision, they began to show marked signs of pathology. In the seventies, the United States went through an economic decline ("stagflation" – high inflation, high unemployment) that put a damper on the possibility that all Americans could become materially well off. At the same time, boomer tendencies toward self-reflection and the pursuit of the material lapsed into what some observers have called narcissism (Lasch). There was a general decline in fertility and devaluation of marriage (Jones 225-230, 349). And baby boomers, who did not fall neatly into the standard liberal/conservative bipartisan formula, revolted against the establishment by electing Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980 (Boaz 21, 74). By 1990, boomers had assumed power in the economy and dominated the vote.

But once again, the world seemed troubled. Inner cities were plagued with unemployment and violence. Child abuse became visible. But this time, the violence and evil were clearly internal. Whatever relationship this societal evil had to the earlier evil was cloaked by a shroud of forgetfulness. This collective memory loss on the part of baby boomers is typical of a future-oriented society. As Vogt noted, "To look forward to the future, to forget or even reject the past, and to regard the present only as a step along the road to the future, is a cherished value in American culture" (qtd. in Dundes 71). The loss of any causal connection between the past and the present fostered a sense of unconnectedness. This unconnectedness, which Durkheim called anomie, is a problem that afflicts U.S. society to this day (Bellah et al.; Durkheim).

The period between the first and second confrontations is omitted from the television rendition. When we meet them again as adults in 1990 – each of them unusually successful except for Mike Hanlon – we learn that the six who left Derry have forgotten their own past. Those six exhibit the characteristics of the middle-aged boomers. They are childless with many failed relationships. Bill Denbrough became a best-selling writer of horror fiction married to a beautiful actress named Audra. Ben Hanscom became an award-winning architect in New York City and lost the fat that plagued him as a boy. Beverly Marsh became a successful fashion designer, living in Chicago with an abusive man, who is like her father. Eddie Kaspbrak, still living with his mother in Great Neck, New York, and without any romantic relationships, owns a limousine service. Richie Tozier, living in Los Angeles, became a successful comedian with a string of failed marriages behind him. Stan Uris married, lived in a large house in Atlanta, and was thinking about having children. However, after receiving the call from Mike Hanlon, Stan commits suicide, unable to face the prospect of It again. For the others, the calls from Mike Hanlon, who alone has never left Derry, bring them back into touch with their past.

The second part of IT begins with the five surviving scattered members arriving back in Derry to join Mike Hanlon. Each encounters Pennywise, who tells them that they are too old. He manages to strike each member in the most vulnerable spot: Bill Denbrough's guilt over his brother George; Richie Tozier's nervousness; Ben Hanscom's memories of being fat and tormented by Henry Bowers; Eddie Kaspbrak's hypochondria and effeminacy; Beverly Marsh's abusive father. The group seems to be a repository of American pathologies (see Jones 296-305).

The five begin to recover their memories during dinner at a Chinese restaurant, the first time they have been together since childhood. For real baby boomers, the past re-emerged in their adult lives as nostalgia. Jones argues that this nostalgia emerged so strongly because of a crisis of identity. Baby boomers had reached middle age but no longer had a distinctive identity within American society. The only time boomers were sure of their place in society was during the era of protests (Jones 282-284), which translates into the first encounter with evil in the movie, hence the poignancy of those memories. This nostalgia is represented in the movie by the re-establishment of the magic bonds of childhood, which also represents an attempt to re-establish community – something sorely sought after in view of the psychological isolation of the self that haunts this generation (Bellah et al.; Veroff, Douvan, and Kulka).

Mike Hanlon alone remembers the past. Unlike the others, he has not become unusually successful. They acknowledge his role as "lighthouse keeper." When three of them go up to their rooms, Mike is the one attacked and stabbed by the waiting Henry Bowers. The others come to Mike's rescue, and Henry Bowers is killed when, in the struggle, he falls on his own knife. The group rushes Mike to the hospital. When Bill visits Mike in his hospital room the next day, Mike gives him the silver earrings that they used in their original assault on It. Mike tells how he went back into the sewer alone to retrieve the earrings ten years before when he had given up on life and was suicidal.

The group goes back into the sewer to confront It again, this time only the five of them. Just inside the tunnel that leads deep into the sewer system, Bill Denbrough finds his wife's handbag and realizes that Audra has followed him to Derry without knowing about the evil that lurks there. This time they go deeper into the sewer than ever before. Pennywise once again threatens death if they proceed. This last attempt to drive them away fails, and they proceed even further. They come upon a wooden door, surrounded by skulls and other bones, the remnants of It’s victims. But before they enter, Eddie Kaspbrak confesses his virginity to the group, telling them that he could never sleep with anyone if he didn't love them, and that the only people he had ever loved were the members of the group.

When they pass through the door, they find an eery cavern in which people are encased in webs of spider silk. Bill finds his wife, Audra, there. As he attempts to rescue her, the monster itself appears. It is a spider-like creature with impenetrable reptilian skin, sharp teeth, and claws. Beverly shoots at the monster with one of the silver earrings but misses. As the monster rears up, the lights that are at the center of its body – that are its life essence – shine brightly, hypnotizing Bill, Richie, and Ben like those in power are apt to do to young men.

Eddie tries to attack the monster with his inhaler, but this time it doesn't work, because this monster is not an illusion. The monster grabs Eddie and crushes him with its claws. Beverly shoots a silver earring into a vulnerable spot in the belly of the monster, and It retreats, its light pouring out, draining life. Eddie dies in their arms, having become a virgin sacrifice. The remaining four pursue the monster to make sure that this time they have really killed it. They find it in its lair, weakened. They knock it over and literally tear it apart, finally pulling its heart out. With this final act, Its lights of evil go out forever. The entombed drop from the ceiling of the cavern, and Bill recovers Audra. Outside of the sewer, the four remaining members of the group with dead Eddie and catatonic Audra gather for the last time before going their separate ways.

The second part of Stephen King's IT ends with the incidents fading from memory, recalled by Mike Hanlon only from his handwritten journal – now only a history. Ben and Beverly drive west, marry, and have a child; Richie lands a part in a comedy with a partner who looks like Eddie; Bill and Audra remain in Derry, because she is still catatonic. However, in a last effort to restore her to normalcy, Bill takes Audra for a ride on his old bike, Silver, that Mike Hanlon had found in a second-hand store earlier. This magical ride on this magical bike, a relic left over from a magical childhood, does the trick. Audra recovers consciousness, and the story ends.

Living Happily Ever After?

Stephen King's IT ends like so many of the fairy tales that baby boomers were raised on. The monster is slain with magic stones of silver, and all live happily ever after. Yet, there are some disturbing conclusions to be drawn from this story. Because real baby boomers do not know the end of their story, the second part and the ending of IT are projections of what might be – how things might work out in the end, and the ending fulfills the requirements of American culture as well as babyboomer understanding. If we analyze the outcome – take an assessment of who the victims are, who dies and survives – we are left with an incomplete resolution and some troubling details.

The first victim among the seven is Stan Uris, who dies after slitting his wrists at the end of Part I and never returns to Derry. As a child, Stan was a Boy Scout who believed in the power of rationality. "Such a thing just ain't empirically possible," he told the others. He was the last one in the group to see It, and even then he refused to believe his own eyes, because what he saw defied his view of reality. Though Stan was Jewish, and this identification created a chance to comment about American intolerance and prejudice, it also hinted at the Jewish past and the inability of so many to believe in the monstrousness of Hitler and Nazism, another case of monumental horror. Stories and films about the Holocaust were emerging and plentiful during babyboomer childhood, and there were many survivors around to testify. But, by using Stan to invoke the stereotype of the intellectual, the creators of IT used his death to symbolize the mistrust of rationality by baby boomers.

One of the consequences of the sixties was the loss of faith by baby boomers in the power of science and objectivity – the gods worshipped by the American parental generation, which had led the country into lethal confrontations and death. Stan's death symbolizes the inability of rationality to account for the presence and prevention of evil. Yet, no new understanding of rationality replaced the old. Rather rationality itself was allowed to wither and with it all explanations for the presence of evil. Baby boomers replaced science with magic. The use of magic in IT acknowledges the rise of New Age religion and its emphasis on the magic worldview.

The second victim among the seven is Mike Hanlon, the librarian who never left Derry. Mike Hanlon symbolizes the dilemma of African-Americans in the United States, who have always been aware of societal evil and its violent consequences, because they have been its victims. The civil rights movement of the fifties brought the realization of the foul presence of racism into every American home by television. Blacks were the first to protest over injustices in the post-war era, and it was their example and participation with them in the civil rights movement that spurred many young people on to protest the Vietnam war and the conditions of society in general. In this sense, blacks have always been the keepers of history and conscience for Americans. Since Mike Hanlon never left Derry, he never forgot the evil. Similarly, most blacks in the United States have never forgotten the past and have noted the continuing presence of racism, unlike their white counterparts who seem to have forgotten the past. Thus, the black experience is represented here accurately as one of continuity within American experience.

Yet what is also interesting about the second part of IT is that Mike Hanlon is prevented from assisting in the solution to the problem of evil. Mike is the victim of Henry Bowers, because he volunteers to retrieve a jacket from Richie Tozier's room. Had he not volunteered, Richie would have been the victim. As such, he fulfills the role of the "good black" or "loyal servant," which is a traditional one in American film (Dundes 48-49; Lyman 67-70). That blacks are used symbolically by whites in their own morality tales has been well established (see Lyman; Morrison). Here, once again, black independence and equal contribution is structurally denied. Even though he has been its chronicler and its narrator, and even though he was instrumental in retrieving the silver earrings – the means by which It will be defeated – the movie takes the position that the actual elimination of evil is the responsibility of the others. The direct claim to victory will belong to the white, very successful members of the group. This could be construed as an implicit case of "we created the evil, therefore we must be the ones to destroy it." But in any case, they emerge as the active heroes who ride into town, dispose of the evil, and drive off into the sunset again in another wave of forgetfulness.

This time Mike Hanlon will also forget, abandoning the role of "light house keeper" since there is no longer a need for one. But he starts behind the others, who have already achieved material success during the first period of their forgetfulness. Boomers see themselves as having eliminated the problem of racism. Having freed blacks as well as themselves from the monster whose evil included racism, they are free to forget the past and move on, while blacks struggle to catch up.

The sacrifice of Eddie Kaspbrak – a self-proclaimed virgin – speaks to the continuing problem of defining masculinity and sexuality in the babyboomer era. Baby boomers were a generation largely affiliated with their mothers, as Strauss and Howe (302) point out. Throughout the movie, Pennywise and Henry Bowers refer to Eddie as "girlie/boy" or "girl," using the feminine to impeach his masculinity. Eddie alone of the seven remains attached to his overprotective mother, who still lives with him. In his attempt to be brave and save the other men, who have all become mesmerized by It, Eddie becomes a sacrifice after having confessed his virginity. Paired with the only female in the group, Beverly, who is not mesmerized by It, Eddie is seen to be weaker than even the only woman in the group.

Eddie’s death in the clutches of the monster has been foreshadowed in a childhood scene in front of Eddie's house in which Richie grabs Eddie from behind and lifts him into the air just as the monster does when Eddie is an adult in the sewer. His sacrifice becomes a crisis ritual in which the purest member of the group, and the weakest, dies to save the stronger, more viable members of the group, an outcome reminiscent not only of fairy tale logic but of a lingering, simplistic belief in the survival of the fittest. The implication is that Eddie had the least to lose by dying. If we compare the others with Eddie, we find that he is the only one who has no hope of overcoming his handicaps. Bill Denbrough overcame his stuttering when the monster was dispatched the first time and, again, when he confronts the monster directly in the sewer. But he has also mastered the things with which he had trouble – namely words – by becoming a bestselling author. Ben Hanscom shed his fat and became a championship runner and an award-winning architect. Beverly Marsh finally rid herself of the influence of her abusive father by leaving her abusive lover and rediscovering her love for Ben Hanscom. Richie Tozier overcame his hyperactivity by turning it into his profession as comedian. Eddie alone still suffered from his attachment to his mother and his hypochondria, and there was no relief in sight. Because he was not strong enough to solve his problems on his own, and does not solve them once he is back with the group, he must be eliminated.

This is a case of what Dundes calls projective inversion (51-55). Apparently treasured and useful for his purity – making his sacrifice a virtuous act – Eddie is also despised by males of this generation, who were uncertain of their own masculinity. Having cast doubt on their own masculinity through their close affiliations with their mothers and rejection of their fathers (by their rejection of the manly act of war), male boomers had unconscious doubts about their own masculinity as defined through American cultural models. In other words, angry boomer males resent Eddie's effeminacy because they are fed by guilt over avoiding combat in Vietnam. Thus they desire to eliminate him and what he represents. The threat of effeminacy was effectively wiped out in this act of sacrifice, leaving Eddie manifestly honored for his bravery in attempting to save the others and latently despised for his weakness. Baby boomer males, although varied and different from their fathers, have not overcome the fear of lost masculinity that is associated with the absence of fathers and the dominance of American mothers (Gorer 34-49).

Finally, the victimization of Audra, the wife who unwittingly follows the husband she loves, makes a statement about women and their role in baby boomer consciousness and American culture. The evil in the world took Audra by surprise, but its effect on her was foreshadowed in her scene with Greco, the egomaniacal director. He disliked her husband Bill, and Greco threatened to destroy her "at any cost" if she left, indicating how little power she really had over her own life. When she chose to leave anyway, she walked right into the clutches of It, because she did not understand the evil that lurked in Derry. Audra fulfills the fairy tale role of the sleeping princess who is awakened by the prince after he defeats the monster. However, in this version, such an act alone fails to rouse Audra, who remains catatonic. The additional magic – contagious magic – is needed to bring Audra around. When Bill places Audra on his old bike, Silver, in an attempt to "beat the devil," he invokes the magic from his childhood and finds that it works. Bill has recaptured her not only from the monster but from Greco, who was the monster in disguise. He has re-established his own masculine role as protector. Thus, this final scene, in conjunction with the sacrifice of Eddie Kaspbrak, restores baby boomer manhood once and for all.

Although meant to be positive, the ending of IT, with the encroachment once again of forgetfulness upon all of the characters, not only reinforces the American cultural emphasis on the future as opposed to the past, but relegates the important events of the two confrontations to oblivion. The lucky seven have no intention of keeping in touch with each other, an odd outcome after they have shared such an intense experience together, and especially odd because of the incessant quest for community among the members of this generation (Bellah et al.). In the end, the baby boomers have failed to overcome the greatest problem of all – their own detachment. I could not help but think, after watching Stephen King's IT, of that too often quoted saying of George Santayana, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it." 3. On the other hand, because the boomers have effectively vanquished evil for all time, there is no need to remember. Such is the stuff of which mythology is made.


1. The television movie is based on the book, IT, by Stephen King. However, this analysis views the television movie as a distinct representation independent of the book. Stephen King's IT was aired on November 18 and November 20, 1990 on the ABC network. IT was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Tommy Lee Wallace.

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2. From Heinrich Heine, Works of Prose (1943), tr. E. B. Ashton. Cited in The International Thesaurus of Quotations. New York: Perennial Library, 1970.

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3. George Santayana, The Life of Reason (1905-06). Cited in The International Thesaurus of Quotations (New York: Perennial Library, 1970), 459.

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Works Cited

Bellah, Robert N., Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. New York: Perennial Library, 1985.

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