Ghost Rider's Satanic Seventies
If the Eighties was the decade of greed, then the Seventies was the decade of Satan.
Some would argue that Satan is always with us (you know who I’m talking about) but he sure was a lot more with us in the era that also produced bell bottoms, disco, and the Sweathogs. Come to think of it, he may have had a hand in those as well.
The Seventies was rich in Satanic entertainment: The Exorcist and The Omen filled the theaters and the paperback aisle at Kroger’s always had at least one leering devil among the titles. The Church of Satan’s Anton LaVey even served as a technical advisor on the murky 1975 production of The Devil’s Rain, starring William Shatner and a young Sweathog named John Travolta (see!), and yet nobody organized a protest.
But no one was more Satanic than Marvel Comics’ Ghost Rider.
The demonically powered, leather-clad biker with the iconic flaming skull made his debut in 1972, pulling together a variety of B-movie elements and fusing them into one devilish package.
A quick recap for those who have forgotten or who had boring childhoods:
Young Johnny Blaze is left an orphan when his professional stunt motorcyclist father is killed in, naturally, a motorcycle stunt gone wrong. He is adopted and raised by a family friend and his wife, Crash and Not-Important-Enough-to-Have-a-First-Name-Simpson. They are also stunt riders. Johnny eventually falls in love with Crash's daughter, Roxanne.
When Crash finds out he has a fatal disease everything looks bleak until Johnny breaks out the books of demonology, conjures Satan, and makes the deal with the Devil to save his adopted father from what we assume is cancer of the Plot.
But Satan is a tricky one and Crash dies anyway when he misses a jump at Madison Square Garden. Now Johnny owes his soul to Satan and the Devil wants his due.
When Satan does arrive for Johnny's mortal soul the rather painful extraction process is interrupted by Roxanne, who banishes the Devil with a few choice words about her purity. And by “purity” we mean “virginity” though GR takes a few more issues to spell it out. And how did she know what to say? "Though you never realized it...I read your books on Satan...when you weren't around." Just boning up, I guess.
Roxanne saves Johnny from immediate damnation but Blaze is forever destined to carry the mark of Satan’s servant – a flaming skull and the demonic power of hellfire.
The interesting thing about this transformation is there are no other indicators that young Johnny Blaze would turn to Satan to solve his problems. He comes from a nice family, has a good job and a beautiful girl is in love with him. But when trouble arises, BAM, straight to Satan.
Old Nick is literally the first resort. He doesn't pray to God, he doesn't ask Jesus for help, he goes right to Plan S. Conveniently, Satan is only a few incantations away. I've had more trouble getting my tags renewed.
And while today’s comic shops may have fewer children than an Engelbert Humperdinck concert, back then comics were primarily marketed to kids. Comic shops didn’t exist. Picture Shia LaBeouf turning to Satan to save his girlfriend from the Decepticons. Sure, it’s a better story than any of the Transformers movies but it’s pretty unlikely in today’s environment.
And Ghost Rider’s brimstone ride continued – as the comic progressed GR continued to fight Satan as well as other demonic entities and devil worshipers, including possessed bikers, Apache sorcerers, Nazi bikers, the Son of Satan, regular bikers, and a shark (after Jaws but before Fonzie jumped one).
I'm a shark!
By the eighties, the satanic swath in American culture had ebbed and Ghost Rider ebbed along with it. His comic ended in 1983. He still shows up from time to time and remains a fan favorite but it’s telling that the Marvel Comics online store doesn’t carry a single Ghost Rider product as of this writing.
The era of Satanic entertainment was largely over but Satan was far from out of the picture. A growing movement of organized and well-funded Christian religious activists had risen to national prominence. At roughly the same time, many Americans had come to believe that Satanists had infiltrated every level of society and were coming for the children. The mid-Eighties saw the Satanic Panic in full bloom. People were on the watch for Satanists creeping into their school boards and local governments to secretly gain power. While they were watching, right-wing Christians started running for school boards and local governments to secretly gain power. Funny that.
Ghost Rider is still out there though, riding through the desolate mountains of the southwest and dispensing justice to the wicked. The original issues are still worth a look and contain powerful art and fast-paced storytelling. I read them to my six year old nephew when I'm babysitting. “Ghost Rider is cool,” he says.
Save a piece for Satan!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Some people claim there was a Ghost Rider film a few years back starring Nicholas Cage. I’m not sure how this rumor got started but that's a terrible idea and obviously no such film exists.
Ghost Rider cake by Samantha Hamilton
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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