Friday, March 27, 2009

Sun Myung Moon and 1970's Pop Culture

If you ask someone younger than 30 about Sun Myung Moon and the Unification movement, more likely than not, you'll receive a blank stare. Moon is more influential than ever but he keeps a relatively low public profile than during the 1970's. As I have pointed out previously, Moon and the Unification movement had a very high public profile in the 1970's. It remained somewhat high during the first half of the 1980's with Moon's establishment of the Washington Times and his highly-publicized conviction for tax fraud and conspiracy.

During the 1970's, Moon and the Unification movement had a high public profile. This is largely due to several phenomena: 1) Moon had highly publicized rallies and mass marriage ceremonies at Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, etc.; 2) The Unifcation movement had a big presence on U.S. college campuses which led to modest recruitment to the Moonies (and visible recruits hawking flowers and candy on American streets); The "cult" controversies involving Moon, the Peoples' Temple, and various Eastern gurus.

sun myung moon mad cartoonMoon was mercilessly skewered by Mad magazine in 1977 in a 4-page story titled "Mad's 'Religious Cult Leader' of the Year." in which "Mike Malice", a character clearly based on Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, interviewed "The Reverend Sun Set Loony." Today I scanned a panel from the story (quick note: click on the illustrations to enlarge them). The art is by George Woodbridge and the writer is Lou Silverstone. Someday I will try to post the entire story online. Silverston was thorough--he even mentioned Moon's sexual exploitation of females converts in the guise of sexual "purification ceremonies." It's a devastating satire.

sun myung moon moonies national lampoonMoon and the Unification movement were also fodder for the adult satire magazine, National Lampoon. In the February 1980 issue (which was a retrospective of the 1970's), there was a piece titled "Weird Beliefs of the Seventies," in which the core belief of the Unification Church is listed as "[t]here is no god but the CIA, and Reverend Moon is its prophet." Also, in the gallery of people who defined the seventies were the "Kult Kids," smiling, clean-cut automatons selling trinkets and copies of Moon's now-defunct New York City Tribune.

One final note on 1970's parodies of Moon, Saturday Night Live's skit "Night of the Moonies" is no longer available on youTube due to copyright issues. Bummer.

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