The Mythology of Protest

During last week’s mythology discussion, the idea of present day political protesters as heroic figures came up several times. There’s a lot for us to explore in terms of the mythological structures of protest.

To start this discussion, we can look at an anti-hero who has been compared both to Robocop and Darth Vader: Lieutenant John Pike, the policeman who was videotaped pepper spraying peaceful protesters sitting on a sidewalk at the UC Davis campus.

The mythologizing of this character started with the simple distribution of the video of the pepper spraying. From there, it’s gone into much wider media.

Pike’s image was spliced into fine art, pepper spraying people in famous paintings. Then, Pike was cut into scenes from popular movies, as in the Harry Potter movie seen below.

harry potter lieutenant john pike

By yesterday, Pike’s distinctive pepper spraying stance could be seen on Thanksgiving turkeys:

thanksgiving turkey

Anthropologists have written about the way that people working in the mythic element mix and match cultural symbols in order to try to make meaning out of uncertain situations. That’s what seems to be going on with the now-iconic image of Lieutenant John Pike.

What meaning do you make of it?


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