Thursday, May 21, 2009

O'Connor in pop culture

By now the news has traveled around the globe that this year's season finale of the ABC series "Lost" included as a prop O'Connor's second short story collection, Everything That Rises Must Converge. Some folks may remember that the season finale of the TNT series "The Closer" a couple of years ago included a conversation about O'Connor's famous quote, "When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville." In fact, O'Connor's name or the title of her works is showing up more frequently in television, movies, theater, and music. Several household names in the entertainment industry have openly admitted their admiration of O'Connor's work, including Bruce Springsteen, Tommy Lee Jones, Conan O'Brien, Holly Hunter, the Cohen brothers, and John Waters. Folk musician Lucinda Williams chased peacocks as a child while visiting Andalusia with her father, the acclaimed poet Miller Williams. What I find truly striking is how prevalent O'Connor's themes are finding their way into pop culture. For those who flocked to the theaters to see the last Batman movie, "Dark Knight," just recall the compelling words the Joker offered to Batman and later to the detective in the interrogation room (the scene is available on YouTube). His message could have easily come out of the mouth of the Misfit in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." After fifty years or more, it appears to me that Flannery O'Connor has found a generation of readers that is no longer repelled by the grotesque and violence -- instead, those are the elements that attract them the most. Perhaps, with a little guidance from criticism, commentary, and a few good teachers, that attraction will lead those readers more immediately to the deeper truths of O'Connor's work. These are exciting times to be an O'Connor fan.