The Halloween season fills a very important need in America. It is a time when society collectively derides its lasting Puritanical bent and celebrates demonic imagery. With the season come haunted attractions; some, like Knott's Scary Farm, are SoCal institutions, and in addition to the mazes and rides tricked-out with Halloween decor, the theme park hosts a variety of interactive attractions and traditional shows. One of those shows is "Elvira's Big Top," and the other is "The Hanging."
On top of being a highly theatrical and musical theme park show, "The Hanging" is foremost a roast of celebrities and of society, in general. It is an anomaly which transgresses almost every boundary of taste. While nudity and profanity do not factor, no topic is sacred from ridicule. Thus, "The Hanging" occupies a very special niche in Orange County culture — one that is almost as important as Halloween is to the US.
Such no-holds-barred attacks are dreadfully uncommon in this era of political correctness, public sensitivity, and hyper-aggressive lawsuits. Until recently, Universal's Horror Nights hosted a similar event, "Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure." However, as reported in the Huffington Post, the show was cancelled after last year's presentation proved too full of "homophobic and racist stereotypes, as well as jokes about rape and a Superman character who is sprinkled with 'fairy dust' and then allegedly becomes gay." Not surprisingly, the conservative state of Florida still hosts the Bill and Ted show, at Universal Studios Orlando, and we still hang people in Orange County.
Knott's hosted its first hanging in 1976. Every year since, the ceremonial slam of irritating pop icons has concluded with the selection of the year's most annoying public figure for execution via hanging. This year's show took jabs at the megalomaniacal Kanye West as well as Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Godzilla, a host of superheroes, J.J. Abrams (who appeared in a Darth Vader outfit), and many others.
The humor ranged from cutesy to depraved, and when it culminated in a joke about something going down faster than a Malaysian airliner, sirens went off and, in Monty Python fashion, out came the good-taste police. In this case, these CIA-looking characters were a parody of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, the depiction of censors was also a condemnation of our nation's tendency to crack down on objectionable sentiments which threaten to incite upheaval (as in the case of the Bill and Ted show). To further illustrate the sentiment, Bill and Ted made a brief appearance before joining the scores of other celebrity doppelgangers who were gloriously bashed in the head and thrown off the stage.
The half-hour long show complemented its fearless satire with a variety of other entertaining features. Among these were humorous songs (including parodies of songs from Disney's Frozen) and fight sequences. The fights were very well choreographed and featured likenesses of aging actors Harrison Ford (complete with a walker and his Han Solo outfit), William Shatner (who drove his wheelchair while wearing a Captain Kirk costume), and several actors in motion-capture suits. While the performers in the motion-capture suits fought with other characters, hosts Lawman and Hangman called out what audience members were supposed to imagine them as (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, King Kong, etc.).
Though it is taboo to reveal the name of the unlucky personage, who is ultimately hanged, to the public, the Knott's website offers a public poll, which gives a good indication of this year's candidates. The names on this poll include: Justin Bieber, Donald Sterling, Shia LaBeouf, Kim Kardashian, and Miley Cyrus. Any person who is routinely sickened by pop culture and the people who eat it up will likely find catharsis in both this year's hanging and "The Hanging" in general.