In the weekend of the 50th anniversary of both John F Kennedy's death and the broadcast of the first edition of Dr Who, it has struck me how synchronicities are emerging between the late President, the Time Lord and the legendary King Arthur.
Now although the Kennedy White House was commonly called Camelot, I am not basing my musings on that or indeed the historical person, of scant memory for most. I'm looking more at the legend, the folk hero, the ideal exemplar that JFK has started to become - the place he holds in US life and politics today through the retelling of his story in history classes and various media . I suggest there are parallels between this developing "JFK myth" and its effect on US with Dr Who and its cultural significance in the UK. Both, I propose, fill roles and fulfill needs in their "home" country's national collective consciousness and character in much the same way the legendary King Arthur has for centuries.
Learning about that day in Dallas is part of building an American's identity as US Citizen. Similarly over the last 50 years hiding behind the sofa from the monsters on Dr Who has become almost a required rite of passage for a British child.
I'll try to illustrate what I am rabbiting on about past the orange oriel. Perhaps answering the suggested questions in comment form might prove enlightening.
In the meantime, I would like your views on whether this idea is worth developing into further diaries. Drafting the historical background to the first published King Arthur story in the 12th century to show how that was "of its time" looks like the project could develop into a major dissertation rather than a Kos diary.
Just working through the historical events up to publication @1140 would make a couple of "History" diaries without any fuller details and context. Setting out the ideals of Chivalry and Knighthood that the story and later writings formulated would take another - before we get to the rest of the medieval period in which these ideals permeated international and princely politics in England and the rest of Europe. Following through the story of the legend and its political influence thro the 19th century revivals and on is a potential series. Starting to link the three, the ideal of the "Perfect Knight" can be seen to be embodied in the public image of JFK and the Doctor (with his own code of chivalry). There's at least one diary on the more direct political influence of Dr Who in the UK (e.g. Did Jack Harness kissing the Doctor and his open pansexual orientation assist passage of GLBT rights laws?)
To illustrate how the three threads seem to come together. let's start with a current view of JFK's presidency and his closest advisors. This is from the back cover of the recent book Camelot's Court - Inside the Kennedy White House by Robert Dallek (!!)
Kennedy purposefully put together a dynamic team of advisors noted for their brilliance and acumen, including Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, and trusted aides Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger. Yet the very traits these men shared also created sharp divisions. Far from being unified, this was an uneasy band of rivals whose ambitions and clashing beliefs ignited fiery internal debates.Here surely is the legendary Arthur bringing round him the bravest and most gallant and talented to become Knights at his Round Table; their disputes and rivalry in their efforts to gain the Holy Grail? (the unreached JFK second term?) By the way, we have evidence of the political hold JFK still had decades after his death with that devastating put-down:
I knew Jack Kennedy, you are no Jack Kennedy.Of course the Doctor does not have a similar single large group of supporters (unless perhaps you count U.N.I.T. and Torchwood) but brings serially his various companions round the central control console of the TARDIS; each with differing, sometimes complimentary, sometimes opposing personal qualities and skills. (If you have seen the BBC's TV movie about the making of the first edition you will know that the console's central table type design is purely accidental.) The Doctor and companions venture forth like a Knight-errant and his squires - but in quest of their own Holy Grails expressed as current aspirations like knowledge, self knowledge, love or simply experience, but always with the intention of doing no harm.
I thought up these two questions and the scenario to test how Dr Who and JFK's assassination have ingrained themselves in the "folk memories" of the two countries.
One or the other will get an instant answer from almost all of a group of British or Americans (of a certain age) However, because of the many links between the two countries, it is quite likely that some will be able to answer the question aimed at the other country - others may have no idea what you are talking about.
Take two groups of native English speaking men* aged 58** who have lived in their country for their whole lives and who had regular access to television when young - one from the USA, the other from Britain. Ask both groups the same variation of these questions but you can prepare them by telling them one will be about a specific historical event, the other will be about a TV Sci-fi show ("programme" for Brits):
1. Where were you/what were you doing when you first heard President Kennedy had died/been shot?
2. Which Doctor is your favorite/the first you remember watching?
What would your responses be?
*8 yo boys more likely to be interested in science fiction.
**I chose the age so that the British would be less likely to remember these details from age 8, unless they had some connection or interest in the USA or politics at the time. On the other hand the shock in America was so profound, an 8 year old American would be likely to remember those circumstances.