From King Lear to Potter: A Guide to News Corp. Literary Analogies

The Murdoch fallout may be stranger than fiction

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The scandal surrounding News Corp. has taken on epic proportions. The cast of characters involved is fascinating and the plot turns ever more multifaceted. There are unseen twists, dark secrets, meteoric rises, and bitter tragedies. So it's natural that writers and journalists, otherwise at a loss for a way in which to describe the dramatic fallout, are turning increasingly to literature. This is what they've come up with:

William Shakespeare's King Lear. Comparisons between Rupert Murdoch and King Lear, the paranoid tyrant who descended into madness as he held on to his power, have been circulating for years. Before the scandal broke, in a 2002 article by the Telegraph, Murdoch was King Lear (of course), Lachlan and James Murdoch were like Lear's daughters Goneril and Regan, "maneuvering for preferment," and Elisabeth Murdoch was "the Cordelia of the outfit," for opting out of the race.

But the King Lear comparisons have returned with a vengeance with this latest scandal. According to Kevin Myers at The Independent, there has been a reshuffling:  Murdoch "appears as a genial old Lear, rewarding the loyalty of his lovely daughter Cordelia: yes, Rebekah Brooks, who -- miraculously -- also resembles a winsome Ophelia, wide-eyed and floating red tresses. Next moment, she stalks the stone corridors like Lady Macbeth, garrotting sentries." And for the rest, he forgoes Lear entirely, and plays fast and loose with Shakespeare's other iconic roles:

And lo! Here comes David Cameron, who thinks he is Henry V at Agincourt, but in reality is a sleekly podgy Juliet in a schoolboy production at Eton, opposite a Romeo played with reptilian bravura by James Murdoch, Rupert's son. Enter stage left that sinister buffoon Piers Morgan, half-Iago, half-clown, bladder in one hand, a freshly sharpened bodkin in the other.

Overall, the scandal is best described as "a surreal Shakespearean composite, an Elsinore on acid."

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series. The New Republic deserves much credit for applying its Harry Potter analogy of the Murdoch scandal to cover all the major players, with a slideshow besides. Some of the highlights:

  • Rupert Murdoch as Lord Voldemort
  • Nick Davies as Harry Potter
  • Rebekah Brooks as Bellatrix Lestrange
  • David Cameron as Cornelius Fudge
  • James Murdoch as Nagini

And it goes on! It's well worth looking through in its entirety.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Not everyone is thrilled about the grandiose depiction of the scandal as a "Shakespearean Tragedy." On Saturday’s Good Morning America on ABC, correspondent Jeffrey Kofman said the story reminded him more like something out of Charles Dickens than the work of the Bard, particularly with regard to Murdoch's recent full page apology ad, and apology to the family of Milly Dowler, the 13-year-old murder victim whose phone messages were hacked. Said Kofman:

As you could say quite appropriately it's a contrition mission. You know, I was trying to figure out what analogy works here - is this Shakespearean, his fall? But, actually, it reminds me of A Christmas Carol when Ebenezer Scrooge comes and approaches Tiny Tim and tries to atone for his past sins.

Well that's a remarkably un-cynical way of looking at it! Perhaps Murdoch will take another page out of Dickens, and sacrifice himself in the scandal to save others as anti-hero Sidney Carton did in A Tale Of Two Cities, claiming, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." But unlikely.

J.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. If Harry Potter doesn't cut it for you, others have compared the News Corp. scandal to the Lord of the Rings, with Rupert Murdoch as an evil "media sorcerer." Charles Moore at the Telegraph writes:
If News International fails to get control of BSkyB, what sorcery can Mr Murdoch employ now? He finds himself in the position of Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. He has been exposed, and he is losing the battle for Middle Earth – or rather, Middle England.
But blogger Stephen Deas saw in his alternative version of Lord of the Rings: "Rupert Murdoch as Sauron, or News International as the numberless hordes of the Nadir." Though he added, "personally I get stuck when Hugh Grant becomes Frodo Baggins, or Nick Clegg becomes Druss the Legend, neither of which particularly work for me."
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