Why America Needs “A Series of Unfortunate Events” Now More Than Ever


May 2017

In today’s political climate, it seems inevitable that the unfortunate can — and will — happen: every day, some fresh horror makes headlines. Trump, in his short time in office, has threatened public school systems, the Affordable Care Act, our already tenuous relationships with other countries. And, worst of all, there is nothing that us innocent civilians can do about it — no matter how unfair it seems.

The same rules hold true in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. In this early 2000s children’s book series — and as of January 2017, the Netflix series starring Neil Patrick Harris — the three Baudelaire children have it all — until, one day, their house mysteriously burns down, books and parents and all. They are promptly shuttled to their distant relative, Count Olaf, a greedy actor who makes it abundantly clear that he is out to steal their fortune. He is self-reflexively the villain: he verbally abuses the children and laughs manically while doing it. Yet, while the audience hates him and everything he stands for, he knows how to work the system. He knows how to charm the other adults in the Baudelaires’ lives.

There are some uncomfortable resemblances between the gothic children’s books and America today. Below are a few eerie parallels, and some suggestions for how we can use the books to get ourselves out of our own series of unfortunate events.

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