How does it feel?
Just saying anything that comes into your head and being able to sway people like this?
Marica Jeffries to Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd (1957)
During this scene of A Face in the Crowd, charismatic radio personality Lonesome Rhodes has asked the citizens of his small town to take their pooches to the sheriff’s house to see if he’d make a good city dog catcher (in retaliation for a nose punch). While he and his mentor sit in a car watching the chaos, he receives this question. He doesn’t answer.
Lonesome Rhodes is the stage name of Larry Rhodes a drifter and drinker who is found by radio producer Marcia Jeffers while looking for a unique “face in the crowd” and finds Rhodes sleeping off a hangover at the local jail.
Rhodes, played by the versatile actor Andy Griffith, is a talented raconteur and singer who ad libs homespun homilies to his audience winning their love and affection. To the ladies, he sympathizes with the efforts of their daily chores. To the wider audience, he shares fictitious stories of a happy youth in the town of Riddle, Arkansas. We learn early that Rhodes’ youth was not happy but we’re never sure if Riddle truly exists.
Rhodes’ talent and boldness take him quickly to Memphis then New York City. While Rhodes can be “uncooperative and unpredictable” in the words of one character, he’s so charismatic that no one can stop him. Much of his appeal comes from relating to the viewer, calling out that the ad men want him to read the ad a certain way, examining the television cameras as the viewers might do, making fun of the sponsors. He calls a spade a spade.
This film is from the early days of television and the warnings about mass media are not veiled as one character states that television “is the greatest instrument of mass persuasion in the history of the world.”
We see from the beginning of the movie that Rhodes is not generally a nice guy, as he early on ditches his best buddy without thought for better opportunity. From television, he gains the influence of the powerful (generals and politicians) and becomes a general commentator on civic life. As you’d expect from his fundamental personality, he becomes a cruel, self-absorbed demagogue.
There are two other important characters in the story. One is a companion of the radio producer who is so disgusted by Rhodes that he writes a book called Demagogue in Denim. He’s the cynical critic who never truly buys into the excitement.
The other character, Marcia Jeffries, who discovered Rhodes, is more complex. To Rhodes she is a stabilizing force but also an accepting victim of Rhodes’ abuse. At times she feels guilty for creating him, at times in love with him and at times hates him.
When Rhodes suddenly marries an underage girl while engaged to Jeffries, she states something to the effect that the girl is all of his audience in one package tied up with a bow.
But truly Jeffries is that audience. She knows she’s enabled a demagogue but is also secretly entranced. Like an addiction, she can’t break away. She may hold some healthy cynicism, but unfortunately, is as hooked as the maiden wife.
*** Spoiler alert ***
At the end of the movie, Jeffries does take down her Frankenstein by allowing the viewers a glimpse of his true disdain for his audience. In movie world that has decency as an inherent value, the viewers are duly offended.
Gemini actor Andy Griffith who plays Lonesome Rhodes reminds one of today’s Gemini Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Like Trump, the Rhodes character speaks his mind, relates to people, is pleasingly raunchy and nasty but also has the courage to bring an African American woman on camera (remember, this is the Jim Crow Laws Era) and ask others to donate money to help her buy a home. Like Trump, Rhodes takes over every conversation of which he is a part. He’s the biggest personality in the room, always dominant.
Trump is almost a perfect modern replica of Rhodes. There is only one difference – nothing that Trump says, no matter how offensive, affects his rise. Television has not changed, but our values clearly have.
What are the astrological indicators of a rabble rouser?
Rabble rousers come in many different shades, both purpose-driven and self-driven. Here is my (very) short list of top-of-mind rabble rousers, mostly from the realm of politics:
- Arthur Godfrey (TV personality supposedly the inspiration for A Face in the Crowd)
- Huey Long (supposedly the inspiration for the governor in All the King’s Men)
- Bernie Sanders (Democratic presidential candidate)
- Donald Trump (Republican presidential candidate)
- George Wallace (Governor of Alabama during desegregation)
What do these rabble-rousing men have in common?
These men all have moon in a fire sign (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius). Fire by nature is rabble rousing, a fighter, assertive or aggressive, enthusiastic, confident and bold. Fire can’t be ignored. Since the moon is reactive, when you push these men in a corner, they fight and get fiery.
Interesting in my list of rabble rousers is that four of them have sun in critical, earth sign Virgo. Possibly the Virgo provides the clear speech and the fire the enthusiasm.
- Godfrey (sun in Virgo / moon in Sagittarius)
- Long (sun in Virgo / moon in Aries)
- Sanders (sun in Virgo / moon in Aries)
- Trump (sun in Gemini / moon in Sagittarius)
- Wallace (sun in Virgo / moon in Leo)
In addition to moon in a fire sign, there is a Mars or Uranus aspect to the sun or moon (or both). Mars is aggressive (and rules Aries) and Uranus is sudden and impulsive (and rules Aquarius).
- Godfrey (Uranus conjunct moon)
- Long (Mars conjunct sun)
- Sanders (Mars conjunct moon – and transiting Uranus is currently conjunct this aspect)
- Trump (Uranus conjunct sun opposing moon)
- Wallace (Uranus opposing moon and really alone on the other side of a packed chart – how apropos of his personal fate)
What does this mean for you and me?
Mars and Uranus wake us from our slumbers through pokes in the back or lightning on the head. Both planets jolt and agitate. Both are energies of beginning, of starting or of shifting. Mars wakes you up in the morning, reminds you who you are and gives you the energy to face the day. Uranus wakes you up a few times during your lifetime (maybe even permanently) by reminding you that you are a spark alive in the universe, not an inert object listlessly responding to the pull of gravitational forces.
Our rabble rousers evoke some very important energy of emergence, initiation and enlightenment. This fire and electric energy is powerful and also dangerous. Remember, we’re warned as children not to play with matches.
Whether you love or hate a rabble rouser, can you look away? Aren’t the love and hate equally stimulating?
In A Face in the Crowd, the producer Jeffries finally destroys her creation and is filled with grief and loss as she drives away with the educated, calm, nice gentleman that has been patiently waiting for her.
Will Jeffries now settle into a loving, comfortable existence with her fine gentleman?
As they drive away, a Coca-Cola sign blinks in the background. While the demagogue has been unmasked and sanity restored to an innocent and trusting world, the blinking advertising reminds us that we are still prey to jolts of caffeine, advertising and rabble rousers.
Jeffries might not be able to survive without a jolt of Mars and Uranus. Where will she get it now?