The Aztec Sardine

What kind of society produces a Sardine – or Sardine columns? The Romans had Juvenal, whose satires were hard-nosed and fearless. They needed someone to keep them honest while they were ruling a large part of the known world. The Sardine, however, is not a satirist.

Logged-In Public: Then what are you?

Beyond satire. Still commenting about the world but a world that has been satired and parodied to death.

God-Fearing Public: The United States is a lot like the Roman Empire, especially in its declining years.

Everyone forgets the non-declining years of our nation. Slavery, genocide, and industrialism. Besides, Rome lasted so long that it had to decline eventually.

L-I P: You don’t think society should be criticized anymore?

The Sardine is on vacation for a reason. Regular everyday life is intolerable and can’t be suffered anymore. Hence, why I have started the process of elimination. One can no longer escape the things that were once only inside the sardine can.

G-F P: Can’t you step out the column?

When the Sardine speaks outside this column, nothing he says can be taken at face value. Nothing he says he really means. Half the time he’s quoting from movies, and half the time he’s quoting movies completely out of context.

L-I P: Does anyone recognize the quotes?

It’s not like he’s saying “Make my day” or “I’ll be back” or “Are you talking to me”. In fact, he’ll say those particular lines sarcastically, privately mocking the quote.

G-F P: That’s blasphemous.

L-I P: Does anyone get that you’re mocking them?

No. If they did, the Sardine probably wouldn’t say those things to them.

G-F P: You’re saying there’s no reason to deal with people outside these columns.


L-I P: The Sardine isn’t too fond of the people in the column.

G-F P: We feel sorry for you.

Don’t. I understand there’s a certain amount of grief one has to put up with. I’m getting away with more here, today, than one could in ancient Rome. They were intolerant unsentimental sons of bitches. Fathers held the power of life and death over family members. The government officials upheld a strict moral code that they expected everyone but themselves to adhere to.

G-F P: Until the Christians set them straight.

Then the Christians became the intolerant sons of bitches.

G-F P: It was the only way to get through the Dark Ages. The Ostrogoths and Vandals and Franks made life miserable for everyone. Good thing their asses were converted.

“What did you say about the Franks?” Frank interrupts

Keep your shirt on, Frank. They are a Germanic tribe that settled in Germany in the third century. There’s worse than the Huns and Germans. Nothing beats the absolute fear when you think of the Aztec world.

L-I P: No one there ever went on vacation.

The Aztec tin can was without laughter. Without thought and self-consciousness. Absolute fear reigned. A civilization awash in blood and death.

G-F P: Their god, Huitzilopochtli , demanded sacrificial victims.

Yes, but the Aztecs usually sacrificed outsiders, like prisoners of war.

L-I P: An “Aztec Sardine” is unthinkable, impossible.

It’s not as if the Aztecs encouraged humor. The Sardine is personally exhausted from too much stand-up comedy. . . .

L-I P: One of those things you’ve “eliminated” from your life.

Yes. But can you imagine a stand-up comedian in Tenochtitlan? “Take my wife, please” has a very sinister connotation.

G-F P: They were frickin’ cannibals.

Can we really blame them?

G-F P: God damn right we can. What were they thinking?

Maybe they weren’t “thinking”, or better, weren’t conscious of what they were doing. They needed extra “meat” to survive. They had no cattle or pigs. And llamas weren’t exactly primed for dining on.

G-F P & L-I P: You’re justifying cannibalism!

For the Aztecs. And you might as well throw in human sacrifice. Some time around 1488 they killed 20,000 people in 3 days. No joke.

G-F P: Makes one hearken for the Dark Ages.

L-I P: Not too many comedians then, either.

Had to wait for the fifteenth century and Rabelais. He let loose with a thousand years of satire of and mocking society and the Catholic Church in Gargantua and Pantagruel.

L-I P: Paved the way for the Sardine.

He opened a can of something. The Sardine isn’t even imaginable without Rabelais or even before the Renaissance.

G-F P: You can thank the Church for being the way it was. So strong. So stifling of thought and dissent.

A conditional thanks. That, and for not being cannibalistic.



Bob Castle, a.k.a A Sardine on Vacation has regularly published articles for Bright Lights Film Journal since 2000 and in 2020 his novel, The Hidden Life, was published.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Saturday, January 20, 2024 - 21:05