TV Guide Ads for TV Movies: Mazes and Monsters (1982)

In Mazes and Monsters, four privileged college students get involved in fantasy role-playing as a way to escape painful (for the privileged) personal problems. One of them loses it, has a complete psychotic break, and ends up living with his parents and believing he’s a cleric.

In both the bestselling novel, written by Rona Jaffe, and the TV adaptation, role-playing is presented as addictive, a playground for idle hands, something to be conquered on the journey to mentally healthy adulthood. The ad brilliantly reflects the story’s sensationalistic propaganda. The players’ shadows are nothing less than their inner demons coaxed into the physical world by the game (called Mazes and Monsters). It’s very Freudian.

The ad concept, with a shadow or shadows revealing the underlying nature of the appearing figure or figures, has been used many times before and since. The Changeling (1980) and Warlock (1989) movie posters are a couple of examples.

Here’s an article, written by Jaffe, that appeared in the same TV guide.

Mazes and Monsters TV Guide 1982

It’s mostly about her experience as an associate producer, but she does discuss how she came to write the novel, and what she says about “fantasy games,” specifically D&D, is pretty interesting.

The characters are plunged into adventure in a series of mazes run by another player, the omnipotent referee, who creates monsters, and other frightful dangers, to destroy the players. The point of the game is to amass a fortune and keep from being killed.

The italics are mine. Funny, but I thought the point of the game was to have fun. The characterization of the DM/GM as omnipotent and sinister was and is taken seriously by a number of powerfully ignorant, unsavory collectives.

Jaffe neglects to mention that her novel is also a “strong fantasy,” and that it too might be “taken a step too far,” with pernicious results.

6 Responses to “TV Guide Ads for TV Movies: <em>Mazes and Monsters</em> (1982)”

  1. 1 Jason January 30, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Quite glad my parents weren’t the moral panic types, and my D&D playing went unimpeded. I had a couple friends whose parents wouldn’t let them play it for the whole occult fear thing though.

    • 2 2W2N February 4, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      I started playing with a friend in about ’80. His parents were fundamentalist Christians. By ’81 I was playing by myself, and he had to take mandatory Bible lessons at home every morning during summer vacation.

  2. 3 Thomas Beiter May 13, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I loved Mazes & Monsters at the time. Contrary to the intent, it made me want to play D&D. It’s pretty hard to watch now, especially Tom Hanks’ rant at the phone booth: “There’s blood on my knife! I think I killed somebody! I KNOW I KILLED SOMEBODY!”
    Rona Jaffe based it on the story of James Dallas Eggbert III. I read that book back in college. I found the book Mazes & Monsters at a garage sale a few years ago, but I haven’t read it yet to compare to the TV movie.

  3. 5 Mynerd Side July 14, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I vividly remember MAZES & MONSTERS, being of the appropriate age and an avid D&D player. Maybe it’s because I grew up in more-permissive Brooklyn and not the Bible belt but I remember us all thinking the movie was hilarious. More moral panic. Also, I would argue that the goal of D&D was not just fun but to get players to USE THEIR IMAGINATION, something sorely lacking in today’s world. Anyway…great blog.

  1. 1 Children of the Beast: The 1980s ‘Satanic Panic’ Trackback on October 19, 2017 at 3:02 pm

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