A Critic's Meta Review: 4/5
In spite of what this title may lead you to believe, this short story from Edgar Allan Poe is not about the massively popular open world Western inspired video game Red Dead Redemption; nor is it about the death of millions under the “red” system of communism (as opposed to capitalism, which will only give you the blues...and potentially invade your home, pillage your village, steal your oil, and kill your family for good measure; alas, here I am, digressing yet again). It is not a story about any of these things.
The Masque Of The Red Death is a story about us, right now. Now, this may be a little hard for you to believe, especially considering the fact that it was written in 1842. However, let us not forget that The Simpsons have essentially proved that timelines don’t really matter in their numerous, Nostradamesque predictions of present day phenomena. Prescience knows no period, nor no medium. It just is.
And Poe was one prescient cat - that’s for damn sure. Let us take a look at why this thing is so spot on, by carefully examining the tale it tells: a wealthy prince (literally named “Prospero”) and his sycophantic entourage of faux nobility host an elaborate masquerade ball amidst the outbreak of a plague (the “Red Death” referred to in title), despite the warnings of others who speak of how dangerously grave this plague truly is. Prospero does not care; he wants to have a party, and he wants all of his rich, flashy, flighty “friends” to attend. During this little get together, the decadent denizens are doused by death’s dampening drench. Prospero attempts to confront death, with the slick confidence of a billionaire real estate mogul turned reality television star turned elected leader of a major world power (not for long, though). In turn, he dies. Then, everybody else dies.
Red Death: 1
The Hubris Of Humanity: 0
Now, to see just what I am talking about when I say this is a story about us right now, take this scoreboard and apply it to a more modern context.
You should end up with a little something like this:
COVID-19: Over one million, and counting
The Hubris Of Humanity: Fading more and more each day
For most of us, at least. It seems like our version of Prince Prospero wishes to meet the same fate as the fictionalized version - at least given his response to the Red Death.