2020’s The Stand was a divisive adaptation at best, but the Stephen King miniseries was almost far worse thanks to a jettisoned subplot revolving around Ezra Miller’s Trashcan Man. Shortly after beginning his career as a best-selling author with 1974’s killer teen hit Carrie, horror icon Stephen King released a more ambitious novel with the post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror epic The Stand and it went on to become a massive success.
The Stand chronicles the aftermath of a devastating pandemic, colloquially known as “Captain Trips,” that wipes out much of America’s population. In the post-apocalyptic months following, the story focuses on the attempts of two very different, warring sets of survivors to establish new societies. The followers of Mother Abigail, the mouthpiece of God, are the heroes of the epic and set up an egalitarian society of communal living in Boulder, Colorado. The followers Randall Flagg, Stephen King’s oft-recurring iteration of Satan, create an authoritarian dystopia in what is left of Las Vegas.
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Originally adapted as an expensive television miniseries in 1994, King’s novel was recently remade as 2020’s The Stand, a limited series that didn’t enjoy as much critical success as the first small-screen adaptation of the doorstopper. 2020’s The Stand strayed far from the original Stephen King novel and wasn’t well-liked by fans or critics as a result. Ironically, though, one subplot cut from the show is present in the novel and would undoubtedly have worsened the already negatively critical reception of 2020’s The Stand. The Perks of Being a Wallflower star Ezra Miller’s “spirited” take on Trashcan Man in 2020’s The Stand split audiences, who either found the character insufferably incomprehensible or the strongest, strangest part of an otherwise middle-of-the-road miniseries. However, the original plan for the series saw an episode devoted to the Trashcan Man’s cross-country road trip with the book’s sociopathic killer character the Kid, intended to be played by disgraced shock rocker Marilyn Manson.
Even before Manson’s recent controversies, the singer was never known for his acting ability and The Stand book’s story of the Kid is exactly the sort of unnecessarily grim diversion that Stephen King adaptations benefit from cutting (much like Patrick Hockstetter’s grim It backstory, also elided in adaptations). The Kid is a lone wolf murderer who tortures and toys with the Trashcan Man after picking up the unstable character during his cross-country hitchhiking trip. In the novel, the extended scene is a bravura bit of writing from King which proves, much like he did with The Shining’s abusive father Jack Torrance, that the novelist can make readers sympathize with even a deeply morally ambiguous figure like the Trashcan Man by placing them in terrible circumstances and tightening the screws of growing dread.
However, devoting an entire episode of the already tough-to-follow, anachronic 2020 retelling of The Stand miniseries’ story to Miller’s hard-to-understand, unhinged character and the murderous loner the Kid would have left audiences with no one to root for, particularly as it had already made the questionable decision to essentially make novel antagonist Harold Lauder the main character. Miller’s creative decision to play up the incomprehensibility of the Trashcan Man makes him a more empathetic antagonist, but skirts uncomfortably close to depicting the villainous character as a hapless victim of mental instability at times, and more screen time would not likely have helped this issue. Meanwhile, Manson’s absence from 2020’s The Stand is a blessing due both to the singer’s limited acting ability and his recent public controversies making his presence a distracting, unwelcome addition to an already overstuffed show.
More: The Stand Series Is Failing Stephen King’s Best Villain
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