In working our way through a self-assigned (-inflicted?) program of religious subculture-themed movies, a friend and I recently came across the unexpectedly good 2000 Mormon missionary film, God’s Army. I wouldn’t say it bears up well under all standards of judgment—it is the sort of film, indeed, which seems from the first few minutes to be flying directly toward a mountain of sentimentality, but which has enough emotional honesty in it to make you think it is bound to pull up and away before it reaches it. When it disappointingly plows straight ahead into the mountain, however, in the last thirty seconds, you realize that there are limits to the realism that can safely be incorporated into a Mormon movie and remain within the bounds of orthodoxy. Bearing that it mind, however, it comes about as close to being earnestly self-searching and self-questioning as a film on this subject could without challenging any formal tenets of the church.
Kings are good transmigrators-- so skilled in fact that some have been known to get themselves reborn as democrats and "reformers" without even having to undergo any discernible change in their regime. King Hassan II of Morocco was such a soul-changer (I in fact swiped the title of this post from a book about him by a French journalist (which I confess I haven't read)). Another would be the monarch of Greece during the civil war of the 1940s, who in a single three-month period in 1947 went from demi-autocrat propped up by British imperialism to hero of democracy, who needed to be supplied with arms and money under the Truman doctrine to resist the Communist advance.
But of course, when we say "Our Friend, the King" today, there is only one person we really mean. We can only be referring to the one who reigns in Riyadh, the "regional partner" and "counter-terrorist" par excellence, scion of the House of Saud.