On Sam and Dean

Slowly, I am catching up with “Supernatural.”

This is a show that at best reminds a man of Joss Whedon, who at his best reminds a man of Charles Williams, who at his best reminds a man of Dante. We are, in this show, many copies from the original and the fading shows. Beatrice? If she appears on “Supernatural,” her acting skills would be very bad.

I have never seen a television program, including the original Star Trek, with a uniformly worse group of female leads. Oft you just feel sorry for them. Supernatural shows have characters intone lines that require mad acting skills to make plausible (“I am going to send you back to hell, demon scum!”), but the women of Supernatural are drawn straight from video game voiceover work.

The show is going someplace, but the backstory is never very complicated and the rules (such as they are) seem to change all the time. A maxim of fantasy or supernatural fiction is anything is possible to start, but the rules of previous episodes should constrain the series.

So far (well into season four), the series plays loosely with rules. It is also given to explaining things that anybody who had ever read a book or watched other supernatural programming would know. One begins to suspect that it is written by people who think “X-Files” is classically “deep” and Harry Potter is a movie series.

But still the show is fun and worthy if only because it celebrates two brothers and their bonds. It is refreshing to see the tension of a series not be erotic (in the simple sense), but a love between family members. The older actors, the recurring father figures, have all been excellent.

Once again, however, the show begins with a fairly orthodox Christian metaphysics and soon moves off into weirdness. The worldview problems (it seems to me) come (as they do for Whedon) when you can neither escape the Christian gothic imagination (crosses and holy water), but don’t want to affirm it.

Why doesn’t someone write a supernatural thriller that just accepts the Western, Christian (even Catholic) worldview?

How hard would that be?

A show will play with the premise that gnosticism is true, Wicca is true, but apparently not with the idea that Medieval Christianity is true. Also missing in any such series is Islamic fantasy . . . as if the writers are afraid to venture on the other great monotheistic faith. Jewish and Christian thought get stripped mined, but Islam only in Christianized versions of its myth.

Whedon and the eccentric genius of “X-Files” may have trapped writers in a metaphysics that was interesting in the 1990′s, but now seems stale. “What if” everything is true turns out to be “What if everything is true, but any religious belief anybody holds?”

I for one would love to see a series that took Islamic, Jewish, or Christian myth seriously enough to play inside of it and by its rules. Make the “good guys” moral people by the standards of that faith . . . and see where the thing goes.

Or is that too radical for our era of corporate entertainment?


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