Angel

Not long after binge watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which aired while I was in high school and college, I have moved on to the spin-off television show Angel.  Although the latest episodes of Season 4 first aired during Spring 2003, I find them frighteningly relevant in today’s political climate.

Toward the end of Season 4, Cordelia “gives birth” to an adult woman, played by Gina Torres, who appears to be of supernatural or heavenly origin and who has a surprisingly hypnotic affect on the show’s characters. No one seems to find it strange that she was born an adult and does not resemble either of her parents, Cordelia or Connor. When Wesley first hears about the new woman, he tries to convince a an enamored Angel that he is simply under a spell. However, as soon as he and the other Angel Investigations employees meet the angelic-seeming woman, they bow in front of her, without her making that request. She eventually names herself Jasmine, after the plants that grown in front of Angel’s hotel.

Jasmine very soon has additional followers, who are so taken with her that they insist on staying at the hotel home and sharing meals together to hear Jasmine speak. Some radio stations and church bulletin boards even start to claim that Jasmine is the true way to enlightenment. What’s frightening about the situation is although Jasmine says the words that people want to hear, such as bringing world peace and loving each other, she gives no indication as to how she’s going to accomplish these goals, and people seem to believe what she says without questioning it.

Except for Fred, one of the female leads, who gets exposed to Jasmine’s blood and therefore sees her for what she really is, a monstrous being who must feed on her so-called followers in order to survive. No one believes Fred, not even her closest friends, until they also get exposed to Jasmine’s blood. Fred therefore initially faces outcast treatment for not believing in Jasmine.

These episodes can be interpreted as satire, and sometimes very funny satire, toward religious fanaticism. However, I believe there’s a dark side to the satire too, which is effectively done. People believe in Jasmine without questioning her, even though what she says has very little substance. It’s almost as if they want to latch on to a values system so badly that they believe the first person who says want they want to hear. I definitely see aspects of that mindset in people’s responses to this year’s political campaign. I’m as guilty as others, I know, but I think we all need to do our homework better before we follow a certain candidate, or even a certain beliefs system. People on all sides of the political spectrum are guilty of such behavior. Watching these episodes of Angel proved to be a bleak reminder for me.

As a viewer, I was also sad to see that as soon as Angel exposes Jasmine’s true face, literally, people run and hide. Yes, it’s unpleasant to see, but her so-called loyal followers do not give her a chance to explain herself. In a way, that behavior is once again reflective of today’s society. Often times, when a woman no longer fits society’s definition of physical attractiveness, people stop listening to her, or they even post malicious articles and pictures about her change in appearance online and in tabloids.

It’s difficult to see these truths in ourselves. This morning, when I woke up to a barrage of Facebook posts about Mrs. Trump’s speech, I felt both sad and hopeful. People have a right to be concerned, but we need to learn the whole story, i.e. who actually wrote the speech. Yet I am relieved to see that people are pushing back, questioning our leaders, asking them to check their facts.  As citizens of a very powerful country, we in the United States have an obligation to choose the most effective leaders that we can.

True writing geniuses are ones who can write stories that are timely years later. Although Angel is a television show rather than a short story or a novel, the creators of this show were able to create a storyline that is relevant thirteen years after the episodes aired. Television, when done well, is a true art form.

 

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