November 29th, 2007
|06:07 pm - Eric Kripke on Supernatural and the seeming absence of Good|
Since I've introduced my good friend feliciakw to Supernatural, we've been periodically having long discussions about how the show treats the idea of evil (with demons being very real, and portrayed pretty much as they are in long-standing Christian tradition; hell being an actual destination; and a deal with the devil being an action rather than a metaphor) vs. how it treats the idea of good (broken humans traveling around, defeating the plans of evil; the Roman Catholic exorcism works on demons, as does holy water; we've never seen angels show up, but even skeptical, angry Dean admitted the...Providence, if I may so call it... of a certain villain's death).
So when I saw Eric Kripke himself answering a question about this at TVguide.com's Ask Ausiello column, I had to pass it on:
Question: I will blab to Gargamel the location of every Smurf I know unless you do this one thing for me: Tell me if Supernatural ever plans on exploring the good side of the supernatural world. You know, guardian angels, the spear of destiny, stuff like that.— Jeff
Ausiello: TV Guide's HR policy strictly forbids me from negotiating with terrorists, but I suppose I could make an exception just this once. Here's your answer, courtesy of Supernatural creator Eric Kripke: "We have a firm belief in the cosmology of this show that evil, in terms of demons, etc, is very tangible and real and out there. Angels and supernatural forces of good are much more elusive. But in my opinion - and the opinion of the writers - if God is out there, he isn't sending angels to fight the battles; he's working through a very human, sweaty, outgunned and overwhelmed group of hunters. For us, these are the angels. I think the point that's very important to us to make is that the forces of good work through humans who are flawed and imperfect and trying to make the right decisions. And that's the way God works. So we try to present that." </i>
My first reaction is almost-unadulterated squee, because these themes of God in the background, working through flawed humanity, unseen, is what I've been seeing in the show all along (at least since "Faith," not coincidentally the first ep to really draw me into the show). And Mr. Kripke just proved to me that it's intentional! *dances*
It's always nice to know that I haven't been reading loads of interesting stuff into a show when it's not really there. :-)
Mind you, that doesn't mean I think that the show is making large theological statements. I think that Supernatural is so driven by its characters that the only way it can speak about God or faith or the lack of these is through the pain and joy and experiences of Sam and Dean. (Well, and people they meet. I'm still peeved we didn't get to see more of Pastor Jim.) Doctrine, while it may play a role in an individual story ("Men cannot be angels," from "Houses of the Holy"), has little to say in the midst of the Winchesters' embattled lives; experience (what Dean saw at the end of HotH; the loud and very present evil the boys fight, the losses they suffer) speaks much louder, of the difficulties of holding onto or even trying to find faith in a God who seems "elusive," in a world where despair so often overwhelms hope.
I'm a Christian, myself. In terms of doctrine, I accept that hope exists, that while we're at war in a spiritual sense, there is help working behind (and occasionally in front of!) the scenes, that the means of salvation (both eternal and present) has been provided for us, that God is not deaf to our prayers. That He does have authority over the forces of darkness (which may be one reason I get such a thrill of satisfaction every time we see a successful exorcism on the show). I live in that hope. It's a weapon I fight with, and the rock I stand on.
But that's not the story Supernatural is telling. This isn't the story of how God saves us. It's the story (a story) of humanity's struggle with evil, with faith, our struggle to hold fast to goodness and love and trust in the face of a world that tells us evil is always going to win. It's the story of how difficult it is to face up to that fear, and defy it. (No wonder Dean's bravado is about a mile thick.) It's the story of making that choice, and keeping that faith, staying on that path, once the choice is made. It's the story of faith and free will.
Free will has to be there, or the story falls apart.
Free will has to be there, or the faith (and love) means nothing.
I'm not going to bother wishing for angels to show up, I don't think. It doesn't seem that Kripke and Co. want to go there, even if it wouldn't undermine the story. But I will wish for this: that the boys would be given a little more hope. Just a little more to go on. Watching them drive the roads of this tale, pushing on into the face of grief and despair and anger and fear, is absolutely cathartic. (Perhaps especially, in a way, for those of us who do hold to faith of our own.) But it's also incredibly painful, and I want them--I want Dean, in particular--to have a chance to reach out for hope, and find that it does exist.
Dean says he wants to believe in God.
That line wasn't written by accident, and because of Mr. Kripke's comments, I'm very much looking forward to whatever step (forwards or backwards) he takes regarding that desire.
I love this show. So, so much.
Current Mood: impressed
Since you posted this to your LJ, I'll post the e-mail I already sent privately. :-)
I follow what you're saying about the story of the show, and for the most part, I'm in hearty agreement. God does work through flawed humans--just look at the people in the lineage of Jesus. And I understand where Kripke is coming from about the supernatural evil being more prevalent, more tangible, than supernatural good. It often seems that way in the fallen world in which we live. But . . . They're giving God's existence in the SPN 'verse a rather bleak interpretation. No assistance or intervention for the hunters, ever? No sort of acknowledgement of protection (even if it is merely "providential" protection) or blessing? What about Mary's "angels are watching over you"? Even if Kripke opts not to go the angels route (and really, if there are fallen angels, that implies that there are angels that haven't fallen--not that I expect them to show up in the show), still, a defined depiction of hope and faith would be refreshing. (Dean's "I want to believe in God" might be a step in that direction.)
As I say, I agree with your thoughts above . . . but I really want a . . . hopeful . . . period for The Boys. You remember how we talked in N3 about how wonderful it was when Don would get to return a kidnapped child to her parents, or see a victimized wife returned to her husband? And there was a sense of contentment (until the next big crime). That's what I want for The Boys at some point. A respite--no matter how temporary--from the constant barrage of evil (I suppose that translates to a humor ep ala Hollywood Babylon). An opportunity to refresh and regroup, because constant evil with no respite is just oppressively exhausting and discouraging. At least, it is for me as an audience member.
Ooh. Maybe I'll get said respite of hope in the "holiday" ep?
And they'd better do justice to Dean's storyline. I'm just sayin' . . .
So, yeah. What you said.
They're giving God's existence in the SPN 'verse a rather bleak interpretation. No assistance or intervention for the hunters, ever? No sort of acknowledgement of protection (even if it is merely "providential" protection) or blessing?
I see your point, but I think "Houses of the Holy" gives us the viewers a through excuse to assume the possibility of providential protection/blessing on the boys even when they don't see it. Maybe that's a stretch; it's certainly not something that Dean would agree with, and at this point I'm not sure Sam would, either. But I've felt that possibility ever since I saw "Faith," and heard the preacher man give Dean a reason for healing him (that he still has things to do, that he's not finished)--it wasn't a miraculous healing, and yet in the process of destroying the evil behind it, Dean was restored to go on hunting. Good out of really horrific evil. Dean will never see it that way, but I have to wonder if Sam has ever had that (faintly guilty) thought.
Anyway. Rambling now.
Ooh. Maybe I'll get said respite of hope in the "holiday" ep?
This being SPN, I'm not getting my hopes up. *g* But it'd be nice.
And I still wish we could see a character (other than Layla and the briefly-glimpsed Pastor Jim) who knows some of what the boys know and yet also holds faith in God. It'd be interesting to see how they interact, and how the show would choose to portray this person.
I've always been quite impressed by the way that this show deals with the dilemma of how far to take its religious references. They play it quite nicely with one of their heroes professing religious faith and the other denying it - and yet with both apparently struggling with their respective viewpoints. Sam certainly seems to have his moments of doubt and, as you said, Dean has expressed a wish to believe.
A show like this has to deal with religion and mythology. I've heard some criticsm that it deals too much with the Judeo-Christian religious aspects and not enough with other mythologies - or that mythical creatures (gods, tulpas, djinns, etc) tend to be bad guys. I think that's a bit ridiculous because the demons taken from the Judeo-Christian myths are equally bad guys. And while holy water and Latin rituals are used to fight Evil. There was talk of a Peruvian holy wood of some kind having equal effect (I'd have to look it up, but that didn't sound like a Christian symbol). Voodoo is given credence for being able to do good (Sam wanted to consult it in helping Dean out of his deal). The amulet Dean wears appears to be pagan. There is a mixture of mythologies portrayed.
And yet it makes sense that the Christian symbolism does take some prominence over the others. Dean and Sam are fighting the Evil that lurks in America after all. Christianity is the predominant religion there. So it makes sense that the religious "tools" that are easiest for them to find and use would be those of Christian manufacture. And their default language and "assumed belief" would reflect Christianity. Their father might have had "no denomination" on his dog tags, but their mother believed in angels. It makes sense that Dean says things like "swear to God" and "so help me God" - whether he believes in God or not, that's the culture he was raised in.
I seem to have got sidetracked, but I did want to say that: a) I wholeheartedly agree with you about the importance of maintaining the sense of free will. Sam having a "destiny" is fine as long as he never stops fighting the notion. If he ever just "accepts his fate", I'll be very disappointed (that would be a cop out to me). And b) I also agree with you about the need for hope. I would really like this season to be a journey for Dean where he learns that he can allow himself to hope. I think he's been clinging to "nothing left to lose" as a kind of cold comfort. And I'd like him to be able to actually hope and want things for himself - eventually.
I've always been quite impressed by the way that this show deals with the dilemma of how far to take its religious references.
Me too! It's a fine balance, and they seem to be keeping it with solid artistic integrity. Very impressive.
A show like this has to deal with religion and mythology. I've heard some criticsm that it deals too much with the Judeo-Christian religious aspects and not enough with other mythologies -
I agree with you that this objection seem to be rather silly--the show is horror, after all, so making supernatural entities into bad guys makes the most sense, really. (Although I have to say I kind of rolled my eyes at the Peruvian wood stakes, and at the anti-possession amulets Bobby gives the boys at the end of BUaBS--they both kind of seemed to be vague "nods" to other-than-Judeo-Christian mythologies, and the amulets were strictly a plot device and I'm still annoyed about them.)
And yet it makes sense that the Christian symbolism does take some prominence over the others. Dean and Sam are fighting the Evil that lurks in America after all. Christianity is the predominant religion there. So it makes sense that the religious "tools" that are easiest for them to find and use would be those of Christian manufacture.
I think this is an excellent point, but I haven't seen anyone make it before! :-)
I seem to have got sidetracked, but I did want to say that: a) I wholeheartedly agree with you about the importance of maintaining the sense of free will. Sam having a "destiny" is fine as long as he never stops fighting the notion. If he ever just "accepts his fate", I'll be very disappointed (that would be a cop out to me).
Given the way the show, and the characters in particular, have been set up...I'm not sure it'd feel like a copout to me, as much as a Very Scary Place for Sam to go. Depending on how it was done, of course; Sam's fought hard, he chose not to kill Jake (and then chose to kill him later on), and if he gave up, that'd be really weird, a disturbing place for the show to take him.
And b) I also agree with you about the need for hope. I would really like this season to be a journey for Dean where he learns that he can allow himself to hope. I think he's been clinging to "nothing left to lose" as a kind of cold comfort. And I'd like him to be able to actually hope and want things for himself - eventually.
Yes yes yes yes yes. And I see this as applying to his attitude about God as much as to anything else: he doesn't have hope, doesn't feel like he deserves it, or that he could ever get it.... No wonder he's such a cynic, and yet wishes he could believe, under it all.
he doesn't have hope, doesn't feel like he deserves it, or that he could ever get it.... No wonder he's such a cynic, and yet wishes he could believe, under it all.
Dean needs hugs.
*sigh* *eyeroll* Oh, okay. I'll volunteer. Sometimes ya just gotta do what needs to be done for the greater good.
Re: Peruvian wood stakes . . . I believe, if I'm not mistaken, they were Paulo Santo wood . . . which translates to Saint Paul's wood. Sounds Catholic to me.
Dude, are you still up? Isn't it almost midnight where you are?
Huh. I didn't recall the name, and didn't keep that ep on my DVR. Could be! (and if so, that's...interesting. Must Google and see what I can find out.) I have other issues with the stakes, though: if you pin down a possessed host long enough for an exorcism, that's gonna damage the person's body. Not. Cool. Now, if you could make handcuffs or something out of the wood.... Or a cage? I could get behind that.
Dude, are you still up? Isn't it almost midnight where you are?
Dude, yes. ('Course, if we were in school, I'd be calling you Dudette, 'cause that's what my friends did. But I digress.)
Dude, yeah, I was still up. Stayed up until midnight reading fic. My sleep patterns are all screwed up, I'm tellin' ya. Gotta stop workin' two freakin' jobs with two different schedules that don't give me a full day off.
Went to bed at midnight, woke up at 2:00am. Went back to sleep. Woke up again at 5:00am. Went back to sleep. 6:30. Back to sleep. Alarm went off just before 7:00am. Now I'm up.
Gotta stop trying to channel Dean's speech patterns, too.
Will now stop using your LJ and someone else's comment thread for random conversation.