izhilzha (izhilzha) wrote,
izhilzha
izhilzha

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Must We Explain the Supernatural?

A novel or a TV show or a film usually shows the worldview of the author or creator. Chris Carter must believe, to some extent, that "the truth is out there" even if we're never able to find it. JRR Tolkien believed that the meek shall inherit the earth...and we see his small hobbits saving Middle-Earth through endurance and humility.

But sometimes I wonder whether the creators get a bit carried away with their own worldview. [don't get me started on Ursula LeGuin's transformation into a rampant feminist.] Is it valid to state one way of thinking as if it were the only way?



Crime Scene Investigation is a detailed procedural show, with the emphasis on piecing together forensic evidence. But half the fun of watching the show is picking up on character clues, piecing together the mindsets and lives of the investigators.

One of the dimensions of life that is rarely touched on is the possibility of spiritual or supernatural phenomena. Given the show's premise--that scientifically tested evidence can explain anything–-this makes sense. It also makes the moments when religion or paranormal ideas intrude on a plot stand out like blood traces under luminal.

Nick Stokes and Sara Sidle are the characters who seem to be most open to "extreme possibilities." In "Face Lift", Sara investigates the case of a woman reduced to ashes and a pair of feet, while the rest of the room remains untouched. "...spontaneous human combustion...what if it is real, and we've uncovered it?" When working the scene of a brutal quadruple murder ("Blood Drops"), Grissom asks her, "Do you feel that?" and her reply is a quiet, matter-of-fact, "Her soul's still in the room." Nick, when confronted by a geared-up scuba diver stuck in a treetop in the middle of a forest fire, tosses out an urban legend as a valid theory: "Well, you know ... Lake Mead is just over the hill and the copters are
dropping water."

In two of these cases, science disproves the wild theories. Catherine mocks Nick's urban legend, and the truth turns out fairly simple, if unusual. Warrick does his best to disprove Sara's fixation on spontaneous human combustion, and in the end, they discover that there is a natural explanation. Grissom's complacent response shows that he does his best to tutor his CSIs in science above everything: "Well, in science we learn through experimentation, right? Sometimes we need to see it to believe it." He has a similar reaction when Sara brings up the supernatural plot of The Turn of the Screw. "It's a mystery," she maintains. "Did the governess kill the boy, or did the ghost do it?"

"It's only a mystery if you believe in ghosts," is Grissom's crushing reply.

Interestingly, there are at least two times when Grissom himself seems to accept the supernatural as complacently as he accepts the results of science. In "Blood Drops", he remarks on the unusual feeling in the murdered woman's bedroom. And when Sara responds, "Her soul’s still in the room," Grissom doesn't blow that off at all. His expression, and next line ("But there’s something else...."), make it seem like he had come to a similar conclusion, even if it wasn’t the only thing bothering him about the scene.

In "Stalker", self-proclaimed psychic Morris Pearson shows up at the precinct claiming to have evidence in the case. Grissom is very skeptical, and annoyed with Brass for wasting his time–-until Pearson makes a comment about a detail he could not possibly know. I thought Grissom would instantly assume that Pearson had to be a suspect. He does approach the situation cautiously, but pretty much from there on out, Grissom treats the psychic's abilities with the same mix of professional curiosity and practical trust that he accords other forensic tools. And his trust is validated, not only when the visions points the team to the stalker's MO, but when Pearson has another vision, shows up at Nick's place, and possibly keeps Nick from being killed by his presence in the house.

Grissom is also the only character we know for certain was raised in a religious (Catholic) home, though he now "believes in God....but not in rules that tell you how to live." As much as he has apparently tried to push beyond it, it's still a part of him. A priest ("Alter Boys") compares his work to Grissom's, and says with great insight that Grissom still carries a Catholic's sense of guilt: "When the light bulb goes out for a Catholic, he stands in the dark and asks 'what did I do wrong?'" Grissom outright denies this, but the final scene of the episode shows him blaming himself for the suicidal death of an innocent young man he could not find enough evidence to clear.

And when a murderer who is grateful that Grissom spoke out for his victim says, "You may not believe in God, sir, but you do His work," Grissom doesn’t seem to know what to say.

So in spite of the solidity of the premise of science on which the show is based, it does leave some cracks open for the inexplicable. I would love to write a story where something ghostly happens in conjunction with a crime...and Grissom has to deal with something he honestly can’t explain.



Another show that at least feigns to have a basis in facts is Stargate SG1. I probably shouldn't be trying to talk about this show, since I have seen only a few episodes. However, it seems to be a typical sci-fi show, in that even what an untutored person would instantly recognize as a "ghost" is brushed off as something outside our own dimension, an energy being, or a "non-corporeal" being. If it can be explained in some pseudo-scientific way, then there's no reason to deal with any spiritual consequences of these things existing.

Admittedly, that's not what the show is for. But still--a show that deals repeatedly with the theme of false gods, with the idea that those who set themselves up over other beings by pretending to godhood are wrong and should be fought.... I find myself really wanting to see what they might not expect (a real God) intervene in their lives. Show them the reality that the Goauld counterfeit so poorly.

I blame this line of thinking on ELG's fic The Quality of Mercy. The author tends to wax long-winded on the angst, but there's a deeply creative plot, and it's well worth reading just for the fantastic scene where SG-1 faces down a pair of Goualds in a local temple. It's a battle of wits and words, centering on the idea that false gods can be brought down.

But it made me realize that SG-1 doesn't seem to bring much to the table, in the sense of exploring whether there might be something true that the Goaulds are imitating.

I just think that would be interesting to see.
Tags: csi, essay, stargate sg-1, supernatural
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