Friday, April 23, 2010

The Pagan Overly-Defensive Initiative



I've got an audience. People read this blog and listen to my podcast. I know that people listen to what I say, and in that spirit I would not like to direct the following blog post at any other well-known pagan specifically. That being said, this was inspired by a recent article on another blog, which shall remain nameless.

What in the HELL is the deal with pagans playing the eternal victim? From time to time I read other blogs and listen to podcasts that review television, movies, books, and other media. In a vast majority of these reviews, the focus is on how pagan/witchy/magical folk come off, and they're always pissed off.

Hollywood is so irreverent! I don't watch TV anymore! They're making us all out to look silly!
We're all just so abused!!!

Ok. I think I've said this before, but aren't you just exhausted with this ridiculous display? Let me tell you a little secret: there's not one group out there (despite its size) that is accurately portrayed by Hollywood. Do you think a story about the peaceful nature of most Muslims is going to sell tickets, or will people pay to see the evil Muslim extremists act as villains and terrorists on the big screen? Is the story of a mundane, middle-class Christian family the subject of news coverage, documentaries, or television? NO! We see the polygamists, the extremists who rail against government control, and the fringe that makes up only a fraction of a percent of that group.

I remember when Lisa Simpson dabbled in Wicca. It wasn't that long ago. The outcry from the online pagan community was one of disgust! That's not what Wicca is! Why isn't Hollywood working hard to portray us as a valid religion/belief system? Yes, we're expecting a show whose characters never age, who has relegated the Hindu/Indian guy to being the gas station owner, who depicts cops as fat, donut-eating idiots, whose Christian character is overly pious and violently afraid of sinning...we expect that show to depict Wicca with historical accuracy and reverence. 

Why are we eager to consume media that nonchalantly places characters into various convenient stereotypes, but get so full of vitriol when paganism is mentioned? What's the problem? We have given the various forms of media permission to create the story lines they do by purchasing tickets, reading books, and consuming their products. 

Some of the most recent complaints have come from an episode of Supernatural. The show depicts various gods and goddesses from various pantheons apparently eating human flesh, using humans as pawns in their divine designs. (Sorry, Candice Olson.) The problems people complain about are that Hollywood has trivialized their respective deities, turning them into Marvel-style mutants with dreadful egos rather than faces of the divine worthy of worship. People, people, people... It's a show about monster/ghost/angel/demon/etc. hunters! They're doing what most of TV and movies these days does: putting familiar names on fairly original characters. They need a bad ass chick with enough power to hold her own against the big, bad Satan, so they choose Kali as inspiration - considered by some to be the Goddess of change or death. 

Was she supposed to actually be an accurate portrayal of the revered Hindu Goddess? OF COURSE NOT! Just like Satan/Lucifer is pretty much just a title they gave to their Big Bad. I wonder if the Christian community is outraged that angels, demons, Yahweh, and the devil aren't all portrayed perfectly...

Nobody is trivializing pagans in the media except pagans. Is Wicca/paganism/earth-centered religions/witchcraft weird to the majority of the population? Yes, and if you think otherwise you're a nut. I've said it time and again - We're a minority! A pretty big minority. Not everybody fully understands our beliefs, but the same can be said of any religion that isn't our own. 

Like Velma Nightshade has said to me, "If you're looking to [Hollywood] for your history, then you've got more problems than being victimized." It's pretty pathetic, to be perfectly honest. It's pathetic that we're putting on blinders to how the media is portraying other groups and only focusing on our own. It's simple-minded to believe that somebody out in Hollywood is actively victimizing us. 

We're going to get about as much respect as any other religious group gets. That is to say none. Jesus Christ is an active running joke on shows like Family Guy, American Dad, South Park, the Simpsons, etc. Name a group: gays, lesbians, comic fans, blondes, red heads (ginger kids), fat people, beautiful people, witches, cops, politicians... They've all get their types and subtypes of stereotypes. 

An example: There's not just one gay stereotype, there are several. The queeny guy, the masculine guy who hates on effeminate guys, the really hot one who straight women want to turn, the bitter average/chubby guy that can't understand why the guy with the 6-pack doesn't want to screw him....and the list goes on and on. 

It doesn't matter what little niche of society you've sequestered yourself into, it's been made fun of. It's been talked about, written into a screenplay, made into a comic book, whatever. Get the hell over it. If you don't like what's happening, become a media executive. Become the publisher who decides which books do and don't enter the market. Become the TV producer who decides the direction and depth of characters on the shows you create. Become the movie big whig who decides to portray true and accurate accounts of witches throughout history. (I won't be buying tickets to your film, though, as it would be a snore fest.)

And, where is the outrage about the special effects departments?! When Willow's eyes go black, she hovers a few inches over the carpet, and she sends a lightning bolt into her foe, where is the public outrage from pagans and witches saying that we can't really do that? When the chicks on Practical Magic put the whammy on a man, kill him, bring him back from the dead, kill him again, and then suck his visible soul out of Nicole Kidman...where was the victimized river of tears?

Bottom line: Nobody goes to the theater or turns on the tv to their favorite fictional sci-fi show to be given an in-depth historical, literature, psychoanalytical breakdown of every single magical act, deity, or belief system portrayed. They're there to be entertained. 

Sure the writers might attempt to inject a bit of true lore into their production, but they're also trying to appeal to an audience. Why don't we just sit back and enjoy the show? 

Side note: If you're really worried about our public perception, why don't you take off the damn fairy wings and glitter, quit calling yourself High Priestess Witch Princess Bumblebee Fartweather, do some real research, and become an active participant in making this community a respectable public force? Just a thought.

Let me know YOUR thoughts by emailing IncitingARiotPodcast@gmail.com, tweeting @IncitingARiot, or leaving a comment below!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

8 comments:

  1. I'll admit, I was a little irked (borderline pissed at one point) at Supernatural last night. But in my defense, I probably wouldn't have cared a lick if I hadn't had such a craptastic day. It was at the point where everything pissed me off. So.

    Great post, and great point. There are some things that you just have to brush off. Everybody has a stereotype for something, and there's a stereotype for everything out there. You just have to know when to move on.

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  2. Yeah, pretty much. It's irksome to see Pagans coming off like those Christians (I'm looking at you, Bill Donohue) who are constantly looking around for reasons take offence and expressing their pumped-up outrage in the most ridiculously hyperbolic terms.

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  3. I giggled when I read that Lucifer killed Baldur with a single punch in this week's episode. Concealed mistletoe, perhaps?


    Yeah, basically the complaints are about neutral depictions of Paganism on two good shows (House, Bones) and a very negative depiction of Paganism on a really crappy show (Supernatural). Don't be sad, Pagan community, 'cause two out of three ain't bad.

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  4. Well said! Of course, I also think -- and said as much in a conversation at The Wild Hunt a few months ago -- that if people really want to see better portrayals of Pagans, we need to start telling the stories and making the movies ourselves.

    In this sense, I think we need to look at what's been going on with gay themed movies. Yeah, the big names in Hollywood still tend to work on stereotypes and don't to the best thing for gay couples. But there are independent films and those made by small studios (like TLA Releasing) that produce and distribute some excellent movies, such as Latter Days, Shelter, Out at the Wedding, and Shank. There's no reason why artistically minded Pagans couldn't do similar movies themselves.

    And let's face it, it would be far more productive than whining about Hollywood.

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  5. Fire Lyte, I LOVED this particular rant. Most of my favorite witchy books/movies/shows have about 1% of real witchcraft in them, and the rest is deliciously cheesy pointy hats and sparks coming out of fingertips. And while I really like looking for that 1% of real magic in there, I also greatly enjoy those stripey-stockinged, broom-riding witches and their antics for what they are: a good story.

    I think maybe if people watching these shows and movies and whatnot would get out of the business of being professionally offended, they might just realize that some of these stories are pretty good! Somehow, though, I don't think that's likely to happen.

    At any rate, I loved the post! Thanks for writing it! All the best,

    Cory

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  6. Rob/Splendificus!April 26, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    I love this initiative. I can't stand the reactionary victimhood status so many pagans take. I don't mean to sound rude,but, the instant flinch to playing a victim is a seriously pathetic sign of weakness in my book. You can't stop being a victim if you always play the part.

    Also, I never knew about that masculine guy hating on effeminate guy as a gay stereotype before. Paints a few of my work buddies in an amusing light that would drive them crazy =p

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  7. I do not feel victimized by Hollywood at all. I think it is all a bunch of bull. So what if they are pegging us for worshipping the devil? In our own hearts we know it isn't true.
    People need to learn how to pick up a book and read. Yes I just said it READ. Instead of wasting hours on a screen watching an untrue movie or show about Wicca/Paganism. What I believe is that we learn by living. I know I do not worship such devil work but the Goddess and God.
    I have read books upon books about Wicca and Paganism. My bookshelf is ever growing with the knowledge and so is my mind and heart. I think it is time to show the world who we really are. Let Hollywood say whatever funny wish wash they want to say but we know it isn't true. They (screenwriters) just want to make money, because or economy is so poor. They are not only "attacking" Paganism but also "attack" other religions as well.
    What I say is hell just watch the TV show that you love, learn how to take a joke, learn to laugh at idiots and not feel VICTIMIZED by such false accusations.
    I watch Supernatural and I laugh at their mistakes and I do not feel victimized. They are trying to gather and audience, and try to somehow prove a point that there is Supernatural out there and as we all know they are probably right.
    Going on, learn how to laugh at their mistakes and learn how read, laugh at urself, and live life to the fullest.
    Many Blessings
    Renee (mountainsidepagan podcast)

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  8. Supernatural also portrayed Santa Clause as a people eater. I rarely see this show but that dirty dark nasty Santa Clause cracked me up...

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