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Posts Tagged ‘entertainment industry’

Lucifer 1

I watched the first episode of “Lucifer” when it premiered. One would expect a few things given that this is television, after all: the supposedly “immune to Lucifer’s charms” detective looks to be about 26, tops, and is hot, of course. Nothing new there.

Lauren German

I expected Lucifer to be tall, dark and handsome, as is appropriate for a Romantic portrayal of the fallen angel (there’s a rich tradition in European, 19th century literature of portraying the Devil that way). There are plenty of inside jokes about Lucifer’s “Father,” and his reluctance to return to the Underworld. Some of the acting is rather bad, and the story is somewhat simplistic and seems targeted to teens and 20-somethings, who deserve better than these diluted story lines and predictable plot twists. Everything seems too easy, natural and light in this show, and even when they are attempting to be serious via the apparitions of the black-winged angel admonishing Lucifer for being bad, nothing seems particularly weighty, and certainly nothing here suggests real evil.

And therein lies the rub. There is no attempt here to address the nature of evil. Here, Lucifer is portrayed as the “devil with a soul,” a character that nobody would take seriously as evil incarnate. This reinforces the idea that evil is kind of cool, sexy, bad in a rebellious teenager kind of bad, and most of all, nothing to be truly afraid of. If, however, you have ever been confronted with true evil, the kind that sears your soul and makes you fear for your sanity, then you know that it’s truly dangerous to make evil appear bland and adventurous.

Hanna Arendt

True evil loves to hide behind such silliness. My favorite line about the Devil comes from “The Usual Suspects”: ‘The greatest trick of the Devil was convincing the world he didn’t exist’. The other ‘greatest trick of the devil’ is convincing the world that evil isn’t all that bad, and can actually be fun and super sexy! Our American media culture is so used to downplaying anything truly awful and scary to the point of inculcating in us all a sort of moral mediocrity, a blase attitude about anything too upsetting. Yes, I do understand that the Entertainment Industry’s job is to ‘entertain’ us, but I also think that if your topic is Lucifer and, by association, evil, then you have some obligation to at least SUGGEST how evil truly operates in the world. This has been done well before: think of the iconic figure of Hannibal Lecter. Look at those eyes. Those are eyes that suggest the power and horror of evil. Not the blandly handsome eyes of our hero in this new show.

Hannibal

Why bother taking evil seriously? Quite simply, because it exists and can destroy our lives. It kills, mains, seduces, rapes, distracts, lies, manipulates and destroys the good and the noble in our character. It threatens our humanity, our love, our hope and our belief in God. It can lurk in obvious places, such as in the hearts of ruthless killers, but it also can be found corrupting our politicians, bankers, CEOs and anyone or any group with power over others’ lives. Evil can be found all over social media, distracting us from useful and creative pursuits. It can be found in a raised fist at home. It can be found on paranormal investigations, classrooms, offices, homes, churches . . . it’s everywhere.

banality of evil

That, my friend, is truly terrifying. We have to fight it wherever it infects our environment. It’s not going to show itself in obvious ways. We need a moral education; we are starving for shows about the true nature of Good and EvilĀ and powerful ways to combat the demons. Shows like “Lucifer” do us all a disservice by turning evil into a fun hour of hot guys in nightclubs. We can’t be warriors for the Good until we know what we are truly fighting.

Lucifer

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PHW 8

The news was all over Facebook: Aaron from Ghost Adventures had been fired for revealing that the show required him to fake his audio clips! That turned out to be untrue; a “satirical” news site had published the piece to stir up controversy, and they succeeded. I fell for it, because the fake news was not satirical or ironic, simply libelous. Satire requires an exaggeration of the truth for amusing or ironic effect, not the wholesale invention of news designed to tarnish the reputation of an individual or a production.

This ‘fake news’ story was so successful precisely because it touched a nerve with the community of paranormal investigators. There is always the lingering suspicion that the best audio and video clips have been invented or created by a show’s producer. The requirements of the entertainment industry are in direct conflict with the requirements of a good, thorough investigation into a haunting or other paranormal activity.

Hollywood requires melodrama and will invent situations among ‘characters’ (investigators are always turned into characters) in order to provoke conflict, pain, upset and a theatrical expression of emotion. In reality, a team of individuals investigating a location must take themselves out of the equation and focus on the external environment. Any upset or misunderstandings between investigators will hurt the success of the investigation. When one is tuning in to activity around them, you forget yourself and enter into something of a meditative or semi-trance state. That does not make for good television.

Hours may go by where nothing appears to be happening. We are all straining to hear something or ‘catch’ something, but often the result of your efforts is a sore back and exhaustion. Later, we might find gems on our audio clips, but again–the voices are often subtle and odd, not explosive declarations of ‘paranormality’. My team has often sent off some of our best audio to producers who want a sample of our data, only to be told that they need something obvious and definitive: one person actually asked for a clip where the spirit identified itself by name and declared he or she was dead. If these consciousness fragments stated their names, family history, their ontological status and their purpose in contacting us, our jobs would be so much easier!

I was interviewed recently for a national radio show (not Paranormal Kool-Aid–that was a blast!). I didn’t tell anyone about it, because I knew from the beginning that my story would be rejected. I was right, of course. They asked for stories about personal transformation: nothing has transformed my life more than the experiences I have had while investigating the world of spirit. I had one particular story that involved becoming lost and trapped in an abandoned hospital, possessed by the spirits of those who were patients there, and redeemed by a woman in white who freed the three of us. This led to my epiphany that the world of spirit was real and not to be played or trifled with. I was a different person from that point on. I even had spectacular audio from that night that was nothing if not clear. So how could a story like that be rejected?

The answer was: We don’t want to be in the business of proving or disproving the existence of ghosts. Ghosts? I didn’t mention that word a single time to them! And yet: everything always came down to that gross over-simplification of our experiences as investigators. I tried to explain that the popular conception of ‘ghosts’ did not apply here. We were dealing with the anguished remains of suffering patients, who had taken over our conscious minds in order to teach us a divine truth: in order to understand injustice and pain, we must experience it directly sometimes; we must help each other, the living and the ‘dead’. We must transform each other for the good. But no; sadly, the question for the producers remained the same: can you prove the existence of ghosts? No? Well, forget it then.

I didn’t ask the producers to prove anything. The story was about personal transformation. They had fallen into the same trap that almost everyone in the entertainment industry falls into: prove it’s real, or at least fake it so well that most people will believe it. Or, perhaps, they didn’t want to start the ‘real or fake’ discussion with their listeners, and maybe they knew intuitively that nobody would listen to my story for its spiritual value; it would end up where all paranormal stories end up: everyone weighing in with their opinion regarding the veracity of someone’s evidence for ‘ghosts’. Whether this experience “transforms” you or not is entirely beside the point.

I was disappointed and sad, not because I wasn’t going to appear on a national show–that part filled me with a certain amount of dread, due to my fear of misinterpretation and backlash–but because once again, a rep from the ‘industry’ had completely misunderstand the importance of my story. My team and I go through this process on a regular basis. Who we are and why we do what we do is not as important as whether or not we can create the required drama, pain, anger and emotional firestorms that television (and radio) require. The ideal show is one where I turn on my best friends, throw wine in their face during some disagreement about an audio clip, present my friend Wheezer the ghost to the audience, and then throw up on him after a night of drinking margaritas at a haunted restaurant.

Even a respectable show doesn’t want to be part of the conversation about the reality of the soul or the world of spirit (with the exception of the shows our own paranormal community produces). A national radio program that wishes to be taken seriously has to turn its back on the entire question–arguably, the most important question for all humankind–in order to avoid the idiocy of Hollywood’s ‘ghost shows’. We tried to change that. The ladies of the PHW stuck to their guns and refused to fabricate emotions or data in the service of selling a show. My personal role models are still the boys of Ghost Adventures. I worked with them on an episode (“Linda Vista”), and I never saw anything remotely fabricated during those long hours of filming. Not only that, we collected some truly amazing evidence right there on camera. You don’t have to believe me. See the episode yourself and make up your minds.

As soon as I wrote that, it occurred to me that anyone reading Soulbank could accuse me of self promotion. That’s how deeply I’ve been affected by the poisonous environment of entertainment. By simply inviting people to make up their own minds, I’ve fallen into my own trap: ghosts are real! This is what I truly want to say: my life has been utterly changed by the data I have collected on investigations. I think that anyone with a sincere interest in life after life could do exactly what I have done and find themselves flabbergasted by what they discover. What I can’t change is the apathy and lack of interest that many people seem to feel about pretty much everything of importance in their lives. Television is responding to what they see people care about: confusion, discord, negative emotions, dysfunction and theatrics.

But maybe, just maybe, there is a sizable market out there of people who truly, honestly care about the Big Questions; could the ‘industry’ change the entertainment culture by taking us seriously? Of course it could; it’s just easier and more profitable to sell shows that roll in the mud instead of fly with the angels.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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