Thursday, September 24, 2009

Anti-Semitism and Eastwick


Jewish date:  6 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Ten Days of Repentance (Judaism), Thursday of the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Greater Eleusinian Mysteries (Thelema).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Save Orphan Bears: End Cruel Den Hunts” and “Sierra Club:  Add Your Voice and Help Us Reach Our Goal by October 4th!”  Also:  “Video: Will Ferrell stands up for the real health care victims”.

Topic 1:  More anti-Semitism using Orwellian language documented:  “New Statesman: Propaganda for Terrorists”.  Commentary on anti-Semitism in the United Nations:  “the Goldstone UN Gaza Report”.

Topic 2:  Last night was the pilot episode of the new TV series Eastwick, based on John Updike’s novel The Witches of Eastwick.  The vibes I got from the promo suggested it would be bad or at least go into territory better left unexplored on TV, but a check on Wikipedia suggested that one of the characters, at least in the original novel or movie versions thereof, might be the Devil.  Dreading what the result would be (especially since I have not read the novel or seen the movie versions), I watched it, hoping it would be irrelevant to my project and I could ignore it afterwards.  Unfortunately, it turned out relevant, and so you all have to suffer along with me.  (Where is another season of Kings or even Reaper when you need it?)

The show is set it the fictional New England town of Eastwick, which has the stereotypical Pilgrim heritage, including hints of past burning of witches.  Three women who live in this town, Roxanne Torcoletti, Joanna Frankel, and Kat Gardener, find mysterious coins which they throw into a fountain, wishing for better lives.  Soon afterwards, a rich, charismatic, and mysterious stranger with an aura of evil and the too-obvious name Darryl Van Horne arrives in town and starts acquiring real estate and businesses.  He hits on all three of the aforementioned women (unsurprisingly, with a name like that) and reveals to them that they have magic powers, which can be evoked by wishing, wittingly or unwittingly.  Roxanne, hired by Darryl to make a sculpture of him, has highly detailed predictive dreams.  Joanna learns she has hypnotic powers she can use to control people—and has to wrestle with the morality of using them.  Kat’s power seems to be calling down lightning to strike her good-for-nothing husband.  There are also allegations that Van Horne has been in Eastwick previously, with hints of an unnaturally long lifespan.  This episode comes off as working towards the paranoid Christian fantasy of witches making deals with the Devil, including having sexual intercourse with him—though this being just the pilot, nothing near this far has happened yet.

What I want to see, in order to prevent this series turning into a total theological train wreck:  above anything else, a justification for the behavior of the Christian Satan.  One possibility is that he is fantastically stupid; angels are far less powerful than deities, so Satan is arguably being an idiot for rebelling against God.  He is also arguably a highly stubborn idiot, since thousands (or billions) of years is a long time to be holding a grudge which one can never truly satisfy.  The best he can hope for is to carry on a petty vendetta until he finally gets squished like the (relative) bug he is.  However, an idiot Satan is an ineffective Satan, so this is unlikely to be invoked.  More workable would be to give Satan a different value system than God or even to be working for God in quality assurance.  Another plausible route would be to make Darryl something other than the Devil, though this route requires more creativity.

OK, on to other things I need to do today...