In honor of the Season 4 Finale tonight of one of my favorite shows the CW’s Supernatural that Brent Hartinger discussed at afterelton.com yesterday in his article “Supernatural” is So Gay (In My Dreams Anyway) I’ve decided to blog about the paranormal and popular culture.
As writers, one of our most important assets is an active and rich imagination. Our imaginations allow for the creation of numerous worlds, some that resemble our own and others so far removed from our reality as to bear little resemblance to it at first glance. I place emphasis on the first glance because despite the outer appearance sometimes these worlds have far much in common with our daily life than most critics would have you believe.
For centuries, the paranormal has gripped humanity’s fascination in many ways. Long before the word paranormal existed, the nuts and bolts of what it described did; spirits, demons, angels, etc. In fact, any of those things listed exist in one of the oldest collection of stories—the Bible. Now I know some people might not consider the Bible a collection of paranormal stories, but in the strictest sense of the word, it is. Listed below, as stated by Merriam-Webster On-line, is the definition of the word paranormal:
Main Entry: para·nor·mal
Pronunciation: \ˌpa-rə-ˈnȯr-məl, ˈpa-rə-ˌ\
Date: circa 1920
: not scientifically explainable : supernatural
There are numerous things in the world science has yet to explain, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. By no long shot am I suggesting that vampires, shape shifters, or ghouls exist, but we all have our beliefs and we’ve all had experiences in our lives that others might not believe. Maybe that’s why popular culture has embraced the paranormal over the years. Without a doubt, something fascinates us about the unexplained whether we fear it or are just curious about it.
Television shows such as Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and the X-Files inspire our imaginations and make us wonder. Could there be such things that exist on the fringes of what we know as reality? Over the centuries, adults used stories of these creatures to teach lessons to children about survival in an often-hostile world. Huddled around fires, late into the night, the elders of primitive cultures told some of the first ghost stories. Hollywood and the published word now take that position in modern man’s life. The writers of these shows, movies, and novels take the position of the elders of yore.
Look beyond that initial glance, dig deep, and you’ll discover those eternal lessons that have been spoken throughout humanity’s history. The most popular paranormal creatures are those that hide among us, appear to be one of us, the vampire, the shape shifter, and even the demon. Seduction to the dark side rips us from family, destroys our humanity, and pushes us into fringes. We are all outsiders in the dark and we all need to find our place in society. Still preached in modern society these lessons are enduring, but now the elders are writers and the venue used is in its own way the modern version of the campfire. As the sun lowers and night sweeps over the land, we gather around the television to watch the story play out or pick up that book. Our subconscious sees beyond the entertainment and on some level understands the message that the writer delivers.
Some of us though wish to escape from the societal and religious boundaries imposed upon us. In the shadows, we see an escape to another existence, something far removed from the everyday woes and troubles of human existence. We seek a connection to another world where we find our own version of hope and belonging, a hope that there is more beyond this existence, and that somehow we can continue in one form or another. Our fear of death and our desire to control our own destiny, both very human emotions, drives us to question our world and seek out answers for ourselves. Some of us find those answers in what science cannot explain.
In closing my ramble I say, Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State aside, seek you’re answers wherever you may. Let no one tell you how your own personal journey should go, you’re not alone in the search, and remember one thing. Watch over your shoulder. You may never know what might be lurking there in the shadows of night or the bright light of day.