maygra: (apocalyptic tuna)
[personal profile] maygra

Disclaimer #1: I am not under any illusion that Kripke & Gamble routinely give a lot of in-depth thought to the implications of how and what they present in their very casual use and equally casual mangling of any and all myths/legends/philosophy/ religious tenets they use in the show. They are writing entertainment -- and they are neither the Wire nor are they Twin Peaks.

Disclaimer #2: I'm also clear that any kind of theosophical overlay I can come up with in regards to SPN could be applied with equal ease in most case to pretty much anything or everything -- but it's SPN that's generating my examination, ergo...I'm keeping it in my own little compost pile to turn over and watch fertile ground be created from pretty much the scraps of anything they throw me.

Disclaimer #3: I'm simplifying. On my flist are any number of *actual* theologians and historians and not a few people who do not practice in the Abrahamic tradition. If I make a factual error, please feel free to point it out to me; if you want to argue theoreticals, please to be not pulling out your irrefutable creds with any more or less fervor than Kripke et al manage to mangle most mythical traditions. (I have xkcd 386 and I know how to use it.)

Note: All proper names of major religions are in lower case for a reason. I'm not talking about people's faiths, per se but the myths used in and around said faiths rather than challenging anyone's theology.

Currently in my garden of thoughts: Watching it with [ profile] baileytc, we were both kind of watching with jaws dropped at the garbage soup mix of what framed the story, cause while we had most of the big players of death and destruction, the herding of humans in for snack time a la Soylent green was a bit of a shocker. Where the hell was Huitzilopochtli & Tezcatlipoca if you're going to go all bone-munch on us?

Anyway... something Lucifer said (and Damn ITunes for not delivering me my episode five minutes after the aired episode ended *shakes massive fists of rage*) about the other gods stepping back, negotiating out, deferring to ..made my brain go to the very much free-floating idea that gods and goddesses are only as powerful as the belief of their followers, and that at some point in the far distant past, the ascendancy of the judeo-christian god, took precedence, followers with extra fervor, and the belief is coupled with the conviction of followers to the willingness of any given god (or pantheon) to direct intervention.

By most estimates, judeo-christians (all sects, which includes the judaic faiths, your traditional christian sects of catholic and protestants, and islam, ba'hai faith, all of which acknowledge one "God" share between them no matter how else you slice and dice their religions texts.) (See here and here, just for numbers)take up the bulk of all faiths combined by a not insignificant number of boots on the ground as it were. That isn't to say that all believers in those traditions align perfectly with one another, but they do share the same big cheese, so by an estimates, Zeus, Odin -- time to step off the Olympic gold pedestal, dudes. And yes, Kali Ma, in numbers you and your homies in the Hindu pantheon pull a big crowd, but silver is not gold, and if you want to slice and dice between father and son, that still puts you on the bronze. Those damn upstarts pulled a theological miracle mile and then some.

So, while I get the kind of dismissive tone of the "old" gods bugged some people, if you look at it in the context of the god with the most toys (human believers) wins, then the arrogance of -- not only Kali's western religions, but of Lucifer, Michael, Zachariah, and even Gabriel's admonition that the old gods, even combined, can't prevail, -- makes a hell of lot of sense.

So, picture a time, when the Abrahamic faiths were on the rise, and you have a head to head between the legions of YHVH, and the far more decentralized adherents of the Norse, Roman, Greek, Hindu, (Buddhists (okay maybe not... I can see Buddha sitting on the sideline saying, "I have no need of your numbers game. What followers I have will be sufficient be they 10 million or 1.") Native American, Mesoamerican... on and on...and there being some kind of brokered deal wherein those old Gods (including Gabriel as Loki) could keep being and existing, reliving the good times, some retirement resort in Valhalla...or Elysium, maybe six months in each, in exchange for not going into all out War and destruction mode ...I mean, the argument being that the Archangels can be pretty damn persuasive even without the use of threats.

But here we are, several millennia later, and suddenly the Angels are breaking the contract without returning to the negotiating table, about to lay waste to the last bits of human consciousness that actually give *life* to the gods and you've got some pretty pissed off shareholders in the whole, Team Abraham takes over the world thing...

I mean the one thing the older religions didn't do with the absolute fervor and determination of the Abrahamic religions was spread beyond their immediate geographic location of origin. And while judaism isn't a religion that depends or even promotes conversion, by simple migration, the influence of Judaism is not limited to the middle east or central europe, and christianity made it a point to spread and dissemble as much as possible.

So, it makes sense to me, in that context, that Kali Ma even as Mahakali, might end up giving ground to Lucifer, who while not a god himself, is one of the most identifiable (if not often invoked) of the Abrahamic god's representative. (And keeping in mind in the panoply of non-Abrahamic religions, that Baron Samedi is not a god either -- if anything he's the upper management equivalent of an archangel -- on Gabriel's level, but probably not on Odin's)

I get people being cheesed off at the way the elder powers were presented and then seemingly dismissed (both by the writers and Lucifer) but in the Chopped and diced myth arc foundation of Kripke et al...what happened and how, actually makes sense to me. My real wish is that they had taken more than one episode to do it, because the set up suffered in only 42 minutes, for what could have been a seriously awesome throw down between all the active powers...

Anyway... that's why the episode didn't really bother me all that much, because honestly, they've managed to trash the more popular myths about the angelic hosts with gleeful abandon for a couple of seasons now. (Come on, you know you want to see Zach and Mikey and Gabe and Raphael and even Joshua, standing up in choir robes and singing Ave know you do...)

Plus it all plays well into my own pet theories of how this will play out -- including why god with the Big "G" sent the boys a message through Joshua...Mankind's faith in anything outside him/herself (Our boys included) is like hoping Ganesh will bring you rain, or Baldur will step in and restore your 401K losses from the economic meltdown if you just believe in him strongly enough. Or you know, clapping your hands to revive fainting fairies.

And that's my theory: That God isn't going to interfere -- that he gave mankind free will, free agency for a reason -- and for good or bad, it's why he loves humans above even his devoted angels -- because when humans decide to believe in a god or gods, it's a choice. When angels do it -- it's not a choice, it's an absolute.

And what will ultimately save the world from the apocalypse is that Sam and Dean will not give in to having that choice taken away form them again... at least that's what I'm hoping. Because Gabe had the right reason (in my head) -- we are imperfect beings, we are petty and glorious all at once, we are small minded and capable of great things between one breath and the next. We can be both righteous and humble, and we are as varied as the stars in heaven and as the angelic hosts are not, nor the old gods who built and hold to their own mythologies and restrictions.

We try and we fail a lot of the time. But we keep trying.

I am glad Kali Ma made it out, and although in my heart I think Gabriel/Loki is gone my head I'm still thinking, but... but...dude, Loki!!. And because we've seen Lesser angels killed, but Archangels? Not so much...

So while I don't expect to see him back, I would not be surprised if he did pop up again.

I'd say more about the boys themselves but other's have said it already -- like cowbell, we needed more Sam, and thank you whoever, that the hints of emo broken Dean were few and far between, because I'm fast hitting the point where I'm seeing Dean as whiny and annoying as people saw Sam in season one and two and I Hate feeling that way.

Sam +(plus) Dean - (minus) emo/angst x (times) 11tybizillion = \o/

Date: 2010-04-23 09:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
your cut tag is so made of win, I don't have words.

Date: 2010-04-23 09:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

There can never be enough cowbell.

Date: 2010-04-23 09:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It would totally be Gabriel/Loki's style to put a double-cross within a double-cross. On the other hand, even remotely funny characters tend to die early and often in the Kripke-verse. Hell, they even killed off funny Dean, letting Emo Dean crawl out of the crypt. Castiel, I think you left something behind when you dragged that boy out of the basement!

Date: 2010-04-23 10:17 pm (UTC)
ext_9063: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Genius. Our friend Kady turned me on to your post because somehow you're not on my reading filter (fixed!). I was trying to say as much as you did in your disclaimers, and then I started thinking in the general direction of believers-make-the-stronger-religion, but you got there first and did it better. Thanks!

My fannish response, leaving the view of the show writing out of it, is that these were not the gods they said they were. There were too many wrong things that would have been so simple to get right, especially since the writers were thinking deeply enough to include gods from lesser known religions. I want to see the real gods come out and pick up where Kali and Gabriel left off.

Date: 2010-04-23 11:54 pm (UTC)
ext_18980: (actors st michael)
From: [identity profile]
You know, this episode reminded me of Stargate mythology in oh so many ways. Not just the O.G. Big Bad (cavorting as gods) wearing people suits but in the later Ori arc with the whole power determinate on their worshipers beliefs, etc.

I always wondered what would have happened if SG:TPTB had stepped up and portrayed Jesus Christ as a goa'uld. Watching this season of SPN, I'm kinda glad they didn't. Not just because it probably would have been kinda awful (directly evil as opposed to benign) but I remember thinking (when they aired the episode with Amaterasu!goa'uld) how could they possibly ever handle it well and get away with it? I think SPN has answered that question, though. It's okay to portray god as an absentee father (which equates to Free Will) as long as you don't make him an abusive father. We'll save the discussion about John Winchester in that light for another time. :)

I guess what I'm trying to say (and probably doing badly) is that I can see what SPN was going for in this episode but it felt more like Show knew it had to address/diffuse other mythologies in the sandbox and it went slightly caricature-ish on them. Obligatory handwaving. Lately, I've been watching the show through spread fingers, not because of the mythology (which I adore, hamfisted as it is) but because of the angst and emo parade you mentioned.

At one point in season one didn't Kripke actually say SPN was Sam's story? Did I dream that? Because in the last couple of years I keep reading him making references to it being Dean's story now. What I'd really like is for him to say it's their story. Your analysis and equation gives me hope, though. :)

Date: 2010-04-24 12:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey there, before I even read further, wanna say thanks for the link to xkcd, before I forget! I've just wasted a heap of time, lol, isn't it brilliant! ;)

Date: 2010-04-24 01:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Man, it's just like savouring on a great piece of steak, reading your meta; melt in the mouth delight! (apologies to vegans and others - just realised how gross that could read *blush*) The breadth of your knowledge is exciting, supporting, clarifying and winning your argument, hands down.

I just wanna see more of Sam; Dean acknowledges he's an adult now, but still he plays second fiddle to Dean's "navigation". OK, so he made a few erroneous choices, but more Sam and Dean solving together. Team Free Will come back!

Date: 2010-04-24 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
omg (gods?) thanks for this. I didn't dare touch this ep with a ten parsec pole. LOL

I was trying to wrap my head around a dead archangel, and that one in particular, and he could still have pulled a fast one on Lucifer. The burned wing pattern on the floor may have been a trick, too. But...if nothing else, God did put Castiel back together after someone scattered his molars all over Chuck.

God keeps interfering with the boys, if Joshua was being truthful - tossing them onto a plane, giving their angel back - and if it was him, then he's voting for free will instead of screwing it up, like I initially thought.

Date: 2010-04-24 01:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
you wanted a theologist?

no, seriously. I'm like 15 episodes behind. because of that school thing. but they get the Abrahamic stuff so wrong so regularly, I just figured they were being wrong kind of on purpose. Sam Hain? really?

(I am still heading Atlanta-ward. Shall we speak soon?)

Date: 2010-04-24 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I just figured they were being wrong kind of on purpose.

This is so me. I often think they're not only being wrong on purpose, they're being outrageously wrong on purpose. For lulz.

Date: 2010-04-24 10:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In this case, though, being wrong for lulz has the possibility of seriously offending any Hindu, Asatru or Voodoo practitioner in the room. I mean, at least Christianity is the hegemonic religion and most of the ideas TPTB are mangling there have been mangled regularly and worse by others. :\

Date: 2010-04-24 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't think they're unaware of that possibility exactly. I think that either they don't care, or they downplay it. Sort of... "How could anyone be offended by a world turtle joke? La la la!"

Which isn't an uncommon attitude. Far from it.

Date: 2010-04-24 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
See, I'm trying to think that this was ignorance and severe research failure, because if I think about it the way you are, I'm going to ascribe some seriously malicious attitudes to TPTB that I'd really rather hope they don't ascribe to.

Date: 2010-04-24 09:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, ok. Let's take Judd Apatow. His movies can be read as being horribly offensive. He knows full well that they can be taken that way. However, he thinks it's all in good fun. He's just ~pushing the envelope. It's not maliciousness so much as a lack of thoughtfulness and self-involvement. I think that if you're going to play with being offensive, you've got to be really self-aware. Otherwise that kind of humor falls flat - it's easy to see the deep-seated, truly offensive attitudes lurking within it.

Not to say that this last ep revealed the SPN writers' deep-seated disrespect for other cultures. I think what it actually revealed is the SPN writers' distrust of organized religion. Anyway, I'm not ready to make a moral judgment here. *g* But it does seem to me that SPN isn't afraid of offending people, and loves the shock humor. It's also true that they don't, in general, do much research and are happy to rip off other SF/F works.

Also, is that a Bela icon?

Date: 2010-04-24 10:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I see Apatow as being willfully ignorant of the pernicious messages in his work and thus malicious in that he refuses to acknowledge the problems, since they have been repeatedly brought to his attention. Willful ignorance can be a form of maliciousness when it comes to these sorts of situations, because one is willfully trying to excuse and/or absolve oneself of sexist/racist attitudes by pretending those attitudes don't exist.

I can't see how the episode revealed a distrust of organized religion-- Asatru is hardly particularly organized, Greek/Roman worship is exceedingly rare and fragmented, and there was no mention of practitioners at all in any case. Besides that, the Christian deities and spirits were apparently blindingly overpowering (to the extent that a manifestation of the Hindu godhead had to be saved by Sam and Dean), which certainly says something about Christianity, which, TBH, is one of the most organized of the religions mentioned in the episode. I'm trying to ascribe this to "they were trying to rip off American Gods and failing miserably" instead.

Yes, it is! I apparently have no SPN icons except for grumpy-lady ones.

Date: 2010-04-25 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was thinking of you when I wrote that.

I'm ready for you...grins. Guest room and everything.

Date: 2010-04-25 03:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am, of course, looking forward to it! Except that I cannot find your number (which the partner chick says shouldn't be so much of a surprise). please to email it to me? choff at lmi dot net.


Date: 2010-04-24 01:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was a little boggled, myself, at all the old gods being so easily killed off, but then i did the same math in my head, thinking power=believers and there just aren't that *many* believers out there for Odin and Mercury. Although Kali and Ganesh did baffle me a little.

But then Gabriel said they sort of gave up the world to the 'new' powers so...yeah. I would have liked to have seen this over two eps, too - that would have been very cool. But i liked what we got.

Poor Gabriel! Finally getting it, and refusing to be a pawn, and he's killed.
*pets him*

Date: 2010-04-24 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

You are beautiful and brilliant and articulate and just, in general, made of win!!

Date: 2010-04-24 04:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Given the SPN world where belief brings tulpas to life, I think your rationalization about number of believers translating to amount of power makes a lot of sense. Of course, the fact that I am against all organized religion makes it easier for me not to be offended when people fail in representing it/them.

But really, I'm commenting because this:

and christianity made it a point to spread and dissemble as much as possible

... made me LOL. Freudian typos much?

Date: 2010-04-25 03:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
organized religion

Disorganised religion is mostly annoying because you don't know who to hold responsible for anything ... pardon me ... comment on my own life these days.

Date: 2010-04-25 03:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I would say that when they're disorganized at least they tend to do less harm, but with some of the right-wing wackos running around these days I don't know how true that is.

Also, I hope my remark didn't offend you. As you know, many people I respect and about whom I care deeply are Jewish (present company included), and I certainly think Judaism has less to answer for than many other belief systems. Still, if I were queen of the universe, I'd throw the whole concept out and call it a good day.

Date: 2010-04-25 03:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Nah. Not annoyed. I tend to know where comments like yours are directed (which mostly means "not at me"). I feel the same way myself. Except I also have this calling thing that won't go away, so I'm walking a line between my educated humanist self and my educated religious self that most people who are educated humanists don't always get.

It's okay. No one else has to get me but me.

And having recently written a seminar paper on the medieval disputations, my "organised religions are icky" buttons are all set on high.

I really should sit down this week and watch the fourteen episodes of SPN I'm behind so I can watch the last episodes in real time. Any of them eminently skippable in your opinion?

Date: 2010-04-25 03:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"No one else has to get me but me" is such a marvelously freeing thing to know, isn't it?

As for SPN, man, ask three people and you'll get six opinions... but since you asked me, I think you could skip #12 (Swap Meat) and probably #15 (Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid) without missing anything you'll want to know for the mytharc. DMDWP was a perfectly watchable episode, but I don't think it advanced things any, and Swap Meat was... the stupidest take on body-switching imaginable. In my opinion, of course.

There were other less-than-good eps in the past 14 (also of course), but I think they all contained at least some important information. (Swap Meat may have, too, but I've managed to wipe the whole thing from my memory.)

Hope that helps!

Date: 2010-04-25 04:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If I may jump in: Fallen Idols, Curious Case, Real Ghostbusters, Sam Interrupted, Swap Meat, and Dead Men are monster-of-the-week episodes, though there are bits in all of them that tie back to the mytharc. I Believe looks like it's supposed to be a mytharc episode, but unless the guest star makes a return appearance (and I've seen no spoilers indicating that he will, which does not, of course, mean he won't), I'd file it with non-mytharc. 99 Problems is a monster-of-the-week but it has entirely too many mytharc-significant bits to be skippable. Everything else is a must-watch.

Quality-wise, Fallen Idols was meh, don't think too hard about the mechanics of I Believe, if you found Monster At and/or the Becky bits of Sympathy painful then you really don't want to watch Real Ghostbusters, Sam Interrupted was meh, Swap Meat was a seriously wasted opportunity, and 99 Problems and Hammer between them have ninety-nine problems with sexism, racism, ethnocentrism, and not doing the research (though Hammer's leading lady is awesome till her last couple scenes and two of the other guest stars also rock hardcore). Everything else is a must-watch.

Date: 2010-04-25 04:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
thank you kindly!

Date: 2010-04-26 06:19 pm (UTC)
digitalwave: (Default)
From: [personal profile] digitalwave
First off, Happy Birthday, sweetie!

It is always so good to see you post. I know I'm one to talk but I miss seeing your words so much. And, this analysis was wonderful. I truly believe that Free Will will be the defining factor when we get to the end. I think it will be up to the boys, and anyone else left standing, to truly save the day.

I'll really miss Gabe, though. I hope that they figure out a way to bring him back. Heck, with Supernatural you're not really a member of the family until you've been resurrected at least once. :)

I did manage to write a 'Fixit' coda though...

My Brother's Keeper

*hugs you hard*

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