Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Am I Missing Something?

Lately I've taken to indulging in some guilty pleasures. One of this is a real piece of reality-tv schlock known as Paranormal State. More info is available here, but the basic recipe is a combination of Blair Witch Project and Saved By the Bell: The College Years. The premise is that a group of students at Penn State started their own Ghostbusters society after their fearless leader Ryan had a traumatic demon-abuse-related childhood. If the suspension of belief machine is to be believed, it then follows that A&E is so convinced by their mission that they underwrite all their travel expenses, high tech camera equipment and the like.

Most episodes consist of the "team" (which, I noticed, is mostly composed of attractive Freshmen interns) going to supposedly haunted houses where nothing conclusive ever happens. Most of the effects are obviously done by the producers, but there have been quite a few unintentionally hilarious moments. The best one occurred when the team leader was in a house being possessed and a psychic came up with a name for the demon- which apparently was the precise name of the demon that haunted Ryan's room for ages. They spent two episodes milking this, along with him running around warning everyone against saying "the name," lest they empower the demon further. In the meantime, the producers run dripping red letters, one-by-one, in rapid-motion across the screen. For two freaking episodes. I hope Ryan didn't see that one. I know I'd be pissed.

Anyway, one thing I noticed pretty quickly is that when the team feels like they're over their heads, they usually resort to two things. First, they bring in a psychic, and next, they have a "house cleansing"/blessing ceremony. Of the mercifully few episodes I have been able to stay awake through, most of these have invariably involved either a Catholic or Episcopal Priest, or occasionally, a "lay blessing" in the name of ol' JC done by a member of the team, who then usually dab holy water around and possibly pass out medals of St. Jude or somebody. One time they had a "third-generation Wiccan" classmate do a covert blessing, which consisted of nothing more than reciting the Guardian Angel paragraph of Kriat Shema, while mispronouncing everyone's names: "Mick-eye-el", etc. It was painful. Also, being a third-generation Wiccan (really?) qualifies you to be the resident "Occult Expert" the same way that being third-generation Irish makes you an expert on Leprechauns. (If, like my neighbor, you are lucky enough to be half Irish and half Italian, then your Leprechaun knowledge decreases by half, but on the plus side, you are now half an expert on organized crime, you versatile multi-tasker.)

The Discovery Channel isn't much better- what little I've seen of its series "A Haunting" seems to include a revolving door of Catholics, Methodists, and the occasional Shambala healer (I'll admit it, for a haunted barn in Indiana, that one is pretty diverse).

I guess my question is, assuming that there actually is something to this supernatural stuff (by which I mean actual supernatural activity, not wonderful moments like, "my reflection! A ghost! No, wait, a lens flare! A ghost! My sock! A ghost!"), doesn't it seem mighty convenient that the vast majority of them in North America seem to respond to specifically Christian rites of expulsion? And I wonder how many people that try to get their house blessed wind up picking a clergy member of the same denomination as them? What do people do in Israel, or Saudi Arabia? Do they call the local rabbi or imam?

I'm just saying, how come all the ghosts A&E and the Discovery channel seem to find turn out Christian? What, do I have to wait for Shalom TV to come out with its own version of "Paranormal Yeshiva" to start hearing about some Jewish ghosts?

Come on, A&E. Get it together and just go poke Meyer Lansky's grave. I'm sure something will happen.

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