Not as Big as God
In the past few weeks, we’ve complained some about the heavy handed ways the show is unpacking its religious symbols. Between my own scrambling to remember the various scenes from Revelation and Quinn’s hilarious, drunken, bemused confusion at a student plagiarizing C.S. Lewis (“Who!?” his eyes bluffed), I began to wonder something: have we actually been somewhat unfair in thinking a general populace should be able to recognize these symbols? If the show wants to play with religious imagery, do we live in a culture that can actually recognize that imagery anymore? I’m not quite sure we do. On the one hand, this creates a freedom with the symbols; a freedom we’ve noticed the show sometimes abuses. But on the other hand, it might create a vacuum wherein these symbols aren’t even that interesting to most people. Which leaves me wondering, how much is this season resonating with its viewers? Does the religious stuff land on the average North American as fringe-nut-job-ness, or do average North Americans think belief in a violent apocalypse is pretty standard Christian fare (and, more frightening, is belief in a violent apocalypse standard Christian fare?).
This really hit home for me with the idea that Professor’s Geller and Porter could be portrayed as respectable theologians! We’ve commented numerous times about how terribly wrong academic life gets portrayed on television. And much as I – as a theology professor – like to hope that seducing a theology prof is on every hot guy’s “bucket list,” the university scene seemed too ridiculous to imagine it believable by anyone who has ever set foot on a campus. But perhaps this is what non-theologians think theology departments look like: collections of crazy people chasing down the signs of the times hidden between lines of text.
Which leaves me wondering – are we that? Just how intelligible is religion in general, and Christianity in particular, to a non-Christian audience, particularly when the symbols of the faith have been lost from general parlance?
And in the midst of all these religious references, why on earth did Travis have not only an intro Anthropology book on his shelf, but also a book on how to design and build your own custom robot? Why did the set designers choose those two tomes to bookend the Geller pieces? I half wonder if they were trying to situate the Christian myth somewhere between the study of so-called “primitive” cultures and science fiction? Was there a clue in those two books as to how religion is being troped this season.
Despite their heavy-handedness, Dexter’s own ruminations on darkness and light did captivate me this episode. We’ve never seen Dexter open up to someone about his mother’s death before as he did with Sam. And while we’ve always imagined Dexter to be so traumatized by that event so as to be beyond redemption, the persistence of maternal memories prior to the murder does indicate a continuity with who he was before his own fall. The theological question I’m left with, then, is does redemption require that prior state of innocence to persist, or can we be made new out of the mess of the fallen self? Does the indication that Dexter has preserved within himself some echo of his pre-killer self make it more likely that he can “turn to the light,” or will it leave him piecing together one more aspect of his humanity without ever achieving anything resembling a wholeness?
Much more going on, as usual – what is with the tension brewing between the nanny and Deb? I remain intrigued by the odd scene between Angel and his sister/cousin (I forget?) from the first episode about her wearing too revealing clothing. Are we headed toward her being one of the brunettes sacrificed for “God’s plan”? Something has to happen with her as they are laying too many clues that don’t quite make sense around her. And on the theme of Deb – I’m intrigued by how helpful the therapy was for her, even only a couple of minutes of it. Will that continue? And did she seem a little hesitant to you to return that engagement ring? Are things really over between her and Quinn.
Can’t wait to hear what you thought!