Friday, January 09, 2009

Apparitions: Harry Potter for Grown Ups?

A friend gave me a copy of the first five episodes of a new BCC drama called "Apparitions". If you haven't heard about it yet, you can read about it here and here.

It has drawn generally negative reaction from Catholic bloggers in the UK where it was aired (it hasn't been seen yet here in Australia, and I rather suspect it won't be). For example, see:
More Trash from the BBC by Fr Ray at SAINT MARY MAGDALEN
Apparitions and More Apparitions and at FR MILDEW

Yet both I, my Lutheran wife and my very Catholic friend who provided me with the episodes have all been impressed by the positive and reasonably balanced portrayal of the Catholic Church in the series.

I think the negative reaction from UK Catholic bloggers could be put down to the fact that the bloggers in question are not generally fans of this genre. Cathy and I have always been fans of Dr Who and Buffy - that should sort of tell you where we stand on that. Cathy is also an avid watcher of BBC crime shows - she watched "Wire in the Blood", which was too gruesome for me. "Apparitions" is kind of like "Wire in the Blood" with religion.

While many Catholics will find the nature of the series such that they would think no Catholic could watch it in good conscience, I think that might be an attitude that belongs in the "Christian parents should not allow their children to read Harry Potter" box. The counter argument has always been that Harry Potter is about "good vs evil" in which good finally and inevitably triumphs but only after Harry and his friends have to show great courage and strength in resisting and opposing evil. "Apparitions" is the same, I think. It is Harry Potter for grown ups, but with religion instead of magic.

If you have seen this series, I would be very interested in your reaction.

[P.S. Could the friend who supplied me with the first 5 episodes please put us out of our misery and send us Episode 6?]


At Friday, January 09, 2009 11:13:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you like it; episode 6 is on its way.

At Friday, January 09, 2009 11:49:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

I knew you would be reading!

At Saturday, January 10, 2009 7:24:00 am , Blogger Ttony said...

Harry Potter is for grown ups: kids are lucky it's written in a why they can understand!

The problem with Apparitions is that it isn't like HP, and certainly not like Dr Who, in trying to transcend. It's "just" fantasy-drama: what you see is all you'll get because it's all that there is.

It was a relief that the priest appeared to have beliefs which equated to beliefs that a Catholic priest might have: to that extent the series was immensley better than anything else the BBC looks capable of producing at the moment in the drama department; but that meant that you could apply ordinary critical faculties and decide that it just wasn't very good.

And bear in mind that it was airing at the time when when we had Little Dorrit - as well adapted as Bleak House.

Still, we had a new Dr Who episode for Christmas and will have a new Dr Who soon anyway!

At Saturday, January 10, 2009 8:44:00 am , Blogger Paul said...

I was a Dr Who fan way back in the days of ex novice monk Tom Baker. I thought he was just the right age for the Dr - the youngsters they now have playing the Dr are far too young and silly IMHO.
At its best, the old series had interesting plots, charmingly wobbly special effects and good humour. It also, as I remember, had an undercurrent of ridiculing religion. The victims of alien oppression were often worshipping the aliens or repeating mindless chants, until the wise Dr showed them the truth.
Interestingly, I find the new series less anti religious and accepts the supernatural at face value. (Of course the face is pretty weird sometimes).
The uneasy feeling I have with the lastest series is that the aliens are {almost) all-powerful and humans are powerless before the evil forces. Isn't the Gospel truth that we no longer have to fear evil forces?
Of course you can overanalyse these things, but I find it interesting to compare the assumptions in the old and new series - from the old days of confident trust in science and religious scepticism to today's preoccupation with the occult and our powerlessness before the forces of nature.

At Monday, January 12, 2009 9:51:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

At the time of posting this blog I had not yet watched episode 5 - which I found profoundly disturbing. It almost turned me off the series all together (almost) and gave me a very restless time trying to get to sleep later on. I will wait until I see Episode 6 to see how the whole thing resolves itself - but my previously positive judgement is hanging in the balance at the moment. It's just that the priest in episode 5 does something which I believe is quite beyond the pale - and (keeping in mind that he is a fictional character) I am not sure whether I forgive him for doing it at this point.

At Monday, January 12, 2009 2:28:00 pm , Blogger Paul said...

I think a lot of films these days are unsettling in many ways - either an obsession with the occult or endless examination of arid and meaningless relationships.
Having said that, I just say the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and I thought it was very interesting, despite all the bad reviews.
The alien who arrives (in a very spectacular entrance) has to decide whether mankind is worth preserving, or whether it is better to do a re-run of Noah's Ark on us. In the end he makes his judgement based on the way the woman he first meets handles her relationship with her small step-son. I thougth is was much more interesting than most of the movies I've seen lately.

At Monday, January 12, 2009 3:56:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Thanks for that mini-review, Paul. I often don't go to see movies that get bad reviews - but then there is always someone who likes what they see and give it the thumbs up. Sounds like a DVD job for me, though.

At Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:56:00 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched an episode of "apparitions" which aired in Australia on UKTV on Foxtel last night. The episode was set in an abortion clinic.

As a Catholic, I think I understand the negative Catholic reaction in the UK. It seems to attempt to appeal to the Da Vinci code popularity, displaying Catholicism in a superficial manner from an outsiders perspective.

Firstly, I had an immediate distust of anything representing the Catholic faith that comes from the BBC which I had to actively put to one side while watching it. Unlike Buffy, Dr Who, Star Trek, which I have been a fan of at various times, this program deals with a real institution of real faith and so it's important to represent it as accurately as possible, as you would expect with shows like ER which attempted to replicate a medical environment realistically.

The idea of "unformed souls" presented in the show was alien to me. I don't believe it is accurate to state that souls need to be born to be "formed". Given that the episode was set in such a controversial setting, the view of the Catholic church on the issue of abortion was given no voice and I would even go so far as to say distorted.

The way that the show portrayed people who keep vigil at abortion clinics was unkind. And the portrayal of the interplay between the Nun and the priest is not my experience of religious. I think the overall power of christianity (the liberation of the soul) is distinctly lacking as a theme in the show (sin is powerful but not all powerful in the lives of people). The show presented no joy as a counterbalance to the drama. Ultimately it is love that is the glue that binds the Catholic Church and it was inperceptible in the show. No faithful laypeople were given a character plotline, only an abortion clinic worker who says that her parents were catholic but she wasn't. The power struggle between the Roman Cardinal and the priest also unkind to the Catholic Church, presenting the church as being rife with intrigue.

So really, the show only juxtiposed the clergy and religious against the secular. As a lay Catholic, there was little in it that I could relate to or that gave expression to my experience of the Catholic Church.

I'll give it one more go but I'd say it's just another Dan Brown portrayal of the church and in the end will do more damage than good to the church out there in the secular world due to it's "outsider" representation of the faith of the Church.


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