Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Are angels the new vampires on the pop culture playing field?

Opening up at a theater near you this weekend is Legion,which stars Paul Bettany as an angel who refuses God's orders to destroy the world and decides to help humanity make their last stand by protecting a truck stop waitress who happens to be pregnant with a child destined to save us all.

I swear,ever since the Terminator franchise entered the successful end of the sci-fi/fantasy pool ,waitresses have become feisty Madonna figures with targets on their back. Nothing against them at all,but isn't their job hard enough without being tapped to mother future protectors of the universe?

Anyway, angels seem to be back on the pop culture radar again. The reviews for this film have been less than stellar so far but that doesn't mean it won't make a splash at the box office or the current trendy taste for otherworldly people to fantasize about:

Despite the religious implications of such beings to exist,angels have never been exempt from fictional depictions in mainstream entertainment. Most of the time,they were showcased as benevolent guiding forces of good like the bumbling Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life or the dashing Dudley in The Bishop's Wife(remade as The Preacher's Wife in 1996).

The good guy version of angels is still strong but darker or just more complex portrayals of these heaven sent folks have made their way into the pop culture platform. One of the most controversial ones was Kevin Smith's Dogma,which had exiled angels Bartleby and Loki(Ben Affleck and Matt Damon)try to re-enter Heaven after being unknowingly influenced by a demon happy to have them destroy all of existence for him.

While the movie was a satire,it did provide some clever food for thought and a few lesser known facts about angelic organization that most movies tend to ignore. One of the best characters in the story was the Metatron,The Voice of God played by Alan Rickman. I don't know what it is about English people getting cast as mystical beings so much;perhaps it's the accent that feels so right and conveys an instant sense of authority there:

Christopher Walken has become a most memorable less than divine villain in the B movie trilogy,The Prophecy. As the angel Gabriel who plots to rid the world of those "talking monkeys" taking up so much of God's attention,he has made quite a mark on the "angels are not our friends" sinister subgenre.

The second Prophecy movie even has a plot line similar to Legion(the expectant mother in question is a nurse this time)and by the third flick,Gabriel was back on the redemption trail,having been turned human as punishment for his previous bad behavior. Whether good,bad or just plain wacky,Walken gave angels a brand new bag of tricks to draw from,that's for sure:

The sweeter side of angels has held steady on TV,with shows like Highway to Heaven,Touched by an Angel and even the TGIF ABC series Teen Angel keeping the Be Good for Goodness Sake banner flying high in the PG section of the pop culture parade.

Hollywood films of late have left that fall to the wayside since the 1990s. Along with The Preacher's Wife,another attempt at romantic comedy was made earlier with a winged messenger as the object of desire.

1987's Date with an Angel took the Splash route by having their temporarily earth bound angel speak in screeches and crave french fries from Wendy's. Emmanuelle Beart was cast as the nameless angel,who certainly did look as pretty as one is usually imagined to be:

John Travolta added to his list of feel good films with 1996's Michael,where he was also a trapped on earth Pearly Gates resident being interviewed for a tabloid and making love connections in the process. Carrying a set of wings on his back didn't deter Travolta from making his trademark moves on the dance floor,of course:

With the increasingly tense real world traumas facing society since 2000,people have been willing to accept depictions of angels that are far from perfection. Whether that says something either good or bad about the state of fictional cultural affairs is subjective,plus too soon to tell at this point. However,as with vampires, one of the paths to mainstream entertainment acceptance of angels is being made by teens.

With the ABC Family miniseries Fallen,based on a YA series of books by Thomas Sniegoski a couple of years ago and Lauren Kate's new teen fantasy novel Fallen released last month,the concept of nephilim(children born from human and angel parents,also mentioned in the Prophecy movies)is slowly but surely gaining strides.

How far this will go and can angels become the next big thing on the market by taking on a Goth persona is certainly worth investigating. Some will squawk at this attempt to glam up angels but regardless of where the objections come from,it's the readers and film goers who will ultimately decide if these fallen angels are here to stay. While Legion might end up as another horror film flash in the pan,Lauren Kate and her legion of readers may be storming the ramparts of fantasy lit for some time to come:

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