“Maybe Science Can't Explain Everything”

Quick reminder – I am back in school so columns will be catch as catch can. I'm disgusted by a trend I've noticed recently. Shows that are about smart women who work in the sciences have started running episodes that are supposed to make the scientists “reconsider everything they think they know.” It's boring and the two different shows I watched that used this motif recently consisted almost entirely of cliches.

Bones, the first one I saw, started with the title character being shot. While she is unconscious she has an encounter with the spirit of her mother, who is hanging around in some kind of spiritual way station, presumably just waiting for someone she knows to drop by. All through the episode Bones kept drifting in and out of consciousness and in and out of the space where her mother was supposedly hanging out. (I guess her mom hasn't had anything to do for the last couple of decades? She's just been sitting in the waiting room reading the ghostly equivalent of Sports Illustrated and People Magazine?)

Of course she gets a message to pass on to her dad; it's de rigueur for these situations. Something similar occurred in last week's episode of Body of Proof, which was ostensibly about demonic possession. (Blargh.) Megan Hunt also gets messages, although it's not clear who is passing them along. This is supposed to be super mysterious evidence of life after death or whatever, designed to prove to the scientists that they have been wasting their entire lives and should go and dabble in superstition instead of facts. Ugh. I find it insulting and I've only noticed it happening with the lady scientists. Did Quincy the medical examiner ever have to go through this nonsense? I think not.

It's not that I think science and the supernatural can't mix; they can very well. (Or semi-well, as in the recently canceled Saving Hope.) But using only clichéd elements to build your extra-worldly story is disappointing and dull. If you want to write a scary story then make it a novel scary story. Do we care if a supposedly possessed girl (it's almost always a girl) suddenly does a bridge stretch? I think not. Many of us learned to do them in grade school. We may be too old and our joints too stiff to do them anymore but we know they are not a signal to call in the exorcist. If someone does decide to do a Poltergeist edition of NCIS let's hope it's got some original elements.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is from Strange Horizons. Called Middle Aged Weirdo in a Cadillac and written by George R. Galuschak, it's a story that looks at the thin line that can exist between good and evil. It features a demon and a teenager who meet when the demon gets lost. I was fascinated by trying to figure out the motivation of the characters. I kept changing my mind about what they wanted or were up to. It's also very funny, obviously in a dark way. http://www.strangehorizons.com/2010/20100412/weirdo-f.shtml