Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ghost Whisperer

I don’t watch much TV, but recently I have become “hooked” on Ghost Whisperer.

Here’s the high concept: Melinda Gordon is a young newlywed with the unique ability to communicate with the earthbound spirits of people who have died--and who seek her help. Melinda uses her gift to relay significant messages and important information to the living, but sometimes the messages she receives are intense and confusing. As a result, she is often met with questions and skepticism by the survivors. But when Melinda is able to help both the lost souls who contact her and those who are still alive, she knows that her unique talent is an asset and not a liability.

Opening Narration: "I just got married. I just moved to a small town. I just opened an antique shop. I might be just like you. Except from the time I was a little girl I knew I could talk to the dead. Earthbound spirits my grandmother called them. The ones who have not crossed over because they have unfinished business with the living and they come to me for help. To tell you my story, I have to tell you theirs."

A lot has been made in the gossip and fan media about the star’s frequent show of cleavage. I say woo-hoo, but that’s not why I watch the show. I watch it because there are so few shows that venture into the woo-woo territory of afterlife.

Yet that brings up the whole point of my message—why are programs like that so rare? Why are we so afraid to explore the nature of death in prime time (or anywhere else?)

I think there have been eight shows so far (they are already about to start re-runs!) and so far, this is what happens. Someone dies and resists going to the light. Sometimes they are clueless about the light and sometimes they aren’t. Each hold-out is an earthbound spirit. Melinda Gordon (the one with great cleavage) can see them and talk to them, and she eventually nudges them into the light.

Yet amazingly, she never talks about what the light is or what happens after you go into it. “Go to the light.”


“I don’t know why. Just go to the light.”

But actually, they don’t even say that. They don’t ask, “What’s so great about the light?

This just astounds me. You have someone who sees spirits, yet there’s no frigging conversation about what it’s like to be dead or why go to the light. In none of the shows I have seen has anyone said anything remotely like, “You know, I’d always heard that when you’re dead, you’re dead. Well, guess what, I’m not dead. The media is wrong. Medical science is wrong. Encyclopedias are wrong. World politics suck. People suffer needlessly. I was killed but I am still alive, and that changes everything.”

No matter how terrific Melinda looks in lingerie, it’s hard for me to imagine that she can be such a dense spiritualist. I want her to wake up from her nap.

Melinda mostly acts as if she has no true conviction about what happens when we die. She seems to have no big picture perspective about the whole life/afterlife thing. People who come back from near-death experiences have riveting stories about what they encountered during their adventure out of the body. You would think that some of this knowledge would rub off on a lifelong psychic channel like Melinda.

As I see it, death is a huge shake-up in perspective. Anybody who wakes up on the other side of the flatline and is still conscious has turned a huge corner in life as we know it. Yet none of the characters in Ghost Whisperer, including the iconic all-seeing seer, seem to grasp that fundamental.

So much of what we consider tragedy is based on the premise that when you die you end. You are gone. Show is finished. That’s all, folks.

But if “death” is just a transition—an ejection from a physical body—what’s tragic about that? You don’t end. You begin.

If I were a writer for the show (and I am not so no worries) I would be incredibly tempted to give Melinda some edge. I would make her more of a guiding light with a more sardonic humor. Instead, as written, Melinda often gets sucked into an emotional place that seems to depend on her being ignorant of universal law. She has a soap opera mentality with great cleavage.

She’s sweet, She’s luscious. I wish I’d met a clone of her sometime in my life. I wish I could talk to her and probe her mind.

I know a few people who do “soul rescue” work. They essentially wander around out of their bodies and assist earthbound spirits. It’s not “conscious” work as depicted in the show where at progressively predictable intervals, a ghost pops into Melinda’s face. It’s more subtle, like in meditation or sleep. It’s also a quieter process with more moxie about why a spirit should go into the light.

The problem I have with shows and movies like this is that they play in spiritualistic kindergarten. The show would be so much more interesting to me if the characters acted the part of someone having made a fascinating transition. Like the soldier killed in Vietnam in the show’s pilot episode (aired again December 2) could certainly have some pithy remarks about the war that took his life. “You know what? We don’t die! I killed somebody and now I know he’s wandering around the planet like me.”

“Turns out that ‘war dead’ is a misnomer, huh?”

“So why are we in Iraq?”

“We’re protecting our country from terrorists.”

“But nobody really dies. It’s a stupid strategy.”

“The government insists that we’re threatened.”

“The government should trust in God like the motto says.”

But no, the scripts don’t fly very high in the spiritual skies. I guess this is because if a show dared to talk too explicitly about what happens after you die, the religious lobbyists would toss their cookies. That’s the trouble with studying material of a spiritual nature; you’re suddenly thinking in an out-of-the-box way and you aren’t as earthbound anymore. You start questioning authority and tradition more. You start wondering if the philosophical goods we’re being sold are really good.

So Melinda the psychic keeps her vision of the universe pretty materialistic. She doesn’t talk about the law of attraction or the law of deliberate creation. No Abraham, no Seth, no Ramtha. She doesn’t channel wise beings, only confused ones. She doesn’t even quote James Van Praaugh (the show’s executive producer) or his medium competitors like John Edward or Sylvia Browne or George Anderson. She doesn’t mention God or Jesus or any other Christlike being. She doesn’t mention angels. She doesn’t broach reincarnation nor does she mention near-death experiences. She doesn’t mention astral planes or out-of-body experiences. Like I said, kindergarten.

In one episode, she was even shown watching and liking a horror film. I found that horrific. Why would any psychic sensitive deliberately dabble in phony fear?

In the spirit world, ghosts are generally regarded as troubled beings, which is why they hang around the earth plane. They don’t want to go to the light because they are afraid of the consequences. Perhaps they did something very bad and don’t want to face what they believe will be severe judgment. Or perhaps they are strong atheists so convinced that there is no God that they only attract a void or even a hellish place when they die (such as in Howard Storm’s famous NDE account.)

In the last episode of Ghost Whisperer that I saw, a bride was killed in a car crash on her wedding day. She never went to the light. She was pissed that she was separated from her brand new husband. Then she was really pissed that he fell in love with someone else and wanted to marry her. The nerve! So the bride decided to convince the new fiancée not to marry her husband by scaring her with a bunch of cheap special effects.

It would have been so much more interesting had Melinda had a nice heart-to-heart with the bride, but instead she got sucked into the ghostly theatrics. As I keep saying, I’d write an edgier Melinda. Rather than being such a great looking sap, Melinda could engage these miscreants (they all turn out to have big hearts no matter how the show originally portrays them as scary) in engaging dialogue about progressing into the light.

Death in the light is not tragic. James Van Praaugh has made a fortune teaching us that in his books. I’m not sure why his heroine hasn’t gotten the message.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that death should be taught more in school! Then people can enjoy their life more since "hopefully" they won't be so fearful of the big unknown. :o) Wishful thinking. The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

11:13 AM  
Blogger TheMuseGuy said...

That's a great idea. I'd love to watch that fight as it made its way through educational systems. If we ventured too far into what death really is, and if we applied much research to it, so much of what we take for granted would have to change. Warfare is a prime example. How would you sell a rationale for war if we decided that our fundamental ideas about death were wrong?

11:35 AM  
Anonymous womanlymusic said...

Well! When we can all agree on what "life" is, then maybe we can approach seeing death as another side of life..(We'll NEVER all agree!!!) Actually, in the USA at this time, it's a mute issue... I think most people are not prone to, or are seriously programeed not to think too deeply about the "unknown"...or the feared "known"...ergo, Melinda Gorden's shallow persona in Ghost Whisperer compared to what she "could be"! I think "W" made it into office and maintains a modicum of support precisely because many people at this time in US history, don't think too deeply about life and death...they mostly are supported for just following ...As Bush sort of says, everyone is entitled to their own opinion as long as it's the same as mine. Or of his "Illuminata" overlords.) Unfortunately, the nature of living on the earth right now is mind boggling enough for most humans without fathoming in a kharmic afterlife, multidimensional realities, or spiritual dimensions outside of "the box". And, does it really make a difference???? Well, it does to me...but I've always favored being a bit of a chemelion...and fitting into many different realities,...while holding my own court with prayers, blessings and blind faith inside the folds of my layered brain!

1:42 PM  
Blogger TheMuseGuy said...

I wonder what Kool-Aid line I missed! Whatever it was I grew up with an undeveloped appetite for superficial living. You make some great points, Womanlymusic. Amazing how your line of thinking fans out, too, from Melinda to "W." I was thinking today about intimacy and how despite the Hallmark Card industry we tend to want to avoid that in our country as well. We find all sorts fo creative ways to keep from sharing our truths in an open forum, whether it's Melinda hiding her gift or politicians being sneaky about their real feelings. I guess the Illuminata have that base covered as well. Damn those giant lizards!

6:56 PM  

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