Friday, April 9, 2010

My Roots Have Always Been In The Somewhat Supernatural...

Admittedly my site has been taken over by Supernatural of late, so allow me a moment of regression to explain some of where my interest in such things have come (other than just wanting to follow Jensen Ackles from project to project like a little loyal puppy!).

I am a child of the eighties in that I was born in the eighties, not that that decade was the time I had my heyday. So being that I was so young then, I have been told I missed out on the wonders that were the “After School Specials”—you know the kind, Timmy had sex with his girlfriend for the first time and got her pregnant, and now he has to quit the JV baseball team and drop out of school to go get a job at some factory where he ends up losing three of the fingers on his pitching hand, and none of that ever would have happened if they had just abstained (or, you know, used a condom!). Sure, that kind of programming was around well into the early nineties, when I was finally old enough to appreciate the genre, but by then it was tired, and you could tell it was on its way out, as the production value diminished even further, despite advancing technology. Long gone were the days of gems like
Desperate Lives, the one in which Helen Hunt takes PCP and jumps through a window, and instead we had to settle for the “Very Special Episodes” of insert-sitcom-here in order to learn the dangers of underage drinking/drinking and driving/experimenting with marijuana which always (in the case of these shows) led to experimenting to methamphetamines. Or we could always watch PBS.

Now as I approached the pre-teen years, I had to admit that nothing about PBS and the Children’s Television Workshop that produced most of its content spelled cool. They were a non-profit, which right away spelled educational. Besides, long gone were the days when my friends and I played Pretty, Pretty Princesses and pretended our dolls and teddy bears were students in our pretend class and could answer the questions we wrote on the chalkboard in the basement. In fact, long gone were the days we wanted to consider ourselves children at all! There was nothing appealing about the big purple dinosaur or the long lanky lamb that sang about loving you or songs that never end (respectively). Still, I would find myself at home on afternoons when the only other programming option for my seven-channel rabbit ears-tuned set box were reruns of cartoons I had seen a million times.
And as much as I once loved Duck Tales or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I felt like I had equally grown out of them. So I would flick on PBS and listen with half an ear at the geographical trivia on Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego? And before I would realize it, it would be the start of a new half-hour and a new show, and suddenly my screen would be filled with a few hip, urban kids living in the same city I was, filling their afternoons not with the counting and spelling learning of Sesame Street-- choosing to ignore that the point of this show, too, simply was to teach kids to read and write-- but with actual life lessons that they picked up on the streets—ones which were not too distant from my own block, I might add.

Ghostwriter (whose first season is FINALLY COMING OUT ON DVD-- and just in time for my birthday, too, in case anyone wants to send me a present) featured a gang, for an ironic term, of kids who came together from different backgrounds because they had one very specific thing in common: they all had an invisible friend, or a ghost, if you’re so inclined, who showed up at any moment he felt necessary and grabbed letters from anything nearby—clothes with logos, cereal boxes, old magazines—to spell out a Very Important Message. He never came by just to chat or to catch up and talk about their days at school; every time Ghostwriter appeared, it was because someone in the nearby vicinity needed help, and he was going to give them that help through these enabling guinea pigs. And they relished it. Having probably been weaned on “Nancy Drew,” “The Hardy Boys,” and “The Babysitter’s Club Mystery Specials,” these kids were itching to solve the puzzles Ghostwriter laid out in front of them.

Ghostwriter appeared in my home weekly, via the television, and really was its own self-contained after school special series. The dangers the kids faced were always ones you could imagine being right outside your own front door (and while growing up in New York City, that was often the case)—from gangs and graffiti taggers to arson to computer hackers to the dumping of deadly chemicals in a community garden—and the lesson was always firm: there is no gray area between what is right and what is wrong, and if you know about some wrongdoing, it is just as much your responsibility to come forward and expose it as it is the wrongdoer’s to confess.

In that way, Ghostwriter fit perfectly into the “scare your kids out of doing anything dangerous” tactics that our parents seemed to eat up. It also featured oddly religious overtones, as here was this invisible being that could (and often did) pop in on its select “chosen” few anytime it wanted. It not only helped to keep its street team, so to speak, in line when it came to all things moral, but it also trained its team to act as missionaries and spread the word of its teachings. And yet, I ate that shit up.

Like Ariel, I yearned to be "a part of that world." I scoured the pages of the Oriental Trading Company catalog for a non-bulk batch of pen-necklaces just like Alex, Jamal, Gaby, and Tina all sported. When I couldn’t find one, and I couldn’t convince my mother to spend almost thirty dollars on a box of one hundred, I even made my own for a little while, by simply hooking the pen to a piece of yarn by tucking the string under the cap. Not exactly foolproof, as the second I went to yank the pen out, the cap plummeted to the floor, but it would have to do.

I already carried around an old-fashioned marble notebook (though mine were always pink or purple and white for a little bit of individuality) in which I would jot stories as they came to me for my creative writing class, and I tried to convince some of my friends to dedicate a section in the back of their matching ones for this supernatural detective work, too, but none of them would have it. As children whose parents weren’t censoring what they watched on television—and who weren’t cheap with a capital C and a capital HEAP-- they all had cable and were spending their afternoons listening to Clarissa Explain[s] It All and scaring each other with recaps of the campfire stories from Are You Afraid of the Dark? So I was the lone lookout in my third or fourth grade class for that spiraling stream of neon light. Armed and ready to accept any message he would send me, I scanned my classroom almost compulsively, as I figured there would be the best place of any, with its stacks of textbooks and shelves of fictional books, not to mention the dozens of “inspirational” posters lining the walls, but sadly, he never revealed himself to me.

I don't really know why I've denied this part of me for so long. To this day, when people ask me if I watch
Fringe or Caprica or Legend of the Seeker, I brush them off, saying that no, I really don't like things that are outside my perceived realm of reality (you know, like demons, angels, and aliens-- ahem). After all, if I never saw a phenomenon like Ghostwriter in my own world, I had no real reason to believe he really did exist. Or maybe I have just been holding a grudge-- bitter that Ghostwriter stayed invisible to me all of these years...

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