Monday, March 16, 2009

In The Presence Of Angels

In the paranormal world, walking amongst the vampires and shapeshifters, the demons and fairies, there are angels. Not the pink-cheeked cherubs adorning Christmas cards, but full-bodied, living, breathing angels. Angels with enough angst and dilemmas to rival their human counterparts. And with enough sensuality and charisma to bring a mere mortal to her knees with just a look. Angels are the new models for heroes taking their stand in the paranormal world. But what is the fascination with angels?

I have been trying to answer this question for myself ever since a certain wayward angel took up residence in my brain and started telling me his story. Or, in actuality, demanded that I tell his story. Before that, I was content with writing about mere mortals who lived, loved, lost and rediscovered along the journey that we call life. But once that angel first began to speak to me, I have become fascinated by stories of angels, be they real or fictionalized. Still I wonder, what is it about these heavenly beings that spawns such fascination?

Whether you believe in angels or not, they permeate our culture like no other symbol of hope and purity. Faith and belief. Awe and inspiration. Perhaps one of the most iconic renditions of angels is that of The Sistine Madonna, better known as Raphael’s Angels. Who hasn’t seen this painting of two cherubs watching the heavens with daydreaming expressions staring back at them from a Christmas card or festive ornament? A quick search through Google will show that, although this is perhaps Raphael’s most famous painting of angelic beings, it is not the only one in which they appear. Indeed, they show up in the backgrounds of several others, but are not limited to Raphael’s paintings. Other artists, including Bouguereau, depict angels in their works.

So is it any wonder that Hollywood would follow suit? One of my favorite movies about angels is called Michael in which John Travolta gives a tour de force performance as a bad boy angel living amongst humans. From smoking to burping after a meal, he is the antithesis of the heavenly being we associate with the word angel. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t wise. On the contrary, he gets to the heart of the matter without seeming to care if he does get there. The trick is, he gets the humans to do most of the work. And who can forget that dance sequence to “Chain of Fools” where he manages to seduce every woman in the bar away from her date?

One of the most successful shows on television was “Touched by an Angel,” which always delivered a story with an uplifting message without sounding too preachy. Della Reese was perfect as Tess, a feisty, put-upon angel who was a rallying force behind her charges and loved them like a mother. She guided everyone, including the other angels in her care, with a firm yet gentle hand, nurturing when needed and doling out the tough love when the situation called for it. On the flipside was the ABCFamily miniseries called Fallen, in which a young man, upon his seventeenth birthday, discovered that he was one of the Nephilim, which put his life – and those of everyone he loved – in danger. A somewhat darker tale, it dealt with morality and good versus evil on a different scale than its more uplifting counterpart.

Which brings me to literature and the new fascination with angelic characters. Whether they are heroes or secondary characters, angels are cropping up everywhere. Debbie Macomber writes uplifting stories about angels called Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, who make it their mission to grant people hope and give them the will to love again. One could argue that the angels are secondary characters to those they come to help. On the darker side is a series by Erin McCarthy, the Seven Deadly Sins. In book one, My Immortal, the hero, Damien du Bourg, makes a deal with a fallen angle for immortality, which poses some unique problems when he meets the woman he might want to spend eternity with. In book two, Fallen, the hero is the fallen angel Gabriel whose penance on earth is to be without love forever. So whether you like your angels lighthearted and madcap, like Macomber’s angels, or dark and tortured like McCarthy’s, there is a story out there for every taste.

Thank you for traveling with me on this little journey through angels in our culture and feel free to leave a comment on your favorite angel in art, film, or literature. You tell me, have you ever found yourself in the presence of angels?

11 deadly screams:

Molly Daniels said...

I loved Michael! Have you seen the series Saving Grace? Earl is not the typical angel either, and he's the reason my husband watches the show:)

I also loved that Nicholas Cage/Meg Ryan movie...the name is escaping me...

I have a favorite angels/demons book too; I think it was by Frank Peretti??? I'm going to go google it. Sorry...the brain has gone blank when it comes to titles at the moment!

Molly Daniels said...

Thank God I remembered the author! This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness are the titles of the books by Frank Peretti. I've not read Piercing yet.

And yes, angels can often be found in the most unlikely of places.

Margay said...

Molly, it was called City of Angels. It was a pretty good movie, but I didn't like the way it turned out. I haven't seen Saving Grace.

Gracen Miller said...

Molly, the movie you're talking about with Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage is City of Angels.

Margay, another set of angels, not quite as famous as the ones you've mentioned, are Uriel and Castiel in the series Supernatural. Uriel is a smite first, ask questions later type of angel. He calls humans mud-monkeys and doesn't seem to like us very much. That notion of an angel is scary to me. Castiel is different, seems to like us humans and has an affinity for at least one human on the show.

But you're right, angels are a big deal these days. I don't have the answer why. I'm not all that fascinated with them myself. I haven't seen Michael, but I did see City of Angels, which I loved and hated. I watched an episode or two of Touched by An Angel, but again, not my favorite show. I prefer the monster of the week type of shows, not the feel-good, warms my heart type of shows. So, yeah, I'm a bit weird and strange.

Let's not forget the television show Highway to Heaven with Michael Landon in it, where Michael played the part of an angel. It ran for five years, from 1984-1989, so angels aren't a new novelty to Hollywood.

Great post and very thoughtful!

Margay said...

Thanks, Gracen! How could I forget Highway to Heaven? I loved Michael Landon!

Molly Daniels said...

I also loved HTH and TBAA. Trust you to mention your Supernatural! Grin....

Hahahaha...WV is 'charm':)

Gracen Miller said...

hehe Well, of course, I had to mention Supernatural, Molly. I'm constantly obsessing over it, so it's never far from my mind. *giggles* I don't think Sam and Dean would have it any other way. ;-)

Carrie said...

A little late due to catching up from being out of town, but I can tell you this, I have been in the presence of some sort of, "saving grace," or angel in my life.

It happened when I was coming home from work when I was about 20. I was working the close shift at a local hardware store.

One minute I was stopped at a stop sign and the next I was in the middle of the busy highway with cars coming straight at me. Now, as luck would have it, they were far enough away that they wouldn't have hit me before I got to the median section, but it was scary none-the-less. I still feel that something was looking out for me that day.

Then, sometime within the last two years, where I felt my path in life was being challenged, as if someone was trying to get me to question if I was going to be protected come judgment day.

I held fast to my belief that I do not have to go to a church to know the difference between right and wrong or follow the path of good. I also remember distinctly hearing angelic music and voices singing. I can't remember the tune exactly, but I know it wasn't the soft, gentle type of music associated with the cherubs, but it was a stronger, more definite phrase that implied that I was considered and accepted as a warrior for good and would be protected until I was needed in some final battle.

Yes, it sounds weird, but then, I've had a lot of weird experiences in my life that it seemed somewhat normal.

Of course, being the realist I am, the dream could have been influenced by the fact that I was reading Marion Zimmer Bradley stories and had recently had a discussion about religion and my beliefs with my aunts and cousins about the same time.

Either way, I take that dream as a sign that, as long as I try to be the best person I can, I will have a spot in the good place.

Great blog Margay!

Carrie from Wisconsin

Margay said...

Wow, Carrie, those are some pretty amazing stories! Thank you for sharing them with us.

Carrie said...

Oh yeah, I liked the way Charmed dealt with angels.

Leo was a whitelighter, someone who watches over people and helps them out of jams.

But then, each person has a particular guardian angel that takes care of the soul.

Carrie from Wisconsin

Carrie said...

I'm just glad I can share them with some people who can understand and appreciate them.