For those of you who don’t know, the Science Fiction channel changed it’s name to SyFi some time ago. The rebranding occurred apparently because they wanted to make it clear to anyone who didn’t already know that they frequently play things other then Science Fiction. I had actually already noticed.
There are a lot of reasons for a Science Fiction fan to dislike the channel. One would be that several nights of the week, they play professional wrestling in prime time. Even the worst space operas are more realistic.
Some of the brilliant and short-lived ideas that they’ve brought to the screen involved remaking Flash Gordon as a series. The movie remake of Flash Gordon was a camp comedy, something which is rather difficult to emulate. Apparently they didn’t notice and redid Flash Gordon as straight adventure. It didn’t last.
Of course it’s easy to find awful television these days. The SyFy channel producing awful television is certainly not unusual, at least not if its awful because it’s stupid and boring. Naturally they’ve started a line of reality television shows, since those are so incredibly cheap to make that it doesn’t really matter whether the ratings are good or not. That is the secret of the dominance of reality television. For the most part, not that many people even like them, but they’ve spread from channel to channel simply because they cost very little to make. Even if almost nobody watches, they still make a profit.
Unfortunately they recently broadened their horizons, and spread into irresponsible, but at this point the viewing public is so jaded i’m not sure anyone will notice. Now they air a show called Paranormal Activity. It’s a difficult show to describe because they actually don’t take the time to explain it much themselves.
Every week, a person introduces himself, usually with one name, like “Steve.” They never mention where he’s from or his last name, but he presents himself as though he’s describing something that really happened in his life. The event usually involves a ghost or demon ho infested his house, and the problem is solved with lots of faith, praying, and occasionally an exorcism.
As I speak of this, I can already hear the chorus of voices saying that it’s just a show. I can tell you exactly when this sort of thing stopped being acceptable to me. It was the day I came home from a trip to see my father who was trying to deal with cancer, and was told that someone had called for me while I was gone because he needed help. When I wasn’t there, he called the only other people he knew who might help him.
He has a long history of schizophrenia, and his symptoms returned. He heard voices and felt desperate. They told him that his problem was that he was being possessed by a demon, and he should stop taking his pills and have an exorcism. When I came back to town, my next stop was to go see him at the Acute Trauma Unit, because he’d slit his wrists after he had a full psychotic break. It occurred after he’d been off his meds. At some point he decided that if he was possessed, the right thing for him to do was die.
The first time I saw this garbage show incidentally, was when I went to see him and his friends. They were watching Paranormal Activity. They regarded it as a documentary, which is excactly how Sy Fy presents it. They in fact go to great lengths to prevent each show as if it’s something which actually happened.
This incidentally, is not the first ‘exorcism’ I’ve heard of. I’ve worked around people with schizophrenia for years, and increasingly people with religious beliefs have felt that it appropriate to interject their opinion on how mentally ill people should be handled. It’s a difficult problem to study, because people with schizophrenia never want to be revealed. This desire for privacy is very understandable, but that and medical privilege makes it very difficult to know just how often this sort of thing happens. Some of the clinicians at the mental health clinic have told me they think it’s a problem which is exploding, but privilege denies me any useful statistics.
If you think that people don’t take the things they say in these movies and shows seriously, then let me tell you that you are wrong. I know that they do. I’m one of the people who gets to clean up the mess when someone decides it’s fine to tell someone experiencing a moment of weakness that they should stop taking their anti-psychotics.
(Ed. Note: “Steve” Davidson- Amazing’s publisher – does not receive the SyFy channel in his cable bundle. Thank goodness.)