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“Lost”: Man of Science Becomes Miracle Worker

posted by donna freitas

Last night’s “Lost” episode, called “The Hunting Party,” revolved around Jack’s (Matthew Fox) character and revealed an interesting tidbit about his history. Known thus far as the “Man of Science” on the Island–as opposed to Locke ,and now Mr. Eko, who are the most obvious men of faith–Jack’s ability to take leaps into the unknown is apparently far more developed than fans have previously been led to believe.

The episode went into Jack’s past as a doctor, during his marriage to Sarah. As it turns out, the long-ago operation Jack performed on Sarah, which, against all odds, saved her from a life as a parapalegic and later led to their falling in love, was deemed a “miracle” by people within the medical field and the world over. Since that miraculous surgery, Jack came to be known as “The Miracle Worker” in his profession, a title you’d think this “Man of Science” would reject. Instead, it becomes a heavy burden, as he tries to work similar miracles on patients with the most hopeless diagnoses.

How will this new dimension of Jack’s character play out in his life on the Island? This question is left up in the air, at least so far. Fans will have to see what Jack’s complex character has in store as the season continues.

Bishop of Blues

posted by burb

While on the Blog of Daniel, the Episcopal Church’s site for discussion of the NBC series “Book of Daniel”–check out the entry titled “My Bishop Rocks–Literally.” (Click here to go directly to it.) It announces a rare New York City appearance by The Chane Gang, a blues band anchored by John Bryson Chane on drums. Chane’s day gig is being the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C. Chane was a rocker in his 20s, until one night, while touring with a band in the ’70s, he picked up a Gideon’s Bible and found his calling. He walked away from his new band, Music Explosion, which recorded its sole hit, “A Little Bit of Soul,” only a few weeks later.

The Chane Gang will be at Manhattan’s The Knitting Factory on Feb. 3. Here’s an NPR radio story from 2004 on Chane’s musical and spiritual trajectory.

“Scrubs” Finds Its Heart & Soul in a “New God”

posted by kris rasmussen

I tuned in last night to NBC’s Scrubs, a quirky sitcom about a group of doctors and residents, and was, to my surprise, treated to one of the best half-hours of television I have watched in a long time. The episode was called “My New God,” which led me to expect yet another TV show mocking those of us who actively practice our religious beliefs. Instead, the episode offered a thoughtful and tender look at the struggles we all have with faith and doubt.

The main storyline focused on one doctor, Perry Cox, and his sister, Paige, who comes for a visit to see her baby nephew get baptized–something Perry is against. Perry is less than happy with his sister for another reason: She became a zealous born-again Christian since the last time he saw her. After numerous barbs about the pointlessness of believing in God and a cartoonish portrayal of a Christian by actress Cheryl Hines, the entire episode is suddenly redeemed at the baptismal service. The residents, as well as Dr. Cox himself (standing in the back of the church drinking a beer), attend the service, not necessarily as a sign of support or belief, but as an acknowledgement that while they don’t have all the answers, looking at the miracle of an innocent child as he is baptized is just enough to make them question their disbelief and reconsider the idea of faith in something greater than themselves.

An even-sweeter note of redemption closes the show, as Perry and Paige shoot basketball hoops and Perry admits that his struggle with Paige is not about God after all, but about his struggle with himself and his desire to forget his hurtful childhood. With such smart, fearless treatment of spirituality and human frailty (the second storyline, about a stolen Buddha, was also delightful), I will be checking back into this hospital more often.

Jack Bauer’s Martyrdom Complex Rides Again

posted by donna freitas

Fans of Fox’s smash hit drama “24” are already well into another season of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) withstanding the most stressful of situations by sheer willpower and his serious penchant for bodily danger. By now in its “fifth day,” the show has made us accept Jack as a kind of martyr in the making. His pointed and often reckless desire to sacrifice himself on behalf of his country has become the norm, sparking continued banter on “24″ message boards about whether this will finally be “the day” that Jack will actually be martyred. Fans are always wondering if this is Kiefer’s last hurrah playing this beloved, conflicted, and intensely heroic character, and the end of last year–I mean “day”–left us wondering about his fate until this week’s season premiere, when we found out that he had faked his own “death.” (And last year, the show’s producers and Sutherland’s TV appearances tried hard to leave the door open that Jack Bauer might meet his maker very soon) .

In an earlier post, “24′ & Its Murky Hero Return to Fight Another Day,” fellow blogger Doug Howe talked about how Jack’s character shows viewers a more “human side of what it is like to be a hero.” Yet as much as I love the show (and I am obsessive about it), and as much as I love seeing Jack do what he does best yet again (i.e., almost get himself and everyone he knows and loves killed) in the special four-hour, two-night season-premier indulgence, I have to disagree with the idea that Jack’s portrayal of the hero is rather “human.” Howe compares Jack’s heroics to the more human side of Jesus’s heroics, but in my mind, Jack is not so much aspiring to be human as he is aspiring to be godly.

One of the most consistent characteristics of this non-Everyman we love to watch each week is that he is constantly–and without much thought or reflection–taking into his own hands the fate of people he knows and loves as well as large numbers of people he doesn’t know at all. In other words, I see Jack acting as a kind of literal god on the show, a god who gets to make decisions about who lives and who dies and how that all comes about. This year’s season seems no different in this regard, as we watched while Jack sit by and let one teenage boy die at the hands of terrorists in exchange for saving a different teenage boy, Derek, whom he both cares about and whose mother he happens to be dating.

And speaking of dating, women beware this man. Getting involved with Jack Bauer means either death, exposure to potentially severe bodily harm, and no matter what, a tragic end to the relationship. The failed relationships are piling high now for Jack. And, though fans of the show might all still be thanking god that his daughter, Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) is no longer around after three annoying seasons, on the love relationship end she fared no better. Friends and I used to joke that Kim should have on a sign warning all potential suitors saying: “Date Kim, Lose a Limb” since literally, season after season, whoeve she dated either lost an arm or a leg.

But I digress. And don’t get me wrong, I love Jack, I do. It’s just that he thinks he’s something more than human, i.e. God, and while that’s fun to watch, it doesn’t teach me much about the human side of heroism.

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