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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In which we offend every New Age person reading this blog....

Enlightened - "Pilot"

This show focuses on a woman into what lots of people call “The New Age movement.” But not the cool, confusing, heady parts. This show is about New Age 101. Mostly just meditation and shallow platitudes. The thing about this part of New Ageism is that no one can really argue with it, but plenty of people have a problem with it. Sure, positive thinking is a good thing. Making new starts and making amends are also healthy. But they are just not ENOUGH for most people to change their lives.

That’s part of what doesn’t work for us about this TV show. Amy Jellicoe’s whole outlook on life is changed by things that just aren’t powerful enough to transform you. The experiences Amy has (or what we see of them in the pilot) just don’t have that kind of juice. Sure, the big sea turtle was cool, and many people can experience God/life force/whatever through nature. Another thing that doesn’t work for us is that the show doesn’t seem to know if it supports this kind of thing or if it wants to mock it.

That is realistic, because we think that’s the way a lot of people see New Age books, meditation, and talk about the universe. In the right crowd or at the right time, lots of people will roll with it. “I believe in a God. You believe in some universal force? SAME THING!” At other times, they will deem it wishy washy, stupid, or a waste of time. Because most of it really can mesh with lots of religions and lots of forms of atheism. Your stance on it will be as flexible as the “belief system” itself. This kind of modern spirituality has become a catch-all for people who realize that humans are spiritual beings but who don’t want a label or don’t agree with any established religion.

You get a lot of types who differ in beliefs, rituals, habits, and backgrounds. That’s one of the things that is awesome about that crowd. But sometimes when people are afraid to make a gathering about something (because someone in the group might choose not to work with that concept), it’s hard to make your gathering about anything. Except for trees. Everyone likes trees. But are they powerful enough that you will become enlightened by thinking about them in a seated position?

Amy works at a company called “Abbadon,” which, as any religion (or LOST) nerd knows, means “hell” in Hebrew. She has a breakdown while she is there after having an affair with her boss and getting transferred to an inferior department. She takes two months off, goes to rehab, swims with turtles, and does hippie dippy activities that make her want to be different when she gets back. And different she is. She dresses casually (like a hippie), has curlier hair, hugs strangers, smiles, and tries to keep her temper in check. That doesn’t always work.

That’s realistic. No matter what belief system is changing your life, it doesn’t happen all at once. Don’t let this post fool you into thinking we are totally against all of this hippie stuff. There’s a lot of truth in it, and if you are open to it, you might learn new thought processes or tools to deal with life. What you can get out of this post is that we think Eckhart Tolle and his intellectual ilk are a supplement to real life, not the complete guide.

It can spark debate, call you out for splitting hairs or demanding that your own terminology be used, and it can make you more accepting and understanding of people who think differently. It can make you care about the environment more, be more open, and be less rule-oriented in your worldview. And yoga is relaxing. We dip into the pool, take what we like, add it to what already works for us, and run with it. Also, hippies are really into rocks. All kinds of rocks, big and small. Rocks. Are. Awesome. Anyway...

Amy’s problems are relatable, and lots of people today are embarking on a similar spiritual journey. Lots of people also have trouble communicating with a parent. Lots of people have addict husbands who look like Luke Wilson with a beard. So why is Amy so hard to relate to then? Whether she is following her new beliefs or lashing out, Amy comes across like a side-show. A train crash. We're pretty sure even Oprah's most loyal followers, people who have feathers in their house to clear energy, and psychics would think that both Amy and this show are too shallow and simplistic. What crowd is this catering to?

This show doesn't know what it is yet. It's supposed to be a comedy, but who are we laughing at? Amy? The miserable drones around her? The show is not really funny. It’s tone is uneven and confusing. The premise is too ordinary. And the voiceover gives us plenty of platitudes that sound like nothing, but they are expected to be taken seriously. Sure, the voiceover is true. But it is missing conviction, oomph, and self-awareness. Much like this show. Much like the New Age movement.

Episode grade: C+

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