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April 15, 2005

The inertia of slack

Sorry for my lack of contribution to this site. It's been a busy week. And when it wasn't busy, it was far too nice outside for me to spend it sitting in front of the computer.

Part of the problem (and part of the solution is admitting it) is that the longer I stay away -- for whatever reason -- the easier staying away becomes. When you're uninspired, it's easier to stay uninspired than to expend energy in the search for inspiration.

But while I didn't spend a lot of leisure time in front of the computer, I did spent a few hours in front of the television. And here's what's been inspiring me:

Wonderfalls was a television series that aired briefly on the Fox network last year. Though it launched to critical acclaim and quickly gained a strong following, it wasn't strong enough, and the series was cancelled after only four episodes aired. But 13 episodes were produced, and they're now out on DVD.

Though I've only seen about half the episodes so far, I'm really enjoying the series. The premise is certainly original. The protagonist, Jaye Tyler, is a twenty-something slacker who attended Brown University and earned a degree in philosophy, but then returned to her home in Niagara Falls where she works in a souvenir shop and lives in a trailer park, much to the chagrin of her affluent, successful family.

Though Jaye's main personality trait is an ironic detachment to life and the people around her, everything changes when a lion figurine at the souvenir shop begins talking to her. The lion (and a wide assortment of knick-knacks and chotchkies) start commanding Jaye to commit random acts of kindness. Though these acts don't always seem like kindness, no one is more surprised than Jaye when obeying the voices brings about good consequences for those around her.

On the surface it sounds like a one-gimmick show, yet over the course of just the seven episodes I've seen, I'd say the show works on multiple levels. On one level, the show perfectly captures that angsty post-college period of finding your place in the world. The snappy dialogue and ironic sensibility fit the wacky situations that Jaye encounters. But on a deeper level viewers will notice existential questions about God and life and "the meaning of it all." This other level isn't readily apparent in the four episodes that aired, but start to color the series in the episodes viewers will only get to see on DVD.

Jaye, the slacker philosophy student who hears voices and reluctantly accepts her role as "Joan of Niagara Falls" find a fitting foil in her brother, an atheist theology student who first thinks Jaye is going crazy, but begins doubting his belief that nothing is out there.

Christians will probably be a little put off by prime-time-level obscenities ("bitch" or "ass" for example) and the frank talk of sex (the series is not appropriate for children in spite of having the occasional talking puppet), but may find much to embrace in a tale of a woman who regularly hears a still, small voice and obeys it. In being forced to connect with other people -- in spite of herself -- she changes both their lives and her own.

The show has also has me reflecting on God's providence, and passages such as Jeremiah 29:11 or Romans 8:28. The objects that speak to Jaye do not explain themselves, and at times their instructions seem counterproductive (in one episode she is told to smash the taillight on a car) but there are always good results.

And sometimes following God means doing things that just seem . . . crazy. Or sometimes things seem like they must be outside of God's will because they don't make sense from a human point of view. But everything works out for the good anyway.

In that sense the show strengthens my own faith and has me listening a little more carefully for the still, small voice.

Drew says "check it out"

Posted by Drew at April 15, 2005 05:51 PM

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I'll chime in with an echo. Ann Althouse on her blog said good things about that show, and I got the DVD series too. I haven't seen as many episodes as you, but I've enjoyed them a lot. So y'all, listen to Drew, y'hear.

Posted by: Mark Olson at April 15, 2005 07:55 PM