Hard to believe its been nearly a year since I had to post about modern Pagans appearing in a trashy reality television program! I should have known that the siren-call of money and fame/infamy would be too much for some in our extended community to miss. This time its an Australian program entitled “The One: The Search for Australia’s Most Gifted Psychic”, a game show/reality television program in the vein of “America’s Got Talent” or “Hell’s Kitchen”, only with psychics.
The host and contestants of “The One”.
“English statutes against witchcraft were repealed in 1736 and public executions are no longer sanctioned as entertainment, at least not in Australia, but Channel Seven has devised an alternative ordeal – a televised quest for Australia’s top psychic. Seven contestants – mediums, psychics, clairvoyants, a “medical intuitive” and a witch – undergo tests to prove their paranormal abilities. They have to find a lost boy in the bush with a bit of help from his teddy, examine memorabilia from celebrities and deduce who they belong to, and find contraband inside a shipping container.”
So this spoon-bending Survivor already has one Witch as a contestant, but we get a double-dose this time around, because one of the two judges is a Witch too!
“Using the good cop-bad cop formula loved by reality TV, two judges – Richard Saunders, vice-president of the Australian Skeptics, and Stacey Demarco, a practising witch and author – decide each week who stays or goes until three contestants are left. The winner will be chosen by a public vote … Stacey Demarco, who teaches metaphysics and has written books on how to apply witchcraft in the boardroom and the bedroom, is the believing panellist. “I’m a rational type of expert, I’m not the purple tie-dye type of witch. I just want people to come into this with a really open mind. It’s not a circus act or an act of any kind. “The contestants are normal people, they’ve got husbands, wife, kids, pets, a house in the suburbs and they are considered weirdos, freaks, satanists just because they have these abilities.” Only a couple of episodes have been shot but, Demarco says, the show lives up to its billing that it will make “hairs stand up on end”.”
So who is Stacey Demarco? Well, she authored two books for Llewellyn, “Witch in the Bedroom: Proven Sensual Magic”, and “Witch in the Boardroom: Proven Business Magic”, was initiated as a solitary Witch (though I’m not sure what she means by that), and has a background in PR and marketing (which most likely explains how she got this gig). Demarco’s role marks something of a step up for Pagans in reality television, from mere entertainment fodder to playing a role in the selection/elimination process. Of course the larger question is if modern Pagans should be participating in the vapid, soulless, and cheapening reality television market in the first place.
While shows like “Wife Swap” and its ilk have portrayed Wicca and modern Paganism as bizarre lifestyle choices (instead of, say, a serious religious faith), “The One” will most likely portray Witchcraft as an enhancement/byproduct of possessing psychic powers (though I suppose I could live in hope…). Neither of these approaches does much to broadcast an accurate picture of our family of faiths, or give insight into the fact that we worship multiple gods, have our own holidays, and are (generally speaking) rather pedestrian in our lifestyle choices and attitudes. The saddest thing is that every time our faiths get run into the ground on one of these programs, there is always another Witch or Pagan out there who thinks “I’ll be different”. To them I say, no one is more powerful than the video editors, those great powers who decide which of your words to emphasize, and actions to highlight.
I suppose there is always the chance that this program will be different. But I’ve been down this road before, and don’t hold out too much hope that our faiths won’t be trivialized for the sake of entertainment. To my readers in Australia, keep an eye on this show (which premieres on Tuesday) and fill me in on how it is. Who knows, maybe we’ll all get lucky for a change.