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October 07 2008

Should Angel Season 4 help you vote for next President? A new list from io9 thinks so, It asked several political pundits what sci-fi stories are appropriate for the current presidential campaign. Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online chose "Angel" episodes that featured Jasmine, played by Gina Torres, who gave the world peace and harmony...for a price.

He says the lesson is that unity isn't all that's cracked up to be. "Unity can be useful," he says, "but it is also very, very dangerous. That's why the founders conceived of a system of divided government, after all." Other stories on the last include "Wall-E" and "The Handmaid's Tale".

I vote for The Handmaid's Tale out of these, though I think I could come up with better ones given time. I don't want to discuss Jonah Goldberg's description of Angel season 4 (still one of my two favorite seasons) but that's not unusual because I don't want to discuss his desecration of anything.
I thought the "divided government" your founding fathers envisioned was about splitting the executive and legislative branches ? Isn't the "unity" Obama "preaches" more about avoiding partisanship over important issues (i.e. uniting Republicans and Democrats, red and blue states under the umbrella of 'American') ? And anyway, Jasmine wasn't about unity, unity was just a symptom of people relinquishing freedom of choice. So I don't really see what that Goldberg fella's on about, it's apples and oranges.

(also, Connor knew all along exactly what she looked like so there's a factual error there too since it wasn't just Fred)

Don't really "get" this as a poll idea - you decide how to vote by looking at the real world and informing yourself about the issues, not by forming specious analogies between the world and variously unrelated works of fiction. If the world's gone to shit it's not worse because that makes it "just like 1984", it's worse because '1984' was a frikkin' book whereas the world is real.
Jasmine was the best War on Iraq allegory I saw anywhere - and oddly enough came along pretty much at the same time that it started. (With Angel, I suppose, as George W Bush. Now there's a thought.)
So I don't really see what that Goldberg fella's on about...

He's on about the acrobatics of making anything and everything appear to support and justify his own political views, even a story (just to make the point here) that could just as easily be argued as an anti-Bush statement against abusing the yearning for national unity in order to pursue one's own selfish interests.

(Except, of course, Bush isn't black, something Jonah goes out of his way to point out about Jasmine as part of his anti-Obama message.)

[ edited by theonetruebix on 2008-10-07 11:01 ]
The division of power was supposed to be about the "balance" of power, not to prevent unity, but to prevent one set of people, or set of separate interests from dominating another. How well it works in practice may be questionable, but the idea was to unite these interests into a working, united federal whole.

"That Goldberg fella" and his kin are all about unity when it comes to questioning the virtues of say, criticizing an ongoing war. Then it's "useful", I guess, to label dissenters as disloyal and call for national unity.

Anyway, fiction can provide useful metaphors, but doesn't prove anything, regardless of how you twist it, because, as saje noted, it's not real.
All I know is that Jasmine was definately an allegory to the Anti-Christ. And I also know there are people out there CONVINCED (me not so much) that Obama is the Anti-Christ. So to make this comparison is not all that far-fetched. As soon as I saw the fact that he was comparing season 4 to this election I knew what side he was on and what he was going to say without having to read a word of it. So in his eyes, and also based on the facts of the matter, this is a fair comparison. Not saying it's the right one, but it is fair.
All I know is that Jasmine was definately an allegory to the Anti-Christ.

Can I ask how you know that Turbofist911, is that something Joss or one of the other producers has said in interview (or elsewhere) ? A link would be great if so ;).
Jasmine, a woman who aspires to lead the world by charming people without saying anything of substance. Obama is not the person who comes to mind.
I feel dumber having read this article
Well, that was something yucky to go with my coffee.
Politics and good times are unmixy things :)
A purposely inaccurate reading with a side order of bigotry. Nice.
Thanks for mentioning that the link goes to something spewed by Jonah Goldberg. Saves me having to waste my time reading it. (Stunned that this thread is still here, incidentally...)
"Jasmine, a woman who aspires to lead the world by charming people without saying anything of substance. Obama is not the person who comes to mind."

Actually, if you replace "woman" with "being," I think he is.
Let's just remember to keep it civil - its never too late to delete :).
... and this news story does what, exactly, to unite, rather than divide, Whedonesque's membership?
As someone who suddenly appears and aspires to gain love and authority through personal charm and appearance, especially on the "sudden appearance" front, Jasmine seems an analogy for Sarah Palin, which I *think* is what redeem147 was alluding to. Though since Jasmine hit international consciousness first, I guess Gov. Palin is an analogy for Jasmine. National presidential politics as a form of fanfic, who'd'a thunk? :)

I really don't see either Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain as asking voters to give up their free will and freedom in exchange for peace -- in my opinion, that's hooey. What I think of Mr. Goldberg equating Jasmine and Sen. Obama because of their ethnicity I am not sure can be expressed by words currently available in my vocabulary -- as George Orwell might have said, "Double-plus ungood."
... and this news story does what, exactly, to unite, rather than divide, Whedonesque's membership?


Well, theoretically we all discuss it without getting cranky and we realize that its okay that we have fundamental political, philosophical, religious, etc. differences and we can still discuss controversial topics without turning into divisive horses' arses. Theoretically ;).
Theory's always so pretty until you try to touch it with reality.

I thought the "divided government" your founding fathers envisioned was about splitting the executive and legislative branches ?

And judicial, yes. Three branches, each of which is meant to keep the other two in check. Although things have changed since their original ideas about that.

My scifi election reading suggestion is The Telling.
Why does politics have to infect my Whedoning now? Why? Especially by someone who is trying to use something I love to promote points that I would think are laughable, if they were not so desperately sad.
dreamlogic theonetruebix montresor; Not having read the article yet, I can't address the race angle. But, regardless of Joss's own polticis or his itnentions conscious or sub-, in the story arc we saw, once a work is published it's fair game for a reader/viewer to draw what he/she may from it. I think the postmodernists call that "reader-response theory;" Dana5140 knows nore about that than I do. I've always just called it "readers' rights."


I just read it. The only "racial" aspect to this comment was mentioning the race of the character of Jasmine. Just mentioning it. Well, yes, I can see that the race of the human disguise Jasmine used isn't relevant to what "she" did. But it's still a fact, and I can't see just mentioning as a racial attack. Maybe it's just my small-town naivete, maybe I'm Pennsylvania's equivalent of Radar O'Reilly but that's my honest reaction. And yes, I'm very familiar with Jonah Goldberg's columns.

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-10-07 17:59 ]

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2008-10-07 20:23 ]
I didn't see much about Joss's intentions in these comments, DaddyCatALSO. Some people just don't appreciate that reader's response,and use of the material, and say why. If we can't discuss anything, what's the point of talking about this stuff at all?

I find a the give and take, reasonable agreements and disagreements a lot more interesting than I would , say, a bunch of free standing essays on what various works "Mean to Me" from various fans, with respectful silence from everyone else.
Re: "reader response", we've read Mr Goldberg's piece and now we're responding, it's working exactly how it's supposed to as far as I can tell. And then, as toast says, people respond to our responses and before you know it a punch up conversation's taking place ;).

Theory's always so pretty until you try to touch it with reality.

Heh, who was it that said "the difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there's no difference" ? ;)

I thought the "divided government" your founding fathers envisioned was about splitting the executive and legislative branches ?

And judicial, yes. Three branches, each of which is meant to keep the other two in check. Although things have changed since their original ideas about that.


For the better ? Ooh, ooh, let me guess, I know this one ... ;).
Well before you get all "here's how you broke your system," you should know that some of what we consider basic and important now, like the Supreme Court's power to review lower cases and decide on their constitutionality, isn't in the Constitution. We didn't fight that one out for good until 1803.
Wouldn't dream of it - i've only the most tenuous grasp of how it works, never mind pointing out to you how it doesn't ;).
...charming people without saying anything of substance...

All politicians do that at one time or another, some are worse offenders than others, so using that to snipe at specific politicians is kinda dishonest.

montresor said:
"Why does politics have to infect my Whedoning now? Why? Especially by someone who is trying to use something I love to promote points that I would think are laughable, if they were not so desperately sad."

It's not like having the odd Whedon-related debate about politics, religion, or sex[uality] drags down the site or anything. If I click on a thread and see that it's not going in a direction that interests me, or it annoys me, or upsets me (almost never that, though), I stop reading the thread and don't bother commenting. I don't see how it's constructive to question the existence of the thread, or of the article. We're free to ignore, move along, and let others enjoy the read and the dissecting that comes after.

The only time I ever felt politics and the current political climate encroaching on Buffyverse storytelling in a blatently obvious and sometimes annoying way was with Buffy's speechifying in Season 7.

With Jasmine, it felt like it had a lot less to do with politics or the anti-Christ (Joss is an atheist and, while he did throw "Heaven" into the Buffyverse, or at least a heaven-like state, I seriously doubt he would intentionally bring obvious Christian portrayls into the franchise...except for the ones I'm probably forgetting). In the end, there was a debate about the value of free will in that storyline, and the old "have to crack a few eggs to make an omlette" argument as well. Jasmine argued that her consuming a few hundred [a few thousand?] people each week or month or whatever it was, was justifiable because her enforced harmony saved billions. I dunno, it just seemed like there was a lot of debate-worthy meat to that season on its own, though I can appreciate using it as an allegory for current events as well. I'm not sure why Goldberg felt the need to point out Jasmine's skin tone, her race really had no relevance to the story except maybe in enhancing her multi-ethnic, Earth-mothery image. It didn't seem like she was specifically intended to be "black" (regardless of the actor playing her), I mean she was born of two caucasians so race shouldn't have even been a factor in his commentary.

Also someone mentioned upthread that Jasmine's influence was internatonal, but I'm pretty sure it was resitricted to LA...except for people with satellite or digital cable (and less people had it back in 2003) at the time who were tuning into LA channels. I'm sure the logistics of why it didn't touch Sunnydale [much?] and Buffy's gang might need some working out, but I guess you could fanwank that it pretty much came down to them all being too busy and threatened to watch TV that year.
Again, here is another story that, yes, does have a Joss "hook" but is essentially a pretext for a partisan political argument, intentional or not. I'll grant it's a much rarer bird in that it cuts against Obama rather than in his favor, but I still don't think Whedonesque should be making itself available for this kind of argument.
Well, as Kris points out, which threads you participate in is entirely up to yourself KingOfCretins. Which threads are allowed to stay is up to the mods though.
This is way better than the last political thread which became a trading of the soundbytes of the da pretty quickly.

Saje it sounds like you understand the American system about as well as I understand how parliament works.
Jasmine's influence was spread by people seeing her (unless they came into contact with her blood) -- hence the importance of her press teleconferences, which would beam her image out worldwide.
KingofCretins : This particular Joss hook has some real Joss substance, unlike T-shirts and unamed celebs in newspaper columns
Saje it sounds like you understand the American system about as well as I understand how parliament works.

If the extent of your knowledge is basically "They have a really big clock there" then yep, that's about as much as I know Sunfire ;-).

OK, OK, i'm not quite that ignorant, picked up a few bits and pieces by watching folk complain about where the current administration is allegedly undermining the system. The biggest difference in practice seems to be, less of our stuff is formalised - we don't have a single written constitution - and the separation of powers is much less clear cut since the PM is still a member of parliament (i.e. the legislature). And we don't strictly elect a leader (though most people will consider who'll become Prime Minister when they vote) we actually vote for a Member of Parliament to represent our local constituency - the UK's split into about 650 - and then whoever leads the party with the most MPs in the House of Commons after a general election becomes PM. Oh and general election campaigns last about 4 weeks as opposed to your, what is it, infinity months ? ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2008-10-07 22:47 ]
I always thought that Jasmine had to be exposed not only for the free will aspect, but because she seemed to need more and more people to eat...it seemed exponential...and only a while before she'd run out and have to find another dimension to charm and ravage.
Joss has always said that his shows are deeply political, and I believe they are; however, I tend not to see them as specific parables about our current political situation, with this character as this politician or whatever. Well, "Serenity" is maybe a tirade against what Joss may see as the media and the government failing to report the ugly reality behind the manufactured story of the world.

The most famous politician in the 'verse is The Mayor, who never actually had any evidence of having any policies at all. The most obvious example of him dealing with situations he did not himself create is in "Gingerbread", where he says some reassuring things but makes no effort either to find the culprits or to stop the town from going mad. I suppose his emphasis on family values positions him as a bit more of a Republican caricature (not that both parties in the US don't appeal to this), but that was more a personal trait than a campaign slogan. He seemed, again, more of a mockery of politics as a whole, and of authority (which is the whole theme of the season--what with graduation, leaving the Council, letting go of the older boyfriend, etc.), than anyone specifically. The Mayor is so smooth and likable that he never actually does anything besides consume, consume, consume.

Angel season four is a complex and confusing case; the number of changes that went on in midseason make it a bit incoherent. I agree though that Jasmine represents, like the Alliance, absolute authority by suppressing dissent entirely; there may be good intentions there, but it is a sacrifice of freedom that shouldn't be tolerated. Jasmine, like the Mayor, eats people (well, he does eventually), but she does actually bring positive changes--peace, death to vamps, etc., whereas the Mayor brings, again, nothing to the table. There's a lot in there about Jasmine's vanity as well, which reflects on politicians as well. I don't really think the actual argument (everyone is one big happy family, and that's obviously what Obama wants so Obama is wrong) makes much sense; both candidates have enthusiastically extolled the virtues of "reaching across the aisle" when it's appropriate, which is certainly not the same thing as removing people's *ability* and *right* to disagree.

As far as Jasmine and Obama being black: well, they are, but I don't see the point he's trying to make by bringing it up.

Jasmine as the Anti-Christ: really? Why would Joss et al. make an allegory about the anti-Christ, who has not existed?

daylight: How is Angel season four about Iraq? I don't really see it.
Personally when it comes to Angel I like to pretend Season 4 doesn't exist.... :)
Hey, I thought of this before Goldberg! On Jan. 3, during the primaries, I wrote: "... how about Obama as Jasmine? Tall, attractive, came on the scene suddenly. The message seems new, but is actually the same old stuff. Promises to unite but then attacks opponents."

At Slayage, my favorite speaker compared Jasmine's last conversation with Angel to "The Grand Inquisitor" in Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov." The inquisitor promises to ease suffering but forces everyone to unite in the Church. He says that, by giving people free will, Jesus has condemned the majority to suffer.
Like Senators (I'll not name the party) who think Medicare offers too many choices of providers, so they want to protect particpating citizens from confusion.
This guy is a complete moron. George Washington himself warned of the danger of political parties, because all they do is divide people and work against the common good.
Calling people complete morons is unhelpful, unpersuasive and, in fact, against site rules regarding personal attacks. Can we watch that please.

From my perspective, separation of powers still works pretty well although, certainly, some of the powers in question have evolved greatly since the Constitution was adopted. But I don't particularly care for the writer's analogy: "high priest of a cult of unity" is a colorful metaphor, but bears little resemblance to facts, IMHO, and I don't think the kind of "unity" that Senator Obama espouses has much, if anything, to do with Jasmine's vision, as WilliamTheB has said very eloquently above.
I think the British Westminster system works a fair bit better than the US style total separation of powers. The US system basically means that it's incredibly difficult for the executive or legislature to actually get anything done.

While we're going with incredibly dodgy Whedonverse parallels I think McCain is the mayor. He's got some charm but he's actually a giant snake demon who's been living for hundrds of years.
The US system basically means that it's incredibly difficult for the executive or legislature to actually get anything done.


Of course, there are those of us who think that's a point in its favor. :-)
Well, true, the US was set up as a checks and balances system. But I'm not at all convinced that having governments unable to do much gives better results than the British model. Though I definitely think separation of powers is important as far as the judiciary goes
Thanks SNT! A yellow man noticed me! I'm blushing!
But I'm not at all convinced that having governments unable to do much gives better results than the British model. Though I definitely think separation of powers is important as far as the judiciary goes

Where ours seems to work better is, it's fairly unusual for one party to have such an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons that they can just railroad legislation through and the PM, being an MP, doesn't have a party political veto over anything (he/she does in the EU, as a representative of the British people). And as with most things in the UK system, in practice our judiciary is very independent of parliament BUT we don't have any constitutional guarantee of that AFAIK (the Law Lords, kind of the last word in the UK legal system, are also, as the name might suggest, members of the House of Lords, the upper house of parliament which is sort of our version of the Senate - i.e. it's partly there as a check/balance against the Commons, even though it has less power, being unelected).

But I do admire the US system of separation and checks/balances on paper, even if sometimes in reality it hamstrings attempts at change (and I also think Civics classes in schools are a great idea - dunno about now but when I was at school over here there was nothing like that, no organised attempt to inform kids about how their democracy works, anything you picked up would be from history lessons or self-study/osmosis).

[ edited by Saje on 2008-10-08 11:19 ]
I saw Jasmine, like the Mayor, as an allegory of a political entity that consumes its own citizens. Jasmine's vanity allowed her to view the casual sacrifice of a small percentage of the population as a fair price for her continuing power. Just as the administration of that time thought the sacrifice of a relatively few American lives (the troops are after all only a small fraction of Americans and Iraqi lives don't count at all) as an acceptable price for launching an unnecessary war that they wanted for a variety of tangled reasons (oil, Oedipal one-upmanship etc.)
RE: SNT. I was responding to the person in the original article, not what anyone on the site said.

The pundit who made the original suggestion obviously has racist leanings, and he re-writes the well-record history of the country to try to make a current candidate's noble goal of unity look evil. He's either purposely deceiving people, or he just doesn't know what he's talking about. Either way, not someone who deserves a pulpit.
I don't think it's "deceiving," just a well-considered warning that things aren't always what either the people buying or the person selling thinks they are.

I like Goldberg; he's one of those rare-ish prominent conservatives columnists who isn't actively in favor of maximal environmental degradation.

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