Monday, March 12, 2012

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Babies

Well, this is an easy cult-tv meme to dissect.  

In cult television, the baby represents all our hopes for the future. Babies symbolize our cherished tomorrows and the opportunity to make the world a better, more peaceful place.  If something happens to a baby then, well, the future is itself in terrible jeopardy.  Perhaps there won't be any more tomorrows at all...

Babies can bring people together, even if they are from warring factions, as we see from Star Trek's "Friday's Child." The episode ends with a Capellan baby -- the son of a slain leader -- coming to power with his mother/regent (played by Julie Newmar).  The child's name?  James Leonard Akaar.

Sometimes, especially in horror programs, the arrival of a baby portends a terrible darkness.  The first baby born on Moonbase Alpha, Jackie Crawford, becomes possessed by an alien being in Space: 1999's "Alpha Child."   

Similarly, in  FX's American Horror Story, the baby of a human/ghost rape promises a dark turn in human history yet to be written.  

In stories like Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Disaster," the arrival of a baby (Molly O'Brien) during a crisis reminds us that life goes on, and doesn't stop for hiccups or cosmic string collisions.   In stories such as The Fantastic Journey's "The Innocent Prey," a baby is also seen as a symbol of total innocence, devoid of sin and vice.

Cult-television does seem  obsessed with showing us unusual, non-human babies, as we see from the birth of Visitors ("The Littlest Dragon") on V: The Series," a Newcomer baby on Alien Nation (1988) and even the son of  vampires in Angel (1999 - 2005).  

In some cases, the arrival of a baby feels like a Hail Mary ratings ploy aimed towards renewing a flagging program (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: "The Family Hour"), and sometimes it is used to explain a real life pregnancy (The X-Files).  

In other cases, adding a baby is a way, simply, of showing the passage of time and a character's new found embrace of life (Dexter).

Although it doesn't feature a baby on screen, perhaps the best description of a baby's influence upon us is found in the Millennium second season episode, "Monster," wherein Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) emotionally describes the birth of his daughter, Jordan.

He says: 

"When my daughter was born, it was the most important day of my life.  I had a child late in life and when she came out, she looked like...her head was shaped like a football...And everybody in that room got zapped by God.  They were all jaded nurses and doctors, and we were all stoned from the joy of this experience.  You remember?  And I realize I'd forgotten that I was born. I thought I'd manufactured myself.  And the gift she gave me from that day on is that I could look at every man and see the child in them."

So babies on cult-television?  They symbolize innocence, renewal...and hope in tiny packages.

1 comment:

  1. "and sometimes it is used to explain a real life pregnancy (The X-Files)."

    Not exactly - when Gillian Anderson was pregnant in real life (end of Season 1/beginning of Season 2), her character of Scully was abducted and there is one shot of her very pregnant belly being experimented on (most likely to cause hyperovulation). But Scully wasn't pregnant in any traditional sense until Season 8 (with William) and that didn't coincide with Gillian Anderson being pregnant. It was revealed Scully did have another child named "Emily" (apparently as a result of her abduction) but that child would have been created using Scully's harvested ova in yet another experiment...