Saturday, December 06, 2014

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Korg 70,000 BC: "Magic Claws"

In “Magic Claws,” Korg (Jim Malinda), Bok (Bill Ewing) and Tane (Christopher Mane), hunt a bear, but only succeed in wounding it. Bok is afraid.

Bok, the great hunter, feels humiliated by his fear. “The bear has made me nothing,” he says, and falls into a deep depression.

With Bok in a funk, Korg experiences a vision one night from the “Great Unseen Spirit.”  The spirit tells him that Bok must carry the claws of the Great Bear with him on his person, and if he does so, his great hunting abilities will return.

Bok believes the vision, and the family resumes the hunt for the bear…

In the final moments of “Magic Claws,” Mara (Naomi Pollack) questions Korg directly. Did he really have a vision from the Great Spirit? Or did he just fake the vision so that Bok would return to his normal self? 

Korg’s answer is a deflection.  “Does it matter?” He asks, rhetorically. “Bok has found his courage…”

So here we have another Korg episode (like “The Exile”) that looks very closely at religion and human nature.  In “Magic Claws,” Korg falsely conjures a vision of a God so as to engineer a social good for his brother. He lies, in other words, and claims to speak for God. 

Korg’s actions are fascinating here, and suggest an uncomfortable truth about species: that man has manipulated the religious belief of his own kind since before he could write, for the purposes of social-engineering.

The dictates of the Great Spirit in “Magic Claws,” indeed, foster order and routine in a world where such things are of great importance. Korg’s family cannot survive without Bok acting as hunter, so Korg does what he must to keep Bok in that role. He lies, and claims that an outside force wants Bok to be the hunter.

In this way, religion is important, we can see. It sets down unquestionable laws in a world where lawlessness could de-stabilize everything, but as Korg suggests, it is not what it claims to be: the word of some supernatural being.

Korg behaves as he does here to protect his family, and in a pro-social way. But what happens when the word of God is invoked in an anti-social way by a trusted leader? To launch a war? Or to accuse people of witchcraft or other crimes?  History is dominated by such examples.

How would Korg like it, for example, if Tor invoked a vision of the Unseen Spirit to suggest he can no longer collect fire wood, or fetch water?  

Agree or disagree with the episode’s point of view, it’s rather amazing that Korg 70,000 BC -- a series that aired forty years ago on network television, in a slot for children -- challenged the concept of religion.

Today, we are much more conservative as a nation in terms of our entertainment, and I wager this episode wouldn’t even get on the air without a rewrite that excluded the idea that Korg “lied” and pretended speak for God.

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