Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: The Secrets of Isis: "Dreams of Flight"

In “Dreams of Flight,” a braggart named Mark Dawson (Paul Hinckley) attempts to prevent a Mexican-American girl, Chela (Cynthia Aida) from flying her model plane in an upcoming celebration, Aeronautics Day. 

Chela’s brother, Raul (Fabian Gregory), meanwhile, doesn’t believe that girls can fly planes, or compete against boys in contests, and forbids her to participate in the festivities.

Mrs. Thomas (Joanna Cameron) intervenes with Raul, and he realizes he cannot stand in the way of his sister’s dream, especially since Mark is a racist and a jerk.  But when Raul is left to guard Chela’s plane, Mark steals it and runs away.

Raul gives chase to a construction site, but Isis’s powers are required to make certain both boys survive…

In The Secrets of Isis episode “Dreams of Flight,” a young woman, Chela, finds the path to her dreams blocked at every step by sexists and racist fellow-students (including her brother!), but ultimately gets to show her stuff…thanks to Isis.

Once again, it’s a little weird to consider how this Filmation series of the 1970s constantly addresses intercultural issues, gender issues, and the like, yet explores so little in terms of super-heroics. 

Most episodes of Isis are kind of bracing to watch because the conflicts are so issue-oriented (a boy doesn’t think a girl can fly a plane, for example).  There’s almost never a real criminal or bad guy to contend with, just anti-social issues or prejudices to combat  

And suddenly then a superhero appears -- reversing time or some such thing -- and nobody blinks an eye. Everyone just accept that Isis exists, operates nearby, and can magically achieve miracles. Yet she isn’t out there stopping fires in a nearby city, diverting tornadoes or ending wars or riots. 

No she’s helping high school students learn lessons in morality. 

What would the press say about such a person?  Local and national authorities?  “Gee, we love Isis.  We sure could have used her help during the hurricane, but she was busy teaching a kid not to judge a book by its cover.”

It’s just incredibly weird, and insular. 

I realize, of course, the series is aimed at children and that it aired on Saturday morning. It takes as its model, Adventures of Superman (1951-1958), but that series had a wider more realistic scope in the sense that viewers actually saw how the press reported the Man of Steel’s activities, or how the local police (and Inspector Henderson) viewed his exploits. As viewers we could contextualize Kal-El more fully and thoroughly.  The world of Isis is so small and closed-off that we don’t get this viewpoint.  We are limited basically, to a high school population.

“Dreams of Flight” loads on the social and intercultural issues -- racism, sexism, culture-based value-systems and so forth -- and ends with peace, understanding and friendship.  That’s a wonderful message to send children, but not exactly entertaining on its face.  The episode ends with the racist, Mark noting that he’s “really been a dope,” and Mrs. Thomas adding that “I guess we learned something today.”

It’s pro-social, for sure, and valuable for kids to see how people of different belief systems get along, but perhaps the most “fantastic” element of the series is the way that offenders (racists, sexists, etc.) turn around and forsake their beliefs, seeing the light.  Life is rarely that easy, or that simple. Changing a belief system is hard, and even the magic of Isis would have a tough time with it.

As far as Isis’s powers go, this week’s episode finds her levitating Mark from a high perch, and bringing him gently to the ground.  He thus gets the experience of flight, which he has longed dreamed about, and his life is saved at the same time.

Next week, season two of Isis starts with “Seeing-Eye Horse.”

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