Prophets in the margins : fantastic, feminist religion in contemporary American telefantasy
Howell, Charlotte Elizabeth
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In this thesis, I will examine the connected representations of religion and gender in the context of contemporary American telefantasy (a term for science fiction, fantasy, and horror television genres) programs that include characters who experience fantastic visions that can be explained as originating from either divine or medically materialist origins. The fantastic mode, facilitated by telefantasy’s non-verisimilitudinous genre, presents these visions in a liminal space in which religious and gender representations can potentially subvert or challenge patriarchal and hegemonic representational norms. I analyze Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi 2003-2009), Eli Stone (ABC 2008-2009), and Wonderfalls (FOX 2004) for their formal presentation of visions, representations of visionary characters, and the religious representations that form the context for the visions and visionaries. I focus on visionary characters that are directly implicated by the television text as being potential prophets: Laura Roslin and Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica, Eli Stone on Eli Stone, and Jaye Tyler on Wonderfalls. Though each visionary character explores the possibility of subverting patriarchal religious norms, Roslin, Baltar, and Stone’s prophetic roles ultimately privilege patriarchal readings of their narratives, but Jaye, by avoiding the language-symbol systems of traditional religions, maintains the fantastic liminal space and thus the potential for subversion, even if it is only a possibility in the narrative. This thesis seeks to contribute to the scholarship of religious representations in fictional television, with a special emphasis on telefantasy.