Yesterday, Candida Moss offered a brief but very excellent piece on the Daily Beast about angels and our cultural expectations. What really annoys me is that angels are 1) seen in very much anthropomorphic terms ala Touched By An Angel, 2) that angels are here for us, serving our self-centered needs, being non-disruptive to our day to day lives.
In stark contrast to this approach, one of my favorite television shows, Supernatural took a quite different perspective. In context, for the first three seasons, the only supernatural beings we encounter with the Winchester brothers are demons, zombies, werewolves, vampires, and werewolves for the most part. Season 4 changes everything, as the audience is introduced to angels who wear trenchcoats. Angels we learn have the ability to be more powerful than demons, but because of their “dickish” behavior, and bureaucratic infighting, chaos happens on a regular basis. Yes, angels do adopt meatsuits (human beings who volunteer to exist as shells for our angelic overlords, but the terror that the angels bring to Sam and Dean is something that goes against the grain of popular ideas concerning these celestial beings. Yes, Castiel announces himself as “an Angel of the Lord,” but “God has left the building” in the SPNuniverse so one must rightly ask, just which god are we referring to (if not the lost ancient gods of Greece who wound up lost in the American midwest!). The reason why Supernatural as a series is superior to our favorite cultural image of angels is that angels are portrayed as monstrosities for us to fear, similar to what we see in the Old Testament as Candida Moss pointed out.
“Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, “Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” “- Judges 6:22, NRSV