Psychics and mediums in the movies are traditionally depicted as shrewd, flaky or simply evil. To this day it remains the exception to the rule to find a decent film or television show that genuine psychics will be able to relate to. Very few films in the archives offer a reasonably authentic representation of the ordinary psychic’s true life experiences.
The range of stereotypical stock characters in film is almost never-ending: from the typical dumb blondes and computer-hacking geeks, to corrupt Catholic priests, zany black cops, Las Vegas mobsters, flamboyant gay men, conspiring politicians, sex-obsessed teenagers and bombastic corporate executives with fat cigars.
Of course, psychics and mediums also make the perfect stereotype. We are ideal to be cast in the role of the satanic villain, or merely as an odd source of comic relief. For example, Whoopi Goldberg’s madcap portrayal of Oda Mae Brown, the fraudulent medium in Ghost (1990), was so well-received after the film’s release that she won a Golden Globe for her hilarious antics, as well as an Academy Award.
Hollywood relies on these stereotypes to increase box office success. Portraying misrepresented characters in a one-dimensional manner has a much wider audience appeal. Sadly, it also leads to ignorance, misconception, prejudice and discrimination.
It all began way back with silent movies like The Spanish Dancer (1923), in which the famous Polish femme fatale, Pola Negri, portrays her exotic version of the typical Gypsy fortune teller, and later Blithe Spirit (1945), the entertaining British comedy starring Margaret Rutherford as Madame Arcati, an eccentric medium who hosts a whacky séance
From there it pretty much went downhill. Films like The Black Widow (1947) involves a fortune-telling spy from an Asian country, intent on world domination, and The Village of the Damned (1960) features wicked little blonde children, with glowing eyes and psychic powers, threatening to destroy mankind forever.
In my youth there were hardly any characters on the big screen I would consider inspiring, or at least somewhat realistic role-models for a gifted child. At the time films like Blood Orgy of the She Devils (1972), Psychic Killer (1975) and Carrie (1976) were the typical money-spinners.
In those days most films depicted psychic abilities, such as psychokinesis, precognition, astral travelling and telepathy, as tools of demonic witchcraft, or as terrifying murder weapons. No wonder it took me and some of my peers years to figure out who and what we were; to find our feet and accept what really makes us tick. Many of today’s reputable psychics and mediums grew up with unnecessary shame, fear and social alienation – too often due to what people saw on the silver screen.
MY FAVORITE PSYCHIC MOVIES
Over the years some skeptics have also allowed themselves to be suckered by these stereotypes, to such an extent that they do not always base their criticism of psychics and paranormal phenomena on pure scientific fact or evidence.
Many false ideas and opinions about psychics sprout from inaccurate perceptions and prejudice, often created by the modern media and pop culture. I guess some folks will always expect only the worst, and too often simply believe what they see and read, regardless of it being based on fact or fiction.
Fortunately, the times are gradually changing. In recent years a few mainstream films have been featuring characters with psychic abilities who defy the old school version. These films no longer portray the gifted person as a weirdo, con artist or devil worshipper. In fact, the latest movies produced in this genre even feature the psychic or medium as the hero!
Excellent examples of this trend can be seen in The Gift (2000) starring Cate Blanchett as the local psychic in a small town, as well as the soon to be released Hereafter (2010), featuring Matt Damon as a blue-collar factory worker who happens to be a very reluctant psychic medium.
Rumor also has it that Robert De Niro has signed up to play the role of a psychic in a new thriller, Red Lights, alongside Sigourney Weaver. The movie is set to start shooting next year and will feature Weaver as a physiologist conducting a paranormal research project, with De Niro as her subject. Will De Niro’s character be the freak, the villain or the hero?
Modern filmmakers seem to be more sensitive to gender, culture and religious diversity. Outdated stereotypes are increasingly being replaced with more accurate portrayals of people who deviate from the so-called ‘norm’. The portrayal of psychic phenomena and mediumship is therefore also becoming much more realistic, accurate and thought-provoking. This is further encouraged by the information age, which offers people easier access to knowledge and data, as well as a global spiritual awakening and shift in consciousness.
Psychics and mediums are no longer merely the villians or freaks in trashy, low-budget B-movies. We have come a long way since the previous century. Not only will psychic films continue to be more realistic in future, but a growing number of them will also be based on factual evidence, true stories and real-life events. Psychic movie heroes will become the new norm in the years to come. It is simply a sign of the times.
© 2010 Anthon St Maarten