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Friday, 4 February 2005
Now Playing: RE: An angel carnival
Topic: January 2005
As it turns out, the community puts a stay on Pelayo and Elisanda's plans to dispense the angel to the high seas: they arrive and interact with the angel as if it were a circus animal.

The people toss about ideas for what to do with the angel. Make it mayor of the world? Grant it the title of a high-ranking general so as to guarantee the success of all future battles? Breed it?

Me, I'd get it to an animal shelter, immediately. The poor thing needed health care.

Father Gonzaga appears at this point in the story. After a close examination, the priest determines the angel not to be an angel at all, but the work of a meddling Satan who has sent forth his evil in the form of an angel to confuse and influence the masses.

Predictably, the people don't listen. The angel was pathetically frail and covered in parasites. What sort of devil would bother sending such a loser specimen?

Elisanda, instead, begins to charge admission.

My first impulse to this is: How very American of her. Except that I'm wrong. It's not only an American response, to capitalize on something like a fallen angel. The idea of carnivals, and freak shows, and lookyloos, is not original to the West. This is a human inclination, no matter where it occurs. What we don't understand we either wish to kill or to own. The satiation of curiosity seems to be worth paying for.

The angel, of course, takes center stage. Other adjacent carnival acts cannot compete for the attention our Very Old Man receives from people all around, who are there either to see it for themselves, or in a few cases, to seek out healing miracles from the angel.

(Do I truly believe that a fallen angel would actually be treated like a circus animal if it were to happen today? I don't know. I find it more plausible that it would be treated like the sighting of the Virgin Mary, with all the markings of a Great America theme park ride--no line jumping, please!--and with merchandise being sold in the background. ? At any rate, I suppose the way it would be treated would just depend upon the community into which the angel falls. Frankly, my cynical side thinks it'd be better off falling down in some place remote and unspoiled by human beings. But that's just me shortchanging the human race its ability to be compassionate.)

Pelayo and Elisanda make money hand over fist on admissions, while Gabo reports that "the angel was the only one who took no part in his own act." Of course not. The poor thing, it really just needed to be left alone, or at the very least, treated in a more sacred fashion.

Instead, it's left to entertain the masses inside the depths of a stinking chicken coop which eventually collapses under the weight of what we are told is a superficial, minor anomaly: a sideshow act featuring a woman changed into an enormous tarantula.

Huh? How that doesn't rate as highly in the freak show zone as the fallen angel, I don't know. A spider the size of a small farm animal seems miracle-worthy.

This is not to criticize Gabo, but rather to acknowledge his wicked sense of humor and his insights into the human condition. We have this strange capacity for adaptation.

The woman-spider, which would have been a curiosity in any other situation, is treated by the narrator as a kind of blase, second-rate freak element that exists mostly as a nuisance for all involved.

This is precisely how we shape our realities, on the basis of what has come and gone before. It raises the question: When is the unreal acceptably real? In the footsteps of the fallen angel, the anansi-like creature is normal. Real. We're no longer grounded in the reality of the world pre-angel, but in one recast in post-angel reality.

I'm left with an image recalling Godzilla v. Rodan or somesuch. Which freak will destroy the other? This is the prevailing question, not whether any of it is real at all.

Posted by at 12:14 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 4 February 2005 12:57 PM PST
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