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Supernaturalism in Pop Culture – Ghosts, Vampires, and Werewolves, oh my!

By: Laura Paton (lpaton2@uic.edu), Secrion Editor-Student Literature and Art

Recently (meaning in the last decade or so), media has seen a spike in supernatural TV shows, movies, and books. Of course, “Buffy” and “Angel” were popular shows in the 90s, but ever since 2000 pop culture has become obsessed with supernatural beings – be it vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or any other host of supernatural being.

So why is supernaturalism (yes, that’s a word) taking over popular media?  Are people fascinated with the idea that there could be more to our world than we think? Are they trying to escape the humdrum of their everyday lives? Or are they just trying to pick up on skills to handle the supernatural in case there’s a zombie apocalypse (or worse)?

Whatever it is, I can say I’m on that bandwagon. I’m a self-professed lover of most things supernatural (But I liked it before it was cool). I can admit without shame that I did enjoy Twilight back when I was 14 (although the writing is mediocre at best), and I’ve always enjoyed fantasy novels (such as the iconic Harry Potter series). Since I know (even more so lately) a good amount of people share this interest, I’m going to give a few suggestions of books and TV shows that involve all things supernatural.

BOOKS:

Divergent by Veronica Roth – For anyone who liked Hunger Games, this is a great book. That being said, if you didn’t like Hunger Games, you would still enjoy this book. It’s about a futuristic society (set in Chicago!) where people are separated into “factions”, and the motto is “faction before blood”. Veronica Roth, despite being a first-time novelist, creates a beautiful novel that grabs anyone’s attention – I challenge anyone who reads it to put it down willingly. The first two books in the series, Divergent and Insurgent are out, and the third is projected to be released in fall 2013.

Diviners by Libba Bray – Libba Bray, author of the acclaimed Gemma Doyle series (A Great and Terrible Beauty) really outdoes herself in this book (which will soon become a series). This follows the journey of Evie O’Neill, a teenager in the roaring twenties who is shipped off to New York to live with her uncle. There, she encounters a series of grisly and horrifying murders that hint at something more than usual crimes. Together with her uncle and his assistant, Evie sets out to help solve the murders before it’s too late. This book is wonderfully written – if you think it sounds like your basic crime novel, believe me – it is not at all. Libba Bray showcases her wonderful prose in a book that, again, I challenge anyone to put down willingly.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – All I can say about this one is just read it. It may throw some off, being a very long book (I believe this one is 400-500 pages), but it is so absolutely worth it if you love fantasy. The Wise Men’s Fear, the second book of the series, is also out and fabulous. The publication date of the third book in the series, The Doors of Stone has been put off because the author was, according to him, neglecting his wife and child while he was writing. Fans of this series are going crazy waiting for the third, but Patrick Rothfuss’s writing is worth it.

TV SHOWS (note, this list reflects shows I am interested in and would recommend – it is not an exhaustive list of the best supernatural tv shows out there):

Grimm – Grimm is basically like a supernatural law and order. It’s a very engrossing show about these beings called Wesen – humans who can turn into animal creatures at will. The main character, a police officer, is a Grimm – someone who can see Wesen for who they truly are and whose mission and familial destiny it is to get rid of them. But he decides to rebel and even befriend one, creating an interesting dynamic of good guy and bad guy. And all of this takes place in Portland, Oregon. What could be better?

Once Upon a Time – This is the kind of shows that fairy-tale lovers go crazy for. Once Upon a Time takes fairy tale stories and places them in the modern world. The plot is a bit complicated unless you’ve been keeping up with it, and the writing can be rather corny at times. But if you’re looking for a good clean show that is like a Disney movie in the modern world, then this one is for you.

Supernatural – This show has been around for a while, but I felt I had to include it. I would not say this is one of my favorite shows, but I know the fandom for it is huge and I know quite a few people who enjoy it. It’s a show about two brothers who follow their father and try to figure out what supernatural being killed their mother – with quite a lot of humor along the way. I haven’t seen enough of this show to comment on it that much, but I would recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the supernatural– you won’t be disappointed.

I’m not a big movie goer, but if you have a suggestion for a good supernatural movie (or a book or TV show), or if you disagree with my judgments on popular media, feel free to post in the comments!

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