Have you ever noticed what a terrible literary character “God” is?
Not like the Greeks. Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo – they were interesting, and they got involved. But “God”? Blegh.
That’s why Jesus, you know. People got bored, and they wanted a god who could put bums on seats, one with some good lines. Jesus can be pretty entertaining, in a rebel without a cause way. He’s uneven, but he has moments.
But “God” is so boring they had to get George Burns to play the part, so that people would think there’s someone interesting behind the name. But there isn’t. George Burns was just acting (he was acting George Burns), and the ____________ behind George Burns is boring as fuck.
Acolyte of Sagan says
I though Morgan Freeman played God far better than Burns (although Montgomerie Burns would play him better than anyone; not a lot of acting would be required for that devious old sod); at least his voice was pleasant on the ear.
Rey Fox says
The trouble is that everyone conflates Jesus with God. That whole 3=1 thing.
Ineffable beings beyond human comprehension and all that rot inevitably make boring non-characters.
I say, eff the ineffable!
Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin says
Well, if you had faith in the holy holy holy you wouldn’t have any problems concerning conflation. The 3=1 would be so logical.
Tom Foss says
This is why I find the pre-monotheism history of Judaism fascinating. It’s a lot more interesting than the watered-down, flattened out nonsense that made it into the Torah.
Al Dente says
God is boring? Yahweh is one of the great villains of fiction, on a par with Sauron or Lord Valdemort. A narcissistic, sadistic bully, he kills people just because he can. He sets people up to fail and punishes them when they do fail. He loves playing jokes on his followers, like when he told Abraham to kill his son. Think about how Yahweh shit all over Job because of a bet. If you want to read about a true sociopath, there’s none better than Yahweh.
Tom Foss says
Eh, I think good villains at least need to have coherent motivations. Yahweh’s characterization is all over the place, which really undercuts his ability to be truly menacing. A good villain should either be truly frightening or frighteningly appealing. Yahweh blunders his way through most of the great events of the Bible, and while there’s certainly terror to be had in a villain who is basically an omnipotent lunkhead with a hot temper and an immature streak, the Bible doesn’t really bother exploring it. That Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” explored a similar character with far greater effectiveness. The allure of absolute power without oversight is certainly one that could make for a compelling villain–we all wonder what we’d do with omnipotence, and it’d be easy to see a character whose good intentions are twisted to evil ends, or whose pettiness becomes malevolence when backed by true power–but again the Bible never really explores this, either.
I think part of the problem is that the book is all over the place tonally and thematically, with no common thread or even a heroic protagonist. The second book in the series introduces the Jesus character, who could present an interesting foil in a Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader sort of way, but the conflict never occurs. The notion that they’re actually the same person would be interesting, and could provide some psychological horror in its own way, but without that conflict, it’s just a meaningless reveal. And it’s not like the Expanded Universe does anything to improve on the originals.
Frankly, both books are in need of a good editor and some rewrites. Decide if it’s going to be high fantasy or realism or some kind of Mesopotamian urban fantasy, and go from there–the abrupt shifts between real-world politics and wars and worlds where snakes talk and the globe floods don’t do this story any favors. Then pick a protagonist and an antagonist, figure out what their motivations are, and run with it. The anthology style just doesn’t work.
The Christian god is more aloof than the Greco-Roman pantheon, but I think that increases its attraction among philosophers and holy types. Easier to project your own desires on an amorphous blob than a Zeus that goes around turning into a swan and raping people.
theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) says
They got the formula down pat. Violence sells, but not like in the babble. One has to get graphic and gory to lure the punters.
But the the real drawing cards are sex and drama (how little has changed). Whether it is Zeus cheating on His Wife, or Hera seducing Hubby into drug fueled fuck-fests, the lurid narrative must keep going at a crackling pace.
theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物) says
@ Tom Foss
Rather than reading the bible, I think you might far more enjoy the sci-fi film Forbidden Planet (1956). It delves into the issue of omnipotence connected to the underlying psych. Well worth watching and it ties in with what you suggest the bible could have been if its ideas had been properly articulated and developed.
I liked Ralph Richardson’s batty old Supreme Being in The Time Bandits
AJ Milne says
It may just be the timing–I would have been watching and reading works of this calibre around the time I was also attending Sunday School and getting my first at all organized ‘theology’, such as it was–but I tend to associate the Abrahamic ‘Yahweh’ with cheaply-rendered and badly written kids’ cartoons from the cell animation done on the cheap school, and pulpy comic books of the same era. Think that terrible, repetitive ‘Hercules’ thing they used to show after school; that’s about the quality we’re talking here… Nay, not Warner Brothers’ stuff; that has (or had) a wonderful anarchic quality, is for its era technically brilliant, and actually makes you laugh. We’re more talking the also-rans, the space fillers, here.
… oh, right… it might also be the equally abysmal bible stories comic strips they handed out in Sunday school creates this association for me. Obvious enough explanation, I guess.
Anyway, that’s Yahweh. Not particularly believable, not particularly multidimensional, not particularly entertaining, not really that interesting on any level. Villain or hero, whatev, he’s drawn in these washed out colours, the dialogue is stilted, clichéd, and painfully predictable, the animation terribly jerky. The overall impression here is: even the vast wasteland deserves better than this. People make fun of Jack Chick’s terrible stuff, but, honestly, it’s not like he’s really reaching any lower than his source material should naturally inspire. Hell, he’s probably about the level of artist this stuff deserves.
It wasn’t so much some deeply analytical thought, or not deliberately. I just always kind of classed those things tomorrow. Bible stories and cheap comics. The writing is usually about as good…
But in retrospect, I figure maybe it actually makes some sense. Insofar as those religious legends kinda were/are a sort of lowest common denominator entertainment, too, also aiming at mass appeal. The Saturday morning cartoons were meant to sell the kids sugary cereals and action figures. The bible stories sell them the religion. The similarities shouldn’t be so surprising, I guess.
AJ Milne says
Meh. s/tomorrow/together. Don’t know what that’s about. Talking about bad literature bads up my lingo, apparently. Apoplexies, peeps.
That’s why Jesus, you know. People got bored, and they wanted a god who could put bums on seats, one with some good lines.
Bah. They should read Lucifer by Gaiman , then by Mike Carey. Way better lines.
Erring is right. Errol is human. Linguini is red herring. Apes excepted.
Eamon Knight says
I’ll take this opportunity to plug a friend’s blog, in which she’s blgging her way through the Pentateuch: http://www.carpescriptura.com/.
@6: She points out all the places where God’s being more than a bit of an abusive father, messing with his chosen people’s heads, then punishing them for reacting.
And every saint in European mythology, especially the BVM. And Satan and the panoply of demons, also angels of various degrees. So much for monotheism.
Al Dente has a good point. The Yahweh of the OT was interesting in a repulsive way. Back before he was omnipotent, he could be seen walking in the garden at the cool of day, he could be defeated by armies with iron chariots, he could get pissed off and kill everybody and create rainbows after the genocide was completed.
The problem was that people also wanted their god to be righteous and holy and almighty, and that god obviously wasn’t. So they made an abstraction of God. Abstractions aren’t interesting, at least not in the way powerful flawed personalities are.
God is pretty boring, yes.
But his followers and their squabbles the first coupla hundred years are pretty fun.
Pity only that some of them actually won.