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Reply To: The Antlered Child,” with Mythologist Joanna Gardner, Ph.D.”


    Stephen, thank you so much for bringing in these images. I think you are absolutely right that these Paleolithic images of dancing animal figures represent residents of the imaginal realm. They also function as access points between the every-day and imaginal worlds: the images exist physically in here-and-now reality, and at the same time they grant us entry into the more-than-real by way of our imagination.

    And thank you for pointing out their dancing! That kinetic energy also underscores their dual aspect. The figures are not literally dancing, and yet they give us the imaginal experience of animal rhythm and movement. And don’t they convey some of the true, actual vitality and energy of real animals? Imaginal images employ literal falsehoods to portray adjacent truths. (There’s a wonderful scene in Sweet Tooth Episode 2 when Gus hears music for the first time and can’t help but dance. Highly recommended!)

    You also raise a fascinating question about magical realism and magical thinking. The distinction, for me, lies in the terms “realism” and “thinking.” Magical realism apprehends reality by means of awe, amazement, and wonder, while magical thinking involves errors of logic and fact. Magical realism is an experience of the sacred through artistic imagery. Magical thinking, on the other hand, is a defense against reality, often involving denial and delusion, as you quite rightly point out. Magical realism can be a very vulnerable position to take, in its openness to experience. Magical thinking is often brittle and embattled. While freely confess that I am not immune to magical thinking, my aspirations lie in the camp of magical realism.

    Sweet Tooth is very interesting as an example of magical realism. I think the show’s primary genre is science fiction, positing a “what-if” scenario in a future where scientific work has resulted in an unexpected situation. But in moments like the buck’s arrival behind Gus, the fictive world opens out beyond itself, exactly the way magical realism can do. I also feel that the show renders its magical moments in particularly generous and open-hearted ways, which I appreciate very much.

    At least that’s how I see it. Very curious to hear others’ views on Sweet Tooth and any of these topics!