Return of the Mother Goddess

In the post just below, I link to Joanna Gardner’s excellent analysis of “Ted Lasso.” Gardner sees the character of Rebecca on the show as a Hera figure–the queen of the gods in the Greek pantheon–but a Hera who has deposed her husband Zeus and taken over running the show while Zeus goes off chasing nymphs, his favorite hobby.

“Ted Lasso” is not the only recent show to give us a mother goddess. “Lucifer” is based on Christian myths, but adds a new character, the Goddess of All Creation, God’s estranged wife. Christianity, like the other Levantine religions (Judaism and Islam) that have their roots the Good-versus-Evil worldview of Zoroastrianism, has historically downplayed the role of the feminine at best–and at worst, aligned “feminine” with Evil.

A shift in this thinking began when the Catholic Church declared in the late 1800s that Mary was free from Original Sin, furthered in 1950 with the doctrine of Mary’s bodily assumption into Heaven, giving her a status different from other mortals. Catholics pray to Mary, asking her to intercede with God so that they can be forgiven. But as a Catholic website declares, “The honor we give to Mary is not to be compared to the worship and praise we give only to Almighty God.” There is no female equivalent to God in Christianity.

The writers of “Lucifer,” however, have been re-imagining Christian theology (see my earlier post, https://jodybower.com/2020/10/07/the-theological-psychology-of-lucifer/). Just as Gardner argues the writers of “Ted Lasso” do, the “Lucifer” crew are taking on what she calls “toxic divinity,” the religious underpinnings of toxic masculinity, head on. In this re-imagining, God has a wife. He banished her to Hell millennia ago for being too uppity, just as he did with his oldest son who dared challenge his authority. But both Lucifer and the goddess escape their prison and come to Earth, the middle realm, the place-between where they can explore who they really want to be. The goddess is too powerful for this realm, and eventually Lucifer uses the flaming sword to cut an opening in the universe into a new potential place where the goddess can make her own world. And in time, God admits he’s made some big mistakes, decides he’s tired of running the show, and chooses to follow her–after agreeing that it’s her house and her rules this time.

Both shows hired actresses suitable to playing a goddess. They are tall, stunningly beautiful, and powerful. People respond to their characters as someone to be worshipped (as Gardner points out, Ted Lasso brings Rebecca an offering of biscuits every day). They are presented as not only equal to, but in some ways better than their divine husbands.

“The Good Place” also offered us a female deity in the person of The Judge. Over time it is revealed that The Judge also has the power of creation; first she creates a Middle Place between the Good Place and the Bad Place where people who don’t deserve to go elsewhere can live out eternity. But in time she is convinced to change the rules entirely and let everyone spend as much time as needed working out their sins until they become worthy of Heaven. And eventually, when people find that an eternity of bliss can actually pall, she changes things again so that people can pass through a door, give up their individual existence, and become one with all.

I see these characters as attempts not just to redress the male-over-female imbalance inherent in the religions that have fundamentally shaped our Western culture, but to re-imagine those religions in ways better suited to our current culture. I will be watching to see what happens with this trend.

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