Strange Angel

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Strange Angel TV Poster Image
Cult rituals, weird sex in intriguing period biography.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Characters persevere when they meet obstacles, a great message that's subverted somewhat as they also break rules and do reckless things and are rewarded nonetheless. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jack is an unusual man, both brilliant and gifted as well as willing to do unscrupulous things to further his aims. Wife Susan is loyal to her husband to a fault, often putting aside her own wishes to focus on what he wants. Jack's colleague Ernest is unpredictable, a follower of the occult credo "Do what thou wilt." 

Violence

Violence is often connected with (dark) magical rituals: an altar with a naked (private parts covered) woman said to be a virgin about to be "sacrificed," an animal sacrifice takes place offscreen. We hear the noises of an animal suddenly cut off, then a man emerges with bottles of blood and a bloody rag that he uses to wipe a knife. A repeated saying is "If you never face down death, you'll never glimpse what's on the other side," used to justify reckless behavior. 

Sex

Part of Parsons' story involves his association with a "sex magick" cult. Expect to see group sex (with no nudity), occult rituals involving naked women (private parts are covered), and polyamorous relationships. Characters have sex with rhythmic motions, moaning, and passionate kissing; everything is covered by a sheet. A dream sequence shows a nude man (genitals covered by sheet) being caressed by multiple scantily clad women. 

Language

Cursing and language includes "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "son of a bitch," "piss poor." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main characters smoke cigarettes prominently and frequently. A man crashes his motorcycle and then drinks from a flask, and is told he's drunk. Scenes take place in bars with characters drinking cocktails. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Strange Angel is a drama based on the real-life story of a rocket scientist who becomes involved in an occult group. This occult group is connected with "sex magick," so expect to see practitioners having group sex, sexual relationships with more than one person at a time, rituals with nude women (all private parts are covered). The group's rituals also have violent aspects, with a woman who is said to be about to be "sacrificed" and an animal sacrifice that takes place out of our view (we do hear animal noises and see blood and a bloody knife). Several characters smoke cigarettes frequently, as was usual for the time. Scenes take place in bars, and in some scenes, characters drink to the point of sloppiness or danger, like when a drunk man crashes a motorcycle. Cursing and language includes "f--k," "f--king," "son of a bitch," "piss poor." Female characters are given relatively short shrift in this drama, and most of the action is male-driven. 

 

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What's the story?

STRANGE ANGEL relates the bizarre life story of Jack Parsons (Jack Reynor) a restless scientist whose rocketry experiments with friend Richard Onsted (Peter Mark Kendall) became the basis for America's space program -- and whose complicated personal life, including a long-term association with the occult philosophies of Aleister Crowley, ultimately spelled his doom. 

Is it any good?

Reading as something like a cross between Mad Men and The Master, this drama about an eccentric rocketeer-turned-occultist is as strange as the man it depicts. Period piece fans won't be surprised by some things: suspenders, rattly old Ford trucks, radio shows, a billboard touting Pasadena as a fertile land of orange groves. But then there are the sex magick rites, animal sacrifices, chalices of blood, and virgins on altars. True story: the very same guy who spent his days figuring out the basics of jet propulsion spent his nights adhering to the philosophy of occultist Aleister Crowley (and later, welcoming Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard into his magical circle). 

It's all very weird -- and very entertaining. Viewers weary of the beats of a typical biography (diversity followed by incredible success, repeat as many times as necessary to fill up time) will be intrigued with the twists and turns of Parsons' life, and how his restless brilliance was accompanies by an equally strong self-destructive streak. Why? And how did he finally destroy himself? Wikipedia can give you the outline -- but Strange Angel scores by filling in the details enchantingly. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the group that Jack joins. Is it a cult? What's the difference between a cult and a religion? How can you tell? 

  • Is Jack a man to be admired? Is he presented as an admirable man? Is he sympathetic? How do shows communicate how to feel about characters? How does Strange Angel present Jack to us: as a hero or antihero? Or both? 

  • Many shows are set in other time periods. How does this one communicate the time period of its setting? Consider dialogue, set dressing, music, and costumes in your answer. 

TV details

For kids who love history

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