Angels have their origins and significance in Christianity, but we also find them in art, song, and conversation. We’ve all heard of a suspiciously sweet toddler being described as an ‘angel’ (or maybe you were that golden child). Now angels seem to be taking the reins from vampires as the hot topic for literature and film, but I wonder whether this topic has something more to offer than a page-turner.
Hush, Hush is one among a recent spate of novels on the subject. The author Anne Rice was made famous by her novel-turned-movie Interview with the Vampire, but has now turned her attention to angels. One could see this angelic fiction as a response to the success of the Twilight series, and the explosion of the paranormal teen romance genre. True, there are similarities between the two – both describe immortal beings that interact with humanity and vaguely resemble humans – but then again, angels and vampires are technically on opposite sides of the good/evil dividing line (and if it were a competition, I know which immortal being I would choose on hygiene reasons alone). However, these books (and films) deserve more than a trite comparison.
This fascination with angels is not just a trend, as demonstrated by the permanence of this ‘trend’. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy gave angels a pivotal role in the destruction and recreation of his fantasy world, and the film Wings of Desire won numerous prizes and a cult following. And who could forget the prominent vampire character named Angel in the TV series Buffy? Irony or subtle character development? You decide.
But why do angels garner such reference? It may be that the fascination with angels is based on much deeper aspirations. Angels are indicative of virtuous qualities. They are perfect, sinless beings that reflect and protect goodness: in this, they represent the goodness that we might be capable of some day. God’s winged angels strike a terrifyingly beautiful pose, filled with power and wisdom, who exist as a link between God and humanity – as demonstrated by the image of the guardian angel.
However, angels in recent fiction are not always portrayed as perfect or even necessarily good individuals. Yet perhaps this is not a bad thing, as it creates inspiring characters that the audience can still relate to. In Hush, Hush, Patch is a fallen angel who is less than perfect. Falling from heaven makes him flawed and in the end enables his greater interaction with humanity. But despite his flaws, Patch is shown to be selfless, heroic, and truly good: with this angel you get an attempt at perfection on earth. Angels give us a hopeful world, as well as a glimpse at an afterlife, and we wish that to be true, even if our experience of it is limited to fiction.