Netflix's Messiah: Could a Magician Fake God?-An Analysis
This blog is an analysis of The Messiah, a fictional Netflix series. This in no way reflects the views of Fantasma magic. If you're a magician, use code: Fantasmafriends for 10% off your entire order!
Netflix’s The Messiah is the breakout extremely controversial series where one may may or may not be the Messiah; a god-sent savior for the human race. The show, regardless of your belief systems raises an interesting and thought provoking question. If there was a divine being on earth, would people believe it or would we just think that they are a magician?
What is the show about?
Al-Masih is the main character of the series, a middle eastern man who seems to have inexplicable abilities which he chooses to use at strategic press worthy moments. These “powers” include taming the weather, healing and even walking on water. Magicians have a long history with religion, especially in the bible (whether you believe the bible is fact or fiction, it is still a text which contains references to magic):
Exodus 7:11: Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts.
Daniel 2:2-13:Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. The king said to them, "I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream." Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: "O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation."
There are various verses in the bible which one could interpret as magicians performing pseudo miracles such as dream interpretation by sorcerers (which could be a reference to cold/warm reading), or the production of animals. The bible also references ancient Egyptian sorcerers, which is notable. Mainly due to the favorite fact of many magicians; the classic trick “The Cups and Balls” can be found in ancient Egyptian artwork.
The connection to magic isn’t an arbitrary connection made by me however. The show explicitly states that Eva Geller, skeptical CIA investigator believes that Al-Masih is a conman. Not just a con-man but a magician. The writers wanted the viewers to debate whether [in the context of the show], whether this Messiah is a magician or a divine being, and to decide for themselves. They drive the nail in the coffin with this point when the CIA interviews the mysterious man’s family and they reveal that they were raised by a magician uncle who taught Al-Masih and his brother the art of magic (tricks, not sorcery) from a young age, Implying that the large following that he has amassed has been “misdirected” by Al-Masih’s illusion. An arbitrary and frankly lazy way to explain the plot which is reminiscent of Now You See Me’s motivation which reads something like: “All of the things in the movie are definitely impossible but they’re magicians so that explains everything!”...But that’s a blog for another day.
What you need to understand about The Messiah
Whether you liked the show or not one point it makes is something the writers probably felt had to be addressed. If there was a divine being on earth from any denomination, we most likely would think he was a magician. The main reason is because magic has evolved to the point where genuine miracles seem possible, or at least it looks like that on TV. There is a scene where Al-Masih walks on water at the U.S. Capital in Washington. Quite beautifully shot, however the funds most likely were not there for the actual stunt (watch episode 6, you’ll understand). Watched by millions on the news, the first thing mentioned by these fictional newscasters is the fact that Dynamo accomplished a similar feat walking over water across the River Thames is 2011.
Derren Brown, another British Illusionist has a whole special on Netflix “Miracle”, where he demonstrates faith healing. He appears to guess ailments and heal them with a flash of divine power. These performers are just that, performers. And I use the word “appears” loosely as it is all on video and not many people have SEEN them do this themselves under test conditions. However the point remains. In an age of incredible video recorded magic, would we believe in “real miracles” if we saw it on TV? Would we if we saw it in person?
The point of this blog is not to highlight one particular religion. But this blog is a historical analysis of a show with biblical tie-ins that forms an argument. Magic has an old “comedy” line that goes something like “You could start a religion in some countries with this trick”. In The Messiah that country is the USA. And the argument, or rather the question the show begs: What would it take for you to believe? One important thing to note is that the “magic” in the show, aside from 1 small effect performed by Al-Masih’s brother is for the most part impossible...The way they show it on TV. For David Copperfield to walk through the great wall of China, he needed to be covered and he needed assistants. Dynamo also used assistants for his illusions… I would be HIGHLY surprised if the show explained how these fictional magic tricks in The Messiah could be accomplished in the manner in which they are shown, mainly because the fictional budget and level secrecy required to do something like walking across the Capitol Reflecting Pool is impossible to attain...at least with technology we know about. But hey- Season 1 ended with an “I take it all back” cliffhanger which again implies that Al-Masih probably does have some sort of “gift”, which conveniently wraps up all inexplicable and loose ends.
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Rajon Lynch Aka RJ The Magican- Director of Fantasma Magic & The Houdini Museum
RJ Lynch is a 23 year old magician and communication graduate. As the director of Fantasma magic and Houdini Museum he has been featured in Fox Ny, NBC New York, AM New York, The New York Times as well as TED. RJ Taught magic at the famous French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts Camp for 3 years before starting the first summer magic program in Shanghai, China in 2018. Rj is from Wsiconsin, home of Houdini, but has since relocated (September 2019) to NYC.