“We move from terror and loss,Tarot in Popular Culture: Two TV Shows that Featured Tarot Cards Articles to unexpected good fortune, and out of darkness, hope is born.” -Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, quoting the tarot. It’s inevitable that tarot cards should make it into pop culture. After all, in this world where people are worried about death and mortality, nothing is more alarming than the image of the Death Card. This tarot card is perhaps the most popular in the deck.
Traditionally, TV, film, literature, and the other art have always dramatically presented the sinister side of this tarot card, and so audiences can be forgiven if they mistakenly assume that the Death card is equivalent to actual dying. Just to clarify things, the Death card is not always a dreaded card signifying death. Instead, the Death card should be welcomed for the rebirth that must surely follow; it is longest running show the only way to be reborn. Death then is not just physical dying, but a catalyst for change and transformation to something better and grander. Tarot as a Story-Telling Device What really makes tarot ingrained in pop culture is its inherent story-telling powers. Tarot cards’ rich imagery and symbolism are a great minefield of stories and narratives which have inspired artists everywhere.
And thus we come to two remarkable TV shows which featured tarot cards in an innovative and un-clichéd light. Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, episode in The X-Files (first aired October 13, 1995) In this episode, a serial killer is on the loose, targeting fortune-tellers and tarot card readers. Peter Boyle gives a splendid performance here as Clyde Bruckman, a psychic gifted with the ability to predict people’s death, and whom FBI Agents Mulder and Scully enlist to help them catch the killer’s next victim. Inarguably, this is one of the favourite episodes of many X-philes (fans of the show). Clever story-telling has made an otherwise simple detective drama into a wry but brilliant story.
As such, the episode clearly reveals the tension between Scully’s skepticism and Mulder’s unwavering faith in matters such as psychic divination and fortune-telling. Other People’s Daughters, episode in My So-Called Life (first aired November 4, 1994) Delving into the conflict of mothers versus daughters, this episode has Angela Chase (played by Claire Danes) learning tarot reading through a crash course from her best friend Rayanne’s mom. Who exactly is mothering whom? Here, Angela realises she is a daughter to her mother, as her mother is also a child to her, and their disagreements often arise from their refusal to acknowledge this fact. Angela decides to escape her grandparent’s wedding anniversary party in favor of Rayanne’s birthday party, and there she sees firsthand her best friend’s troubled relationship with her mom. In the end, Angela declares that each tarot card has a name, her friends and family corresponding to the characters in them: the Magician, the Fool, the Empress, etc. No card is all good or bad. We all play a role, each of us is master of our own fate.