It's a Kind of Magic
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It's a Kind of Magic

Sarah Adkins

"It's a Kind of Magic"

In 1995, there was a flood. It covered many places, including the small town of Smith's Ferry (Glasgow Borough), Pennsylvania where my grandparents lived. Thus, they came to live with us. It was hard. While I loved them, we didn't always get along. My grandma picked at everything, and my grandfather didn't have his hearing aids yet. One day I came home from play practice and my grandma was watching television. I noticed a devastatingly handsome fellow and sat down to watch. Enter Highlander: The Series. Highlander was a calming, steadying force in the choppy waters. It was something we could enjoy together every day. Eventually my grandparents left, but my interest in Highlander stayed. It developed from being attracted to the star to falling in love with the entire production. I wanted to know everything. One definition of a cult, by the way, according to Webster's New World College Dictionary, is "a. devoted attachment to, or extravagant admiration for, a person, principle, or lifestyle." Anyways, virtually no one in my small town had even heard of this French-Canadian production, so I turned to the Internet. There I found an almost cult-like fellowship of fans. The question I am asking is why? Why is Highlander such a world-wide cult phenomenon.
What firsts attracts viewers to stop the clicker on Highlander or go see the movie? For the females it's mostly Duncan MacLeod, the main character of Highlander: The Series, played by British actor Adrian Paul. "Duncan MacLeod seemed carved from marble, perfect proportions, and a dark brooding expression," says fan Beth King. For some males it's the action- the sword fighting and that decapitating business. The immortals must engage in combat. They cannot be killed unless they get their head cut off causing the immortal who is doing the chopping to receive all of his/her power. Neither of these, however, are strong enough to keep a viewer or to gain a cult following. "Beauty alone could not have held me," says another fan, "Rottweiler MacWench." "I had a busy life and a happy marriage and didn't need a fantasy life." So what made this show stick?
"Highlander…accomplished wonders on a small budget with amazing photography, characters that are indelible and themes of justice, mercy, forgiveness and other deep subjects that feed the spirit. It is a classic story of heroes, right, wrong, and filled with romance, history, action and fun to boot," says "Rottweiler MacWench" at "The Highlander Forum."
"What can I say about Highlander, other than it is the most thought provoking show to ever air on television?" asks "Harmony" on the forum. "It causes me to re-examine my own beliefs and morals, allowing me to question what I would do under the same circumstances. Good vs. evil isn't as black and white as one would like to believe. HL illustrates this better than anything I can think of."
According to star Adrian Paul in Highlander: The Watchers Guide, by Maureen Russel, Highlander "has such an interesting premise: Immortals dealing with human problems and human morals."
"We always deal with consequence. The show is about consequences. And the show is about nobody gets away with anything. It always comes back to you. You always have to deal with the consequences of an act of violence, of a lie, of telling the truth. It's about moral issues," says Jim Byrnes, who plays Joe Dawson. Joe Dawson is Duncan's watcher, and circumstances force them to meet, and they become good friends. It's against the watcher's rules, but Joe had no other choice at the time (The Renegade Watchers had killed a friend of Duncan's, and Duncan was going to destroy all Watcher's because he didn't know they weren't all bad), later Joe is tried for it, found guilty, and ordered executed, but his execution gets interrupted, and, well, that's another story…suffice it to say Joe's still alive and with the Watchers.
Another watcher is Adam Pierson, played by Peter Wingfield. However, this mild-mannered watcher is just an immortal in disguise. In fact, it is Methos, the oldest living immortal.
"They are my friends," is Wingfield's explanation. "And I have no comparable experience with a show before. And I would expect none in the future. It is a very rare thing. It is, I have no doubt, the reason for the success of the show. The people in it get on, they work together well, because they like each other, they respect each other."
Perhaps the show has such a following because of friendship. Not just the friendship of the actors on the show, but of us, the viewers. I am a member of a list serve, the DFW (Duncan Flag Wavers), I post on the Rysher forum, and I am in fan clubs. I have noticed great camaraderie among Highlander fans. And this camaraderie knows no ages. I have friend on the 'net as old as 77. "The show was wonderful," says Beth King, "but the friends I've made and the enthusiasm I've experienced with people is the best part of Highlander. It will be a part of my life for years to come. I don't think I can say this of any other TV show that I've seen since 1954 when I watched American Bandstand on a fuzzy black and white TV screen in the front room of the rural farmhouse that I grew up in."
"With others to 'enthuse' with, HL became even more for me," adds "SBO." "At the tender age of 40, I joined my first fan club-ever…and now I am a month away from attending my first (and hopefully not last) Highlander convention!"
Why does Highlander have such a worldwide cult following. Is it the questions it poses, the morality issues, the history, the romance, the friendship? I think it's all of these amalgamated. In any case, as MacLeods and Queen so eloquently stated, "It's a kind of magic."

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