We're moving Forums to the Community pages. Click here for more information and updates.

A Grimm Community
Friday 8:00 PM on NBC
The most recent episode of Grimm featured the discovery of a mummified wesen, an Anubis, I suppose. This discovery set off a chain of different cultural and personal reactions: the desire of the human academic to preserve, study and display the find as a valuable historical artifact; the offense at displaying a wesen body, however academically valuable, in any public context by the terrorist-activists of the Beati Paoli, the Wesen Council, and both Monroe and Rosalee; and the less emotionally invested understanding by Nick, Hank and Juliette who are more concerned with solving the homicide of the intruder and the guard than anything to do with the mummy. Ultimately, I found Grimm's resolution of this whole episode culturally tone deaf and many of its characters wildly hypocritical in unacknowledged ways.

There is a relevant and ethically complex discussion to be had about the exhumation of human remains and their subsequent handling and display in academic and educational contexts, including universities and museums. A fair discussion demands consideration of (1) the academic value of a find and its potential contribution to our scientific and historical understanding, (2) the likely cultural beliefs—at least as we understand them, largely determined by item #1—of the individual whose remains are under question and therefore what constitutes "respect" for those remains, and (3) the sensibilities of the (potential) viewing public and their sense of propriety in the display of the human body. There is no entirely satisfying answer for any situation, and the likely default for this debate will always remain respectful dissensus, but this is not actually the debate as "Once We Were Gods" presented it.

(Egyptian mummy on display at the British Museum)

Before I elaborate why I was displeased by "Once We Were Gods", it should be mentioned that there were very pragmatic reasons for not allowing the university and Professor Gates to keep the mummified Anubis. If the existence of wesen must be kept a secret, then the preserved body of a woged wesen could not be allowed to be subjected to academic and medical analysis. But, despite this urgency, this was not the argument advanced by the characters.

1. Aside from the caveat above, what makes wesen remains any different than human ones? In other words, why should the mummified Anubis be treated any differently than a human mummy from the same period? The remains in "Once We Were Gods" were given distinction because they belonged to wesen. Rosalee and Monroe made no larger claims about other remains in museums or academia, and the disrespect they charged for the Anubis did not extend to other humans. Aside from raising the very troubling question of wesen "humanity," it unjustifiably elevates wesen above ordinary humans. Certainly, the torture, murder, and unconsensual mummification of the Anubis was horrific, but so were the unmentioned (but historical) human sacrifices evidenced in many Ancient Egyptian burial sites. Should the same "respect" be accorded to them?

2. Rosalee and Monroe seem too pleased for my comfort about the revered status of ancient wesen. Whatever identity they might feel with their long-dead wesen "ancestors" (see #3), fondly recalling the eras when wesen were worshipped as gods is a little unsettling by analogy, though I suppose not at all uncommon by analogy. The nostalgia of one's perceived past is essentially disguised desire, and here it is desire for supremacy over humans. Wanting to be worshiped is strange and I would have thought uncharacteristic of our favorite wesen couple, but here they are starry-eyed before the prospect of deification. It is odd.


3. By all indications, the idea of "wesen culture" is a fiction, but the wesen in the episode leverage it as though it has validity.
One thing Grimm has made absolutely clear in three seasons is that there are substantial cultural differences not only between wesen "species" but across geographical and chronological distance. A culture may have a traceable heritage—although this too is quite rare, even if it is imagined not to be—but that does not mean that the culture does not change in deep and meaningful ways. No currently living individual—no matter if they share (or think they share) genetic, geographical, political, or religious identity—can speak as one within the culture of the individual whose remains are in question. At best, we can hope to speak on behalf of it and our necessarily flawed understanding of it.

Most of the time, the vicissitudes of history nullify this sense of identity anyway. To give an example, whatever you believe about the claims of the modern nation of Greece to the Parthenon fragments housed in the British Museum (another ethically complicated debate), there is no direct claim that government can make except occupying the same geographic territory. The modern Greek government is not the Athenian polis, millenia of migration and invasion have eroded any direct ethnic continuity, and for the rest of the Greek states the Parthenon would have been a monument of Athenian hegemony rather than an icon of Greek cultural achievement as it is now. It has, like the wesen in "Once We Were Gods", imposed a modern category onto an ancient one and essentially proclaimed them identical.


4. Despite all their nagging about respecting the remains of the wesen and indignation at its treatment at the university, Monroe, Rosalee and Alexander all decide to cremate the body of an Ancient Egyptian without any regard for his likely ideas of the afterlife.
The very reason bodies of rich people were mummified and they were buried with slaves, wives, and riches is that they believed those things—including the body—were needed in the afterlife. There is, in fact, no evidence that cremation was ever practiced during the relevant period no matter one's social station. It is, ultimately, the last thing the Anubis would likely have wanted. This decision was made not with regard to the remains but in defiance of it, with concern only for their own needs and sensibilities.
28 Comments
Comments (28)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
If the existence of wesen must be kept a secret, then the preserved body of a woged wesen could not be allowed to be subjected to academic and medical analysis. But, despite this urgency, this was not the argument advanced by the characters.

I took that as something that was just understood. You've read into this episode a lot and made a number of assumptions, but never seemingly made the most obvious connection that if this mummy weren't in full woge, none of this would be an issue.

1.Aside from the caveat above, what makes wesen remains any different than human ones?

That caveat is the single greatest difference between wesen and human, so it's awfully hard to discount it. Once dead, there is no difference between humans and wesen UNLESS in full woge, then the differences are obvious. But to your point, this is absolutely NO different than any other human culture who will relate with what they are most accustomed.

By modern standards, wesen as a whole are a minority group who, once revered, have been hunted, enslaved and murdered for thousands of years. It's awfully easy to understand if, as a whole, wesen aren't too concerned about the post death customs for humans.

2. Wanting to be worshiped is strange and I would have thought uncharacteristic of our favorite wesen couple

Again, hunted, enslaved and murdered for thousands of years and you find it odd that they might pine for the old days when they were not only didn't have to hide who they were but were referred? I'm not sure what's odd about that at all.

3. One thing Grimm has made absolutely clear in three seasons is that there are substantial cultural differences not only between wesen "species" but across geographical and chronological distance.

And they've also made it absolutely clear that there are fundamental wesen rules and customs that are universal, not the least of which has been repeated many many time, "DO NOT get caught in woge by humans, EVER!". There hasn't been a wesen featured on this show who hasn't tried to hide who they are in one form or another. So if ever there was an instance where a Blutbad, Fuchsbau, Anubis and Pflichttreue could all come together in agreement is when the existence of wesen was about to be put on full display in a museum.

4. Monroe, Rosalee and Alexander all decide to cremate the body of an Ancient Egyptian without any regard for his likely ideas of the afterlife.

Again, missing the point of the mummy being in full woge. And not because it was a death ritual, but because they were forced to where MANY were murdered in an attempt to get it right.
____________

Could Grimm have done a better job in defining that the main issue here was a wesen in full woge? Probably. But again, I think at this point in the series, that almost goes without saying. Based on the assumptions and extrapolations you've made with regard to the rest of the episodes, I would have thought the most obvious one would have been first and addressed all the issues you have.

More+
2
Reply
Flag
There are many known cultures and people's still around with written, pictorial and/or spoken 'links' that are traceable in lineage and which shed deep insight into their past. And many who would take at least some of your analysis as highly troubling, simplistic and insulting. Just because 'times have changed' and/or so have the people, does not mean they have forgot their roots or that they necessarily mean substantively less to them. Similarly there are plenty of academics etc. 'outside' of the cultural field in which they have vast knowledge, often beyond that of the members of their chosen area.
This episode demonstrated that a number of wesen not only value their secrecy out of pragmatic necessity but that they still share an emotional, cultural and moral bond beyond simple species, genus or the taxonomy that follows. In fact, the one thing they all share is the woge and it was its corruption that in large part disgusted them. The point that they knew that a burning ritual was appropriate would've hardly been likely to be a lost cultural aspect.
The wesen no doubt both share ancient cultural similarities but have similarly splintered just like humans into many folds in the world. Yes, much cultural knowledge in the world has been lost over the years but, so has a fair amount survived in enough detail to have insight thousands of years past. To suggest different wesen know little or nothing of other wesen would be akin to saying the same to an Aborigine, Hasidic Jew, many South American or African tribes' people and Europeans etc. Just because we/wesen don't live as we did in ancient times does not follow that we/they know or share nothing.
Your overlapping argument posits clear separation and cultural losses at both intra and inter levels within the wesen over time. However, the one thing that has always ran throughout Grimm is how wesen are often aware of other wesen's behaviours, instincts and cultural habits and do in fact band together at times of mutual threat when it suits - the Grimm, Royalty and rebels for instance.
Many cultures, norms etc. are subject to dilution and expansion into other areas but Grimm is just a show with a very broad brush to paint strokes with. Chill.
More+
1
Reply
Flag
I appreciate your well articulated argument, but I think we very fundamentally disagree about the validity of claims based on identity, including perceptions of heritage. An individual's sense of their heritage is a very different thing than that heritage itself. Everyone—whether consciously or not—self-identifies as members of particular social and cultural groups, but those categories are almost entirely defined within that culture, and though we may think we share those categories with earlier cultures, we do not. Even a biological category—like "wesen" would be—derives its cultural meaning from its social and historical context. As was made clear by the sentiment "Once We Were Gods," the interpretation of a biological feature widely varies and is not shared across those distances. The stories we "remember" are just that...STORIES. They're how we define ourselves, but they're not accurate pictures of what was. They're relevant to the current community but not the one being remembered.
1
Reply
Flag
Yes, we do disagree here. We are all but 'stories' in something of a fluid maze/society and whether a person believes in the older, more recent or alternately both as relevant doesn't alter their truths as a fact - in mind or reality. Just as individuals have individual perceptions or beliefs that may never 'fit' a cultural aspect or species/physical identity. Humans have never been wholly set into particular categories of culture etc. through study due to their individuality in mind and being. The nature/nurture arguments, for example, rage on quite healthily and will no doubt always do so. Just as could be said for the wesen. There are inescapable truths in what constitutes a species but there are similarly facts of and in the belief of an individual, community or society. To write off these facts as simple fictional or unsound perceptions and memories/'stories' would be to write off the individual.
Reply
Flag
So every person who considers himself to be Jewish, for example, isn't really Jewish because they don't live as they did 3,000 years ago? That seems a bit facile, don't you think? The cultural identity of an individual is not made invalid just because it doesn't match up with what happened in the past, just ask the Cherokee Nation. You are correct when you say that culture is defined within itself...by the individuals who make up that culture. Individuals who identify with the values and traditions which they themselves define and create. Who are you to judge who qualifies as a member of a particular heritage if you don't belong to it yourself? These concepts cannot be broadly applied to real life, how could you apply it so broadly to this make-believe world?
1
Reply
Flag
I'm not saying one's cultural identity isn't real or important, but that what we designate with the same term isn't actually the same. What it means to call yourself "Jewish" doesn't mean the same thing to every culture. Setting aside the fact that the term has often conflated culturally specific and variable identities of religion, ethnicity, and nationality, even when communities of people who designate themselves Jews can agree internally what that means, it still means different things across different times and geographies. Some of the practices may be the same—though many, many of those are different—but the social meaning those practices carry is still different. They may share doctrinal beliefs, but the shape those beliefs take is still heavily influenced by their vastly different cultural contexts. No, a modern American Jew is not the same as a Jew in Babylonian exile. They're both Jews but they're not the same. The aspects of their cultural upbringing as 21st-century Americans shapes the way they understand their Jewishness in ways that are nearly impossible for them to disentangle.

Continuity of lineage, even where that can be established, is not absolute identity. My problem is more with the exclusion of voices that do not self-identify within that group, since self-identity is a matter of individual self-formation within a social context not an absolute category.
More +
1
Reply
Flag
Most of your questions were actually explained in the episode. The cremation was the Wesen way of honoring their dead, during the episode they said that thousands of Egyptian slaves were tortured and killed in the hope of finding the few that were Anubis. These Anubis slaves were then forced into a heightened state and killed ensuring they were in Wesen form when they died, presumably to be buried with the Pharoahs who believed being buried with an Anubis would ensure their safe passage into the Afterlife. This would explain why Monroe, Rosalee and the council were so adamant that the mummy shouldn't be put on display considering the countless deaths and torture it represented. As for the whole Wesen-God issue, I think Monroe, Rosalee are more just curious as to what that must have been like considering they have to be in a perpetual state of denial having to keep their Wesen secret in order to lead a normal life. Monroe even remarked during the episode "Where did we go wrong?" , this was not a longing to be revered as Gods once again but more of a longing to be themselves without having to hide who they are.
5
Reply
Flag
Good analysis John. Lot more concise and I'd say accurate. This is a television show, and a fun one at that. Nothing they did here was disrespectful or inconsistent with the series as its progressed.
Reply
Flag
My point is that the way the modern wesen chose to "honor their dead" (and, I would potentially argue, it wasn't their dead anyway) is directly antithetical to any manner of honor he would have recognized.

Yes, they explained things in "Once We Were Gods," but I find their explanations entirely unsatisfying. They were unthoughtful and complicit in a flawed line of thinking that wrongly privileges particular perspectives on the grounds of perceived identity. Whatever Dr. Gates may have made of the mummy's anatomy, it's highly probable that she would have been more informed about his wishes regarding the treatment of his body than Monroe and Rosalee, even if she ultimately prioritizes his scientific value.

The wesen community at large—though rarely in its individual characters, at least the ones we know well—is systematically hypocritical. The royals and the Wesen Council advocate on behalf of themselves and the multiple wesen species respectively, but they don't address the responsibilities they have to protect the human population from their criminals, despite human law enforcement being unable to investigate or prosecute wesen criminals given the unusual circumstances of those crimes. Nevertheless, they'll lecture against the (also wrong) behavior of most Grimms who fail to see the moral continuities between humans and wesen. Any mentality, including those espoused by Monroe and Rosalee, to say nothing of Alexander, that draws a hard line between wesen and humans is fundamentally flawed, just as flawed as those that draw hard lines between wesen species. If we're meant to chide Monroe's parents for their views on Rosalee, we should also chide any ideology—and particularly any political agenda—that doesn't treat both equitably.
More +
Reply
Flag
Regarding the cremation: It felt a bit wrong to me as well, but my take on it was that the decision was ultimately made by Alexander. Who, from what we've seen of him, is nothing if not a consummate pragmatist.

He likely cremated the remains simply so they would never be found again. Because putting a Wesen on display a) goes against everything the Wesen Council works and exists for in the first place, b) is wrong, from their standpoint, because c) they were tortured and unconsensually mummified, and d) the display of their mummified remains, because they were mummified in full Woge, would result in them not being accorded the same respect (however much that is) by the human community as human mummies receive. Best case scenario, humans would see them as a fake, or a curiosity. Worst case, they would display them as freaks of nature. Which is not how humans think of real-life mummies - at the very least, when people view a real-life mummy, they are aware that it used to be a human being.

Sorry that rambled a bit. Basically, I think that respect is in the minds of the living. And the first step to respecting the dead, is to understand that they used to be people. In that sense, the Anubis mummy got more respect from Alexander, Monroe, and Rosalee, then it ever would have gotten from the academic world, regardless of the Anubis' personal beliefs. Because it was Wesen.

That said... yeah. I don't think Alexander cremated the mummy in order to respect it. They all stood and watched and Woge'd out of respect, but they didn't cremate it out of respect. They cremated it because Alexander's a pragmatist. :)
More+
2
Reply
Flag
My understanding of the cremation of the Anubis is that he/she was given a ceremonial Wesen funeral. That he/she was an ancient Egyptian Wesen was irrelevant.

I read another comment about Monroe's and Rosalee's reaction to Wesen once being regarded as gods. I think it's somewhat of a stretch to assume from this reaction that they hold some deep desire to hold that status once again. I took from their discussion that they were in awe at how far the Wesen species had fallen in the eyes humans - from being revered as gods millenia ago to now having to hide their existence.

I enjoyed reading this. It brought a very intellectual aspect to a show that already causes me to recall all of my world history classes.
6
Reply
Flag
Re: the cremation. I think that kind of elision is precisely the problem. Grimm wants us simultaneously to believe that wesen are variable and different as well as all the same. If Grimm wants to use its wesen as metaphors for various current and historical minorities, as it often seems wont to do, generalizing like this is counterproductive.

It's also naïve—for them or us—to believe that wesen aren't just as influenced by the wider culture of their place and time as the regular human-folk. Just as Rosalee and Monroe are modern citizens, easily the most Portland-y of all the residents we've met, the unnamed mummy-Anubis would have been a product of his place and time. My biggest problem is that "wesen culture" is not monolithic, now or then. It's variable at any one synchronic moment, subject to diachronic change, and just one in a number of other cultural arenas—including nation, religion, family, economic or social class, etc.—that influence an individual. It's simplifying, and in my estimation erroneous, for modern wesen to believe they have any privileged insight into ancient wesen. At best, they only have an insideperspective on part of their lives.
3
Reply
Flag
Follow this Show
Members
11,897