Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, November 05, 2007

Will The Golden Compass point the way to mutual entertainment or outrage?

One of the big holiday films this season will be the adaptation of Phillip Pullman's first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy,The Golden Compass,which is already at the center of some heated controversy. Christian groups such as the Catholic League are calling for a boycott of the film before it's even hit the multiplexes,saying it's a "stealth campaign" to promote atheism to young people.

Pullman has never been shy about being an atheist and having some of his beliefs mixed into the books,calling them his answer to the Chronicles of Narnia series(he's not a big C. S. Lewis fan,folks). Chris Weltz,the director and one of the screenwriters,has said that certain aspects of the novel that openly criticize religion have been toned down or put into euphemistic terms,which annoys the diehard fans of the books. Talk about a rock and a hard place to be caught between here!

Putting aside the religious arguments for a moment,I found it interesting that William Donahue,president of the Catholic League,feels more threatened by the books than the movie itself-here's a direct qoute from the official CL website:

"It is not our position that the movie will strike Christian parents as troubling. Then why the protest? Even though the film is based on the least offensive of the three books, and even though it is clear that the producers are watering down the most despicable elements—so as to make money and not anger Christians—the fact remains that the movie is bait for the books. To be specific, if unsuspecting Christian parents take their children to see the movie, they may very well find it engaging and then buy Pullman’s books for Christmas. That’s the problem."

Okay,so apparently the real probelm here is that the mere chance of some kid being exposed to a different point of view about religion thru a fantasy novel is just too scary for certain people to handle. I'm not picking on the Catholics(I've been abit Catholic myself-even went to a Catholic jr. high school and was confirmed in my early teens)but it never ceases to amaze me how some people insist that they have the right to control what infomation or perspective on a subject should be given to others. They also have the conceit to image what the consequences would be on letting someone-especially young people-being allowed to move beyond the knowledge boundaries that they have set up.

These books have been in the marketplace for ten years,and have a pretty decent following,so the cat is well out of the bag by now. While Pullman's books don't have the allure of Harry Potter(which has plenty of controversal themes brewing and bubbling between the lines),they both share the same fear and loathing of free thought from protestors bunkered down in similar camps.

It nevers occurs to these people that even if a kid reads these books that they still might hold the same beliefs as they did before he/she read them. In fact,they might even expand their mental horizons and think more deeply and seriously about religion,science or any other topic about the world at large than they used to. Are the tenets of your faith so fragile that a children's fantasy story can topple them down like a house of cards left out on a park bench during a hurricane?

I also think it's insulting to suggest that parents aren't smart enough to figure out the "true" content of any book or film that their kids want to see/read and decide for themselves how to handle it. Underestimating the intelligence of others is always a grave error on the part of those who wish to be in control.

I've just started reading The Golden Compass(I held off for a long while,due to some of the Pullman fanbase's insistence that HDM was "superior" to the Harry Potter books. Kind of like people debating over Lord of the Rings vs. Narnia or Star Wars vs. Star Trek,now that I look at it.)and while I don't know if I will really like His Dark Materials as much as I do Harry Potter,I am willing to open my mind and imagination up to give it a try. That's what audiences should do,decide if they really want to check this out for themselves or not. If you don't want to,nothing wrong with that but it should be YOUR choice,not the one certain people want to make for you.

1 comment:

Robin Brande said...

Love it, Lady T. I feel the same way about all these attempts to save children from their own independent thoughts. And you're also right that reading Pullman won't turn a child into an atheist any more than reading Lewis will make him or her a Christian. Our feelings for or against faith go a lot deeper than that, and the process is a lot more complicated than what someone can fit into a soundbite.

I love the series, and it didn't make me atheist. There's my testimony.