Thursday, November 8, 2007

Truth in Fiction

The Catholic League has started an email campaign to promote boycotting the film version of Philip Pullman's book The Golden Compass - yeah, I know, Catholic censorship, contain your shock. The reasoning is as predictable as it is revealing:
The Catholic League wants Christians to boycott this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books: unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present. And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books.
Yes, Heaven Forbid a child should watch any films or read any books which aren't perfectly respectful toward the Church. Introducing any alternate point of view during the critical years of childhood could result in independent thought, which would inevitably lead to questioning of the basis for the clergy's spiritual authority, and a perspicacious child might even come to rebel against a corrupt and tyrannical system.

Farfetched? Well, probably not; that's actually the central theme of the book. The Catholic League is quite correct in discerning that that message is implied in Pullman's dark little fairy tale. What's amusing, in a sad and bitter kind of way, is that by reacting this way they are actively demonstrating the truth of the accusations implied in the fiction.

They're probably correct, too, that exposure to these books is dangerous to a child's faith in the Church. What are the parents going to do, explain that in Lyrah's make-believe world of talking bears and daemons the priests are mostly domineering control freaks who think nothing of abusing children, while in the real world of pregnant virgins and resurrected corpses the priests are, uh, isn't it your bedtime sweetie?

Truth be told, the fundies who insist that their children read only Bible stories (and never, ever indulge in critical thinking about them, needless to say) have the right idea if the object to prevent their progeny from straying into the real world. All the other stuff is dangerous: The Golden Compass, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Once and Future King, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, The Wind In The Willows, even that Christian parent's favorite The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

That's right, even Narnia is a threat, however closely Aslan's character might be plagiarizing Christianity's plagiarism of Mithraism; after all, you can't seriously maintain that the Narnia books are nonfiction, so a bright child is liable to start wondering if the Noah's Ark story is. Even worse, such a child is then not only likely to conclude that the Bible is also fiction, but that it compares pretty badly to the others in plausibility and entertainment value.

So yes, the Catholic League really is correct in opposing the film, given their axiom that having children think critically about the Church is a bad thing. What's more I applaud the fact that they are boycotting the film; I hope they go further and picket the theaters as well.

You see, I loved the book, and even though it's reportedly been watered down a bit, I want the film to be a roaring success, in the hope that kids will indeed go on to read the series. If my own childhood experience with Monty Python's Life Of Brian is anything to go by, nothing could help that cause better than an attempt to censor the movie! :)


Interested said...

Not just the Catholics...the mormons have an email going around to do the same thing. I too am excited about this because you know every kid everywhere will want to see the movie and read the books!

BT Murtagh said...

Exactly! ;)

Do you perchance have a link for the Mormon email campaign?