A Reader Comments - Golden Compass
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Truth posted this on my Golden Compass post, and I'm posting it here so I can reply in more depth than the combox allows. Also, now I don't have to think up a post for Thursday. Win-Win!

Truth writes:

Hi! I'm a semi-regular reader, and though I usually lurk and enjoy your wonderful blog, I felt compelled to comment on this. I am currently reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, and am about 1/3 through the final book, the Amber Spyglass. I am curious, however, to know why there is so much controversy surrounding the books and movie.

So Phillip Pullman is an atheist, and yes, there are anti-tyrannical themes in his books, but there is always a tyrant/bad guy to be defeated in fairy tales. I've heard (read) so many people say they'd never even think of reading Mr. Pullman's books, but that implies, to me, that people are perfectly willing to allow others (in this case, the Catholic League) to do the thinking for them.

Whatever happened to reviewing the information and making a judgment based on facts? I get the distinct impression that the church wants to discourage Catholics from even picking up the books, almost like they're afraid people will be swayed by a work of fiction; that they'll somehow be 'enlightened' by a children's book, and the Church in therefore threatened. Not being a Catholic (as I'm sure it's obvious), I don't understand blindly following the Church's suggestion - aren't you even the slightest bit curious about the books that have caused the flap?

They're an interesting and entertaining read, but since I am sure of my convictions, I know that a fairy tale won't change my beliefs or values, and didn't hesitate to find copies of the books as soon as I heard there was controversy brewing.

Please know that this is not meant to be antagonistic, and I truly do wonder why there's been such a huge outcry against this trilogy. Thanks for your time and your point of view. Truth
The first thing I would like to point out is the Bill Donahue and the Catholic League is not the Catholic Church. It is his opinion that a boycott of the film is in order, and because his organization is well known and respected, many Catholics will consider his suggestion and probably act on it (i.e., not seeing the movie). No one can read all of the books that are published every year, and we all discriminate in our choices of reading material.

As we pick and choose our media, almost everyone relies on an outside source to help them discern what material is worthy of their time. That's why we have movie reviewers! That's why Amazon lets you Rate This - and read other reviews too.

Recently, some American bishops have been warning the faithful to avoid the books. This is perfectly appropriate, since their job is to shepherd us. A shepherd doesn't let his sheep jump over a cliff, and then decide whether cliff-jumping is safe. A good bishop should let his flock know if and when there is a potential danger ahead as well. The Church does not feel threatened - it is looking out for threats to our souls.

As far as I know, no Pope has ever officially condemned a movie (not even The Exorcist) although often individual priests will discourage viewing questionable materials on a case-by-case basis. I don't even think there's an Index anymore.

The point being - the CHURCH is not telling Catholics not to read these books and trying to keep them from thinking for themselves. Instead, a lay organization made up of Catholics is encouraging parents to not blindly follow the marketing hype and is telling them to think for themselves.

Many authors are atheists, Wiccan, Buddhist, and so on. The views of the author do not matter until and unless they permeate the book. Pullman has specifically stated, and the writer/director of the movie has stated, that the works are deliberately created with to be anti-established religion, and are deliberately aimed at children. This is what has parents in an uproar.

The key is that it is aimed at our children. I read books and watch shows that I would never let my children watch. Why? I am an adult. My conscience is better formed, my emotions more mature. My worldview is not developing as theirs is. I can separate fact from fiction.

I know many Catholics who have read, and enjoyed the Harry Potter books, for example. There were quite a few Internet threads, and even a book I think, on Christian symbolism, or using events in the book to strengthen a child's moral sense. I did not let my children see any of the films. In my opinion, they were too young. My oldest is about two years behind in emotional development (he's 9 but acts more like 7). I am his mother, and it is my duty to make these decisions. I am also the consumer, and it is my right to spend my money as I choose.

The issue is not whether simply reading a book would change your beliefs. If reading Pullman's book causes one to suddenly become an atheist, then there was a lot more going on than just the influence of a book. However, it is naive to think that a book will not influence one's beliefs or attitudes. Most books are written with the idea of causing influence, especially in the science fiction and fantasy genre. Although the characters are removed from our world, they are instantly recognizable as they struggle against the same things we do - we can identify with them. Science Fiction works are purposely set as allegories of alternate futures, or of policies taken to extremes. Is it a coincidence that Asimov's Robot series came out around the time the Civil Rights movement was just starting to coalesce? (I, Robot appeared in 1950 and the book is about ten thousand times better than the movie.) The best SciFi/Fantasy is a commentary on our times.

The fact is, once a child has seen something, you can never take it back. You can never "un-expose" them to bad things. I speak as one who was scarred for life by the clown in Poltergeist ;)

Mama Also Says

Kind of related, but also kind of random:

Coca-Cola's claiming that they are sponsoring the movie to "raise awareness on the plight of the polar bear" is just stupid.

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 12/05/2007 02:05:00 PM | Permalink | |