Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I had seen the previews for the upcoming movie The Golden Compass, and it certainly seemed interesting on first blush. I wasn't really familiar with it, but the production level was obviously high, and I like a well done fantasy type movie such as it appeared to be. Then I received one of those dreaded email forwards claiming the movie was anti-religious and actively promoted atheism. I greet such emails with (well-deserved) skepticism, and turned to Internet myth debunker, Snopes.com, which proceeded to confirm the whole thing. I then happened to see a brief interview with the author Philip Pullman on the Today show, who was asked directly about the atheism issue in the books. He began a song and dance about letting readers make up their own minds about what a book is about. That, of course, confirmed the whole thing again.

The direct target of the book is the Catholic Church, which is up in arms about it, although the director admits to toning the book's attacks for the movie version:
The author's attack on organized religion has been toned down for the film, in a bid to attract as wide as audience as possible, something director Chris Weitz has acknowledged.

"In the books the Magisterium is a version of the Catholic Church gone wildly astray from its roots," Weitz wrote in the British Daily Telegraph.

But "if that's what you want in the film, you'll be disappointed," he warned.

However, the sanitized version of Pullman's book has failed to appease the Catholic League, which gathers some 350,000 members, and which has already been sending out leaflets denouncing the film.

"The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books," said president William Donohue.

"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," he added.

Now I'm no alarmist about such things. I have no problem with, for example, the Harry Potter books and movies (I own and enjoy all of them), but the agenda of The Golden Compass seems quite clear and openly aggressive. My children certainly won't be seeing it.


banjo said...

You aren't interested in opening a dialogue with them about the richness of diversity in beliefs? You aren't willing to allow them the chance to weigh the matter for themselves?


Jeff @ truth-in-love.com said...

They may have toned down the first film, but I wonder how they'll adapt subsequent chapters. You know, when the main characters hunt down and murder God. That seems a bit hard to finesse.

Anonymous said...

Apparently the anti-Catholic (and frankly anti-Christian) agenda is discernible in the first two books, but in the third it becomes the main theme, with the heroes killing God, which is a Good Thing.

There's a kind of Marcionism, with the God of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, being an evil being who supplanted the true Creator.

Our family will be spending our time on other entertainment options this Christmas season.

Jared said...

It's been awhile since I personally read the books. Though I would certainly not advocate any children (nor would I encourage anyone at all to see the movie or read the books), I personally plan on re-reading them so that if/when the question comes up, I'll be able to reply with more than secondary knowledge written by an alarmist.


Anonymous said...

I certainly won't be seeing it, but I doubt Christian outcry is going to keep it from being successful. I may be pessimistic, but seems the Christian audience can make a movie (The Passion, Narnia), but not break it. (For example, The DaVinci Code, whose sequel is currently in production.)

- Mitch

kyprosecutor said...

I read the Pullman trilogy this summer, buying all the books from a local paperback exchange store. The first two books--The Golden Compass and the Subtle Knife--are very good and give the reader only hints of the anti-religion stance of the author (at least no more than a number of science fiction/fantasy volumes). The last book, the Amber Spyglass, is preachy, tedious, and, at times, flat out boring.

I won't be giving Pullman my money for his books or his movie. However, I thought that the first book was well written and the characters fully formed in a way that Rowling sometimes neglected in the Harry Potter series. (She could be a bit preachy too but in a ham-handed not an offensive way.)

Jeff @ truth-in-love.com said...

Heh. Our local film critic gave it one and a half stars because it wasn't anti-religious enough.

Robert L said...

Well I have read all three books and as a school librarian this set will not stand in our school library. But after reading what Banjo had to say. I think he needs to understand that it is the responsibility of each parent to instruct their child on what is good literature and bad literature. I applaud you for your stance Alan.