Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Horse of a Whole 'Nother Color!

Ok, so after a crazy 13 hour stint at work, I conned one of my coworkers (sorta) into seeing the late-late showing of "The Golden Compass." I remember being interested in seeing it when I initially saw the previews, and when I found out it was written by Phillip Pullman, I knew it was something I wanted to see. I had read some of his other books of the young adult genre when I was in high school, and they were all great. I'm also a big fan of C.S. Lewis and the fantasy-as-allegory types of literature, so I had to see what this was all about.
Within the last couple of weeks, I've heard the controversy over Pullman's atheist views on the book/movie. I approached it in two different ways. The first I like to refer to as "the Harry Potter Principle." It's just a movie. People are worried about their children seeing this movie and wanting to know about atheism. Well, if a child watches a movie and all of a sudden is atheist, you have more to worry about than a movie. I am all for parents supervising what their children are exposed to, but chances are, most children won't grasp the atheist views. The second way I look at the controversy is more defensive. What better way to be able to defend your beliefs than to "know thy enemy," as Sun Tzu would say. Know what else is out there, and learn more about your own beliefs in the meantime. But I'm a twenty four year old woman. I'm pretty sure I am smart enough not to get brainwashed by a fantasy movie. I also think that since Pullman was up front and open about his atheist views rather than trying to sneak them in, and I respect that.
So, I saw it. I was sleepy, and had second thoughts, but I saw it. At the 12:15 showing. Zzzzzz.... huh?
I should probably start off by saying I am Roman Catholic, and went to Catholic schools until college. I'm no religious fanatic, but I do recognize the role religion has played in my life. Now, I've seen some atheist movies and read some atheist books. Carl Sagan's "Contact," for example. I can see the ideals there, and understand them. "The Golden Compass," however, was not only atheist, it was totally anti-religion, and I am not sure I was expecting that. It was almost surprising to see something so opposite my own faith. The movie itself was really entertaining. The actors were very good, and the story alone was really well written, and I will go see the next installment. But wow...Pullman really has some strong feelings about religion, and I am guessing the Catholic Church is in the foreground of his opinions. The "evil" organization, the "bad guys," are called the "Magisterium," which is actually a Roman Catholic term which refers to the teaching authority of the Church. It also is meant to interpret the Word of God. In a scene that takes place in a Russian-like town, I saw what looked like icons painted on the walls of a "Magisterium" building, very similar to those found in Byzantine and many Orthodox churches. Needless to say, I was amazed.
After all that, I am not quite sure what to make of the movie. I liked it, but at the same time, I feel almost hurt. Is that the right word, hurt? I'm not sure. Did anyone else see it? Let me know what you think...


Anonymous said...

Was it anti religion or anti corruption of a religious body? Pullman may be an atheist, but I really don't think he's out to make converts of Christian readers. I think his intention was to point out that any body, especially a religious/spiritual one has a lot of force in peoples lives, and therefore it needs to be careful of what it teaches. I think Pullman uses the Catholic church as a model in his trilogy simply because it's the most recognizable model of corruption in the church. I seriously doubt that readers are familiar with the corruption in Jewish synagogues, nor would they understand the corruption that founded the Southern Baptist Convention, and I'm sure bad practices in Hindu temples unknown to him. Because the Catholic church is so big, and has such a tremendous grasp on the largest parts of the world, more people will know about the bad things that have happened in the Church. It's simply an easier reference to be made. Plus, the language of the church just kind of lends itself to metaphor, don't you think?
And just a thought, it seems to me that Pullman, rather than trying to turn his readers into atheists is just trying to encourage his readers to think about what they're believing in. Is it because a huge authoritarian body says they should, or because it's something they've processed and weighed in their mind?

I've rambled. I loved the movie, but I read the book first, and so much more is in the pages that I think helps defend Pullman's views. The movie packs a whole lot more controversy into a smaller place, but the book can take several chapters to explain his thoughts.

As far as the Peace Corp, I thought about joining that about a year ago. My mother talked me out of it, as mothers sometimes do, but there are several safety and protection concerns if that's something you're still considering.