By now you’ve heard, and have probably received the emails, about the religious right’s newest hobbyhorse, the movie version of The Golden Compass opening this weekend.
Personally, I think the design of the thing looks like the price of admission. I intend, if nothing else, just to luxuriate in the subcreation. But I do hope it’s a good flick.
Our right-wing friends have no such concerns. As bloggers smarter than I have pointed out, they cannot conceive of art without a political purpose. (And yes, I know there are left-wing nutjobs the same way.) Every offering must be judged as to whether it will support their worldview or not. The idea that an alternate or even opposing viewpoint might have some artistic soundness or be a viable means of enlightenment never enters their brains.
Or how about this: The Golden Compass might have been written by what the right-wing Christianists are describing as a “devout” atheist, a neat dialectical position, to be sure, but what if it were a tremendously well-done work of fiction? Or film? What if it were a rollicking good time?
Ah, there’s the danger, you see. If children enjoy this movie, follow the argument closely, it tends to dissolve, then they will ask their parents for the book, and then… they’ll read it! And if they read it, they would be completely unaware that Philip Pullman is leading them down the path to eternal damnation, because in the third book, not in this one, you see, but in the third book, he reveals that the conflict the whole time is over control of the universe, because, again, pay attention here, the God of his particular and particularly fictional set of parallel worlds is, besides being tangible and comprehensible, worn out, a senile nothing. Heaven and the saints preserve us from Norsemen and science fiction conceits!
Yes, I understand they fear the children will be suckered in by the metaphor. I also understand they fear that the children will have their brains cracked open by art and too much light will flood in. I understand completely that their secret fear is that their children’s faith, and their own, for that matter, cannot withstand a different idea.
So, the newest email to make the rounds calls for a boycott, and, isn’t this just so subversive?, silent:
The weekend of December 7, 2007, we are encouraging all Christians to boycott your all movies at your local theatre. We are asking that for the entire weekend (Dec. 7-9), you not attend, rent, or purchase any movies. Hollywood understands one thing for sure: “If it makes money, we’ll do it”.
We, as a body of believers, can show Hollywood that although we are quiet, we still have strong voice. My hope is that we will let the silence in the theatres be deafening to the producers, actors, sponsors, and supporters of movies like “The Golden Compass.”
Oh, why not? Full speed ahead, I say.
Here’s what I predict, though: nothing will happen. On Monday, in the Times, I’ll read that Golden Compass topped the box office. The simple fact is that this subculture is actually very small, if loud and nasty. They haven’t caught on yet, but they never were winning the “culture wars.” There are no culture wars, there are only 21st-century Christianists who really really wish there were a Colisseum with lions, and since there’s not one, they project its faÃ§ade every time they can and hope we’ll all think it’s real.